In this article specialist construction marketing and PR consultancy, Costello Palmer, takes a look at BIM and its importance for construction product manufacturers.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) can often appear somewhat confusing because there are many different definitions and opinions as to what BIM is, how it works and why we need it.
The most basic of concepts is that BIM offers us a greater freedom of working, allowing us to see a project in its full entirely before it is built. BIM brings together all members of the supply chain by sharing design, product data and operational information in one easily accessible space.
BIM means different things to different people and the key is to finding out what it means to your business and then make it work for you, make it work in all the right places so you see a commercial return - because at the end of the day, as a product manufacturer, what’s the point in making an investment in something if it isn’t going to generate money.
BIM is a process
BIM is an intelligent model based process for planning, designing, building and managing buildings and infrastructure. It goes beyond 2D and basic 3D drawings to create a virtual model using intelligent objects, objects supplied by manufacturers. It’s important here to understand that BIM is a process, not a software programme or indeed an actual entity, it is a process which has been created to streamline the delivery of construction projects.
As a manufacturer, adopting BIM will allow you to place your product(s) directly in front of those leading on product selection for the build, securing your products’ place in the assets model. In other words, making the architect or designers job easier to specify you into their projects.
Harnessing the power of BIM
The power of BIM lies within the accuracy of the information fed into the model, many people say the ‘I’ in BIM is the most important part, and this is where BIM becomes key for the manufacturer. It is your job to provide accurate data – you now hold the power.
There is a demand on product manufacturers to create their products in digital formats, compatible with the designer’s software. These digital formats are better known as BIM objects and can be authored internally (if you have the in-house technical expertise) or via BIM object libraries such as the NBS National BIM Library, BIM Object or BIM Store.
The benefit of a BIM object is that it contains both the geometrical and performance data of your products, which means that as well as the 3D image of your product, all of its data such as dimensions, materials, safety standards and so on are all neatly packaged in a format compatible to the design software and can be dropped right in when creating the 3D model.
In digital BIM formats, your product information is captured within the model and can remain consistent thought-out the assets life cycle. BIM can predict maintenance programmes through simulation and analysis before the first foundation is even laid, helping to secure your products future in the project.
It’s also important to note that whilst the geometry or the 3D image, of your product is needed for the design model, specifiers and designers can use generic objects as an alternative, therefore the information behind the geometry is of greater value to the designer. However if creating a BIM object may be an expense too far at this stage, look to creating Product Data Sheets (PDS), which are also compatible to design software and hold all the product data needed, just without the 3D image, more information on this is provided by product data experts coBuilder.
Facilitating your customers’ needs
Whichever digital format you choose, the key is interoperability, and by this we mean creating your data in formats that can be exported to both to IFC and COBie as well as design software platforms such as Revit®, ArchiCAD®, etc, that way ensuring you cater for all of your customers data needs.
Not having or providing your product information in the desired digital formats may become a key decision maker/breaker for product selection or rejection. Therefore find out what your customers need and supply it to them, designers turn to those they can trust and who have the skills and knowledge to help them realise their design intent, and will most probably gravitate to those manufacturers with a BIM skill-set that can facilitate their needs.
The benefits and capabilities of BIM are well known in many large-scale manufacturers, however many smaller organisations, with lower budgets to spend on new developments may see BIM as a daunting task. We are now in the age of digital construction, where the construction landscape is constantly evolving and time is more valuable than ever before. Gone are the days when BIM was seen to be ‘nice-to-have’, its wide range of benefits now make it an essential part of the design and build process. Which means its adoption is just as important to small businesses as the large ones.
Why do we need BIM?
Since the UK government introduced BIM into its Construction Strategy in 2011, the industry as a whole has adopted BIM in various stages and to somewhat equally varying degrees. Early adopters are architects, as it is the perfect way of creating a virtual model of their project, enabling them and their clients to see the project come to life prior to the building phase.
The NBS National BIM Report 2016 showed that 71% of specifiers and designers stated they need manufactures to provide BIM objects, with 58% of respondents activity using BIM in their projects, compared to just 48% in 2015. Therefore there is a clear demand on manufacturers to provide BIM-ready product information.
The industry has come a long way since 2011, with the UK construction market leading the way on a global scale, and BIM bringing with it significant opportunities to tap into this success. For manufacturers, the transition to working with BIM offers growth opportunities, increased product specification and selection as well as closer working relationships with specifiers and contractors. A short-term initial investment now, may well present long-term commercial gains.