Building Information Modelling (BIM)

What is BIM?

BIM is the process of creating information models or data sets formed of graphical and non-graphical information which are shared between project stakeholders in a digital space known as a common data environment. The BIM acronym itself is actually misleading because BIM is not just about buildings, it includes any kind of built, made or constructed asset, such as infrastructure, power stations, sea defences and many more. BIM isn’t even just about the design/construction stage, it covers the whole lifecycle of a built asset.

How do manufacturers interact with BIM?

As the information model is created a manufacturer can add scheduling information (lead times, construction and installation periods and curing times) which helps to guide the construction process. The addition of this time related data to the model is known as 4D BIM. Product manufacturers also have a role to play by linking in cost data to the model. Doing this allows cost planning and the generation of estimates for the tendering process, this is known as 5D BIM. While the inclusion of information to support facilities management and to detail the whole life impacts of a built asset is known as 6D BIM.

How can manufacturers support a BIM project?

BIM-ifying of the product data you provide to stakeholders should be the number one focus when considering your BIM capabilities. The data you supply to BIM projects will, for the most part, be the same data you already provide but it needs to be in a format that works in the BIM environment. Information like size, installation tolerances, weight, price, optimal performance criteria and expected lifespan should all be communicated to designers, architects and specifiers in a BIM compatible format. To help facilitate access to that information it may be useful to create a 3D model/ BIM object of your product.

A common misunderstanding is that this BIM data will be need to be ‘attached’ to BIM objects and stored in a library. This is one option, however, it is just as valid to think that BIM objects will link to data hosted and updated by the product manufacturer. One way this could be achieved is through linking information to an IFC (industry foundation class) or COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange) file which can then be used by designers and specifiers in Revit or comparable software programmes.

What data should be included and how should it be structured?

For manufacturers, standardised product data templates, or PDTs, will be the starting point for attaching/linking data to your product models.

A PDT is a template to help structure information about your product and ensure the common language and naming conventions are followed, allowing this information to be interpreted by BIM software. Once the PDT has been populated it becomes a PDS (Product data sheet) and whether it is attached to a 3D model or not you will want to make this information about your product available to other stakeholders in the BIM process.

MPA Precast and BIM

The content of the PDTs will be ‘governed’ at a precast concrete sector level by the ‘Relevant Authority’. Standardised product information means that specifications are presented in a clear understandable way, removing any potential misinterpretation or disagreements. MPA Precast has been accepted as a relevant authority and is currently actively engaged in researching and developing product data templates for use in the sector.

What are the advantages of entering the BIM world?

  • Winning contracts where BIM is requested.
  • Government projects will mandate BIM level 2.
  • An effective way for manufacturers and suppliers to get their products in front of a much wider audience.
  • Designers will be working with your objects from early in the design process, which may help confirm the order for your business.

What are the barriers and potential pitfalls?

  • Currently low volume of BIM project requests.
  • Some initial setup costs.
  • Cultural change.
  • Working outside industry conventions.