The benefits of BIM in Manufacturing

Why BIM?

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is more than just a 3D model or a technology intervention, but rather a combination of people, process and technology – all of which is underpinned by coordinated information.

BIM marks the beginning of a major shift within the construction industry in the way buildings and assets are designed, constructed, and operated, not just in the UK, but on a global scale.

For decades the construction industry has endeavoured to improve productivity, efficiency and cost savings, with landmark reports such as Latham (Constructing the Team) 1994 and Eagan (Rethinking Construction) 1998. And now the UK Governments’ Construction Strategy published in 2011, continues on these themes plus adding collaboration to the mix. Suggested that BIM can fill this collaboration gap and is a giant step towards the government achieving its target of reducing government construction project costs by 15 to 20 %.

While Level 2 BIM is a must for all UK Government work by April 2016, private sector clients and contractors are also realising the benefits that it brings with 63% believing that BIM would bring a reduction in buildings costs and 54% felt that BIM would reduce the time it would take to move from the inception to the completion stages (NBS National BIM Report 2015), hence resulting in efficiencies savings on both construction time and budget on the overall project.

Construction is vital to the long term success of the UK economy. The Construction 2025, Industrial Strategy, sets outs the UK Governments vision for how industry and government will worked together to put Britain at the forefront of global construction. This document sets out ambitious plans to reduce construction costs, reduce construction time and reduce harmful emissions, as well as improving exports for construction products and materials and sees BIM playing a vital role in achieving this success.


What does BIM mean for construction product manufacturers?

More and more, architects, designers and contractors are seeking digital product information in order to help them design and make supplier and product choices to deliver what the client wants at building handover.

This digital product information, also known as a BIM object is the creation of a building product in a 3D format with associated technical data which is converted into digital formats compatible with design software.

Not having or providing this information (or BIM objects) may become a key decision maker/breaker for product selection or rejection.

The NBS National BIM Report 2015 showed that 76% of specifiers and designers stated they need manufactures to provide BIM objects and 60% are currently sourcing BIM objects directly from manufacturers (NBS National BIM Report 2015).

Modern specification tools model their clauses as objects to create relational databases and intelligent linkage between models and drawings and the written contract documentation. Having BIM objects allows for differentiation of product and supplier and allows the manufacturer to get in front of decision makers. As well as potentially increasing maintenance and spare part sales, presenting product information to the specifier as the right time also results in fewer queries from designers.

While BIM authoring software such as Autodesk Revit and Graphisoft ArchCAD have BIM objects inbuilt, designers turn to those they can trust and who have the skills and knowledge to help them realise their design intent. As experts in the products that they supply, BIM offers manufactures an opportunity to expand. Having manufacturer created objects as opposed to re-using older models ensures that the information contained is most up to date.

It is vital that manufactures present their product information in a structured standardised way against international Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) and Construction Operation Information Exchange (COBie) property sets. Structured information allows information to flow continuously through the design, construction and operational phases of a project, resulting in minimal or elimination of information loss.

BIM is all about collaboration, and getting the supply chain involved early plays an important role in this.


BIM objects: who benefits and how

Through BIM, clients are not only procuring a physical asset but they are also procuring a digital model, which can be used in the future maintenance and operational phases.

BIM objects are digital representations of a real life obtainable construction product. They are the digital building blocks that go into producing a data rich model.

Quinn Building Products has produced almost 150 BIM objects for its product ranges, including products such as thermal insulation boards and blocks, and rooftiles. Link to Quinn Building Products BIM objects page

Just as real life Quinn Building Products’ product ranges show size and shape, its BIM objects includes graphical and geometry information which represents the products physical appearance and characteristics as well as detailed dimensions and structural performance..

They also contain different levels of parametric control to allow them to be manipulated graphically, to reflect the variations and options from which the designer can make a selection – for instance, Quinn Therm (link to Quinn Therm page) insulation boards can be inserted and viewed in the model to indicate the exact placement of the insulation required in the roof structure.

However just as important to a BIM objects is the graphical representation, is the embedded data they contain and information that defines the characteristics of the product. Information such as what the object is called, what is its model number? How does the object perform? And how is it maintained are all critical information for the operational and maintenance phases.

The content of a project specification can be linked to many of the properties in the object, instead of the data being duplicated. Not all information has to ‘live’ inside the object. It is fine to link to other sources of information, such as catalogues, manuals and CPD material. This is why Quinn Lite produced a CPD on Thermal Bridging, to enhance the knowledge-sharing of how to eliminate thermal bridges using Quinn Lite (link to Quinn Lite page) aerated thermal blocks.


How does this enable manufacturers to work more closely with architects and specifiers?

Today a new generation of specifier is being empowered by BIM, by gaining access to information at a point in time when they require it in order to make a decision. Traditionally specifications were undertaken by a specification expert often once the detail design has been complete. Within a BIM workflow, specifications are now considered at a much early stage and it is important that designers and specifiers can access product information to inform their design decisions.

Information within a BIM process gradually increases during the project life cycle. Levels of definition can be described in terms of Level of Detail which relates to geometry and its 3D visual or Level of Information which relates to non-graphical information. Information grows when more information is known about a product.

At concept stage, information may relate to just the spatial requirements, while at the design phase, information about performance will be important. At the technical and construction stages, actual known information about the product to be used is incorporated. It is important to understand that providing the right amount of information at the right time is critical to product selection.


The future of digital construction / taking BIM to the next level

There are many reason for BIM adoption, in essence BIM can bring significant benefits to the construction industry in terms of innovation, efficiency, promotion of a sustainability agenda, as well as the importance of considering whole-life, operation and maintenance costs.

Through utilising digital techniques and data, in combination with new processes, the construction industry has the opportunity to produce better outcomes and ultimately better buildings through collaboration.

However, as always things are constantly evolving and already the industry is looking to Level 3 BIM.

The details of Level 3 are still yet to be determined, although it is anticipated to be concentrated on an integrated BIM or I-BIM. This concept is whereby the the whole project team can work on one central model, in real time stored ideally somewhere in the cloud.

While this may be some time off, the principal of BIM and collaboration that is available today is a step in the right direction and takes the construction industry into a new era of digital construction.