Building information modelling (BIM) has been an unlit fuse for years – and product manufacturers may soon be handed a match.
BIM workflows have been on the cusp of revolutionising the construction industry since pre-iPad days – yet while Apple’s tablet has become ubiquitous, BIM’s overall impact has been muted.
More than a third of respondents to a survey by Chartered Institute of Building portal BIM+ earlier this year said using BIM had not saved their project any time, with a similar proportion not seeing any cost savings.
But Karl Johnson, technical marketing manager for BIM across Northern Europe for Hilti, believes standardised digital product information can lead a step change in the way the 3D modelling software improves both construction projects and finished buildings.
This could be facilitated by a publicly available specification. PAS 1192-7 is currently being drafted by a committee of the British Standards Institute to create a common approach to product data.
“Information is key,” says Johnson. “Who a product is made by, what is it called, what its material specifications are, its tightening torques, fire
ratings and so on. If you can incorporate all this detail into a model and drive everything from a single source of truth then everything becomes so much easier.”
PAS 1192-7 could allow contractors to import product information more easily into BIM models, and Johnson believes the knock-on benefits could be huge.
The more information the better
“The more information we have in the right format, the easier it is for the industry to embrace BIM,” he says.
“If we can get the industry more productive and working more efficiently we will see an increase in the productivity across the industry, which will have a positive impact on the GDP output of the country as a whole. BIM is the way to achieve this.”
When widely adopted, level three BIM will see all parties on a project accessing and amending a single, shared virtual model of a building, reducing the risk of clashes and disputes on site.
“The leaner the industry gets, the more efficient, accurate and better quality projects are turned around, the more work we will see come through the pipeline,” says Johnson.
This would not only create jobs and wealth, it would of course mean more schools, hospitals and other buildings are created. “It’s a win-win for the country.”
Johnson says that despite the prevalence of computer modelling and collaborative procurement already in the industry, many schemes are blighted by unnecessary problems on site.
“A traditional project is drawn two and a half times and built one and a half times,” he says. “If we can get clashes out the way in a digital environment then we will increase the level of productivity and accuracy to deliver projects in a more effective way.”
But BIM is not only useful to improve construction projects, it can have a huge impact on the efficiency – and thus the viability – of the finished product; the buildings themselves.
“There always seems to be a focus on capital expenditure but operational expenditure is so much higher over a lifetime of a building,” says Johnson.
This is where product information comes into its own, allowing designers to specify products early on for their long-term cost and impact.
“Whether it be fasteners, windows or bricks, if it would go into a construction project then it has attributable data behind it,” says Johnson.
“When people use the BIM model for estimation and procurement they should be able to pull out the data to show the impact a window will have on thermal performance of the building, for example.”
Ahead of PAS 1192-7 being published, Hilti already has a range of offerings to help the industry get the most from its BIM models.
“We are trying to create a range of solutions and services that bring added value to contractors’ work,” says Johnson.
“The content libraries allow customers to grab digital versions of our objects to incorporate them into their designs. Our product ranges include anchors for concrete and masonry, modular support systems and passive fire protection systems”
Hilti has three content libraries: one on the firm’s website, a Revit-specific alternative on the BimObject platform, and one available through online library Tekla Warehouse.
Customers can download the model for a product in a number of formats, allowing them to use it in their BIM platform and see all the data behind it.
Hilti BIM-enabled design software includes PROFIS Installation, a 3D structural design static analysis programme for modular channel and girder systems.
“It is based around an industry standard calculation kernel, it’s free to download and use and you can produce a 3D structural design and then check the geometry and export it into a BIM platform,” says Johnson.
“You are using our software for our products so nothing can go wrong, and you don’t have to worry too much about training your operatives in how the components go together because the software takes care of that. We are trying to enhance design and construction productivity.”
Finally there is a suite of BIM services, namely: design framework; BIM modelling; design and calculation; and shop drawings.
Starting the BIM journey
“For contractors just starting on their BIM journey who don’t have the in-house technical skill set to think about structural support, we will help them to use BIM,” says Johnson.
“We are doing the engineering for the customer. Where a contractor is not ready for BIM but a client requests it, we can offer that as an add-on; we want to be a partner not just a manufacturer.”
The design and calculation service, for example, involves looking at the most technically demanding aspects of an installation – for example a complex overhead grid above an operating theatre in a hospital – and working on it separately and virtually to get a solution without slowing down the rest of the design or construction.
Elsewhere Hilti will do calculations to allow customers to deploy Hilti components in their own Revit models.
Hilti is already helping contractors use BIM to drive valuable efficiencies on site, and with standardised product information the benefits could quickly multiply.