Implementation of BIM from a consultant’s design perspective

By Craig Blankers of WSP

In the South African context, building information modelling (BIM) is rapidly gaining traction due to technological advances and the availability thereof — how can this benefit the HVAC&R consultant? 

The competition in the built environment between capital investors, professional design consultants, and construction contractors is linearly increasing due to population and resource demands globally. To obtain a competitive advantage, professional teams are continuously searching for more efficient techniques to complete projects with minimal complications and for the most desirable combination of cost, quality, and project completion time.

Through the use of BIM, professional teams are able to communicate more effectively in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance phases, with the addition of predetermined accessibility to relevant contractual documentation uploads through a common data environment (CDE).

Advantages of BIM

The conventional workflow of the construction industry is being disrupted through the advances of intelligent architectural and engineering design models. These intelligent design models, through the use of BIM, aid in the reduction of project costs and time, and enhance installation quality through various workflow packages integrated into a CDE. As a result of a CDE, a platform to promote stakeholder collaboration is created by enhancing communication through the digitisation of information sharing and documentation.

The advantages of BIM are becoming clearer to professional team members who are using the software adequately, and internal processes are being optimised from all design facets. The benefits of professional team members using BIM from a design perspective eliminates the need for designers to work in silos, as coordination of services is no longer an afterthought. Designers are able to upload multidisciplinary services on a live model and design their individual systems to suit, as opposed to designing in two-dimensional plan views and coordinating services afterwards. The time saved from the design perspective is invaluable as the design and coordination processes are amalgamated into one process. Architects, engineers, and professional team members are becoming more proficient and advanced in BIM as the implementation on projects is increasing.

According to ASHRAE, the greatest value of BIM is its potential to reduce project costs, increase productivity from the design and implementation process, reduce errors, and improve the overall quality of the work produced and installed in the built environment. It is important to ensure that all team members, be it the professional team or contractors, are proficient in the utilisation and implementation of BIM.

Contractors and BIM

Although contractors are often not involved in the integral design of the building and its systems, their role in the utilisation and implementation of BIM with regard to integrated building design (IBD) may be limited. However, when referring to integrated project delivery (IPD), the contractors place a critical role in the implementation and development thereof. In order to further develop this concept, it is important to fully understand all the elements of BIM. A flow chart depicting the progression from and a visual representation of each stage is given in Figure 1.

Figure 1.1Figure 1: Transition from 2D to 6D.

BIM stages

The advantages of BIM during the planning and design phases of a project have been instrumental in both documentation and information sharing, as well as automating the tedious processes of measured bills of quantities, updating separate equipment schedules, as well as optimising the conventional markup and drawing process between engineers and draughtspersons. From a practical design perspective, the best way to illustrate the advantages of BIM utilisation and to depict a brief description and a real-life example of some of the BIM stages, is given in Figure 2 to further elaborate on the progression chart in Figure 1.

Two-dimensional (2D): When referring to 2D design drawings, these can be easily interpreted into a plan or sectional view (top or side view perpendicular to an object) two-dimensional illustration of components and/or systems (that is, length, width, and depth — two only). An example of a simple 2D view of a hospitals theatre’s HVAC system is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1.2Figure 2: A 2D theatre HVAC system design.

Three-dimensional (3D) project model: As the name depicts, the design model’s system/component has three dimensions (that is, length, width, and depth). This is best illustrated from an isometric view of an object/system. An example of a simple 3D view of a hospital theatre’s HVAC system is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 1.3Figure 3: A 3D theatre HVAC system design.

Three-dimensional (3D) intelligent model: At this stage, the 3D model is further developed to contain vital component and operational information. This information is used for multidisciplinary information sharing, service integration, accurate costing, comprehensive cost control, system commissioning, and so on. Therefore, the 3D HVAC object/system now contains design specification and operating information as opposed to just a 3D object; hence, the model is now ‘intelligent’. An example of a simple 3D intelligent model view of a hospital theatre’s HVAC unit is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 1.4Figure 4: Intelligent 3D theatre HVAC unit design.

Four-dimensional (4D): The 4D element of the process is annotating a time schedule/program to the 3D object/system. This is to include a systematic approach for installation of not just the object itself, but an integration into the surrounding system and a coordinated schedule of installation events with time allocation. This could also be explained as a construction program integrated into the intelligent 3D object. An example of the structural progression of a warehouse facility’s development through various stages is shown in Figures 5 and 6.

Figure 1.5aFigure 5 a: BIM structural progression of a warehouse facility.

Figure 1.5bFigure 5 b: BIM structural progression of a warehouse facility.

Figure 1.6aFigure 6 a: BIM structural progression of a warehouse facility.

Figure 1.6bFigure 6 b: BIM structural progression of a warehouse facility.

Figure 1.7Figure 7: Completed BIM structural warehouse facility.

The illustrations are of the structural development only and it is important to note that all other services are incorporated into these models as well. This enables closer monitoring of planning, site progression monitoring, service coordination, and variation control.  

Five-dimensional (5D): The 5D portion of the process is further developing the 4D object/system by allocating and simulating the cost associated per element with various constraints. This is achieved through the component cost breakdown and of each item, continuous updating thereof, and close coordination between design model and site installation progress.

Six-dimensional (6D): The 6D portion of the process is achieved by further developing the 5D model through the dynamic implementation of life cycle processes (that is, operation and maintenance). Through the use of BIM, 6D includes vital operational information to support facilities management and operational teams to drive and promote better business outcomes. The 6D information ranges from manufacturer information, dates of installation, dynamic maintenance schedules, optimal energy performance, as well as lifespan and decommissioning data, to name a few.

It is important to note that the above examples do not define BIM — they are merely examples of how this technological development can be used to aid in the planning, design, and implementation process. The successful process of BIM is not defined by the systematic achievability of all six dimensions, as there are multiple levels of BIM, depending on the project team’s desired outcome. One of the most important elements of BIM is the ‘information’ importation. It is important to remember that to achieve the best results using BIM, BIM is to be used to aid in all the phases of the project life cycle and not just as a visual selling point.

To achieve the best results using BIM, BIM is to be used to aid in all the phases of the project life cycle and not just as a visual selling point.

*Images by WSP

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