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Modelling agency

Dave Fittis weighs up the benefits of using building information modelling in the design and construction process

Posted by Dave Higgitt | January 09, 2014 | Technology

Building information modelling (BIM) is changing the way the industry views the construction process – of this there is no doubt. MEP design agency Desco has been working in the 3D environment for over 10 years, with full BIM capabilities for almost three and the specialist experience to be able to adapt the technique to any project. It was important to the senior management team at Desco to be early adopters of BIM, in light of the fact that it was already widely used by architects and increasingly becoming a client and project demand. As a result, the company has invested time and money in the technology and training to ensure that its team has the required skills in place to negotiate the various procedures and processes stipulated by the BIM technique.

Fundamentally, BIM was born out of a desire to drive waste out of the design and construction process, with a subsequent reduction in procurement costs, and to leave clients with an asset management tool superior to the traditional O&M manual. In order to get the most out of BIM, Desco believes that collaboration is key and that a joined-up approach should be adopted by all parties at the inception of any project, from the client through to architects, engineers and contractors. BIM requires a shift in mindset – it is not simply 3D CAD (although that undoubtedly forms part of it). The clue to its real power lies in the I of BIM: information. In essence, a BIM model comprises a data-rich, virtual building, capturing the physical and engineering properties of the complete project. It can be used by designers, cost consultants, project planners, contractors and ultimately the client/occupier.

BIM software has been developed to allow multi-disciplinary coordination, yet if one part of the chain is missing, BIM cannot reach its full potential. For BIM to be a successful technique, it’s important that everyone is on the same page. During the design phase it brings together the various elements and systems of each member of the team, ensuring greater certainty in the design; it is much easier to deal with clashes between components at this stage than on site. For MEP engineers, BIM software has taken a while to catch up with that used by their design team colleagues. However, it has now matured to a stage where it can be used with confidence, even though industry-wide development of components and families remains frustratingly slow. This is certainly an area where MEP equipment manufacturers can help.

Desco’s experience reveals that, despite the fact that BIM can benefit every project, not every project is at the stage where it is ready for BIM. You have to know your client – with BIM there’s no half-way house and a customer has to understand its benefits and in many respects consultants have to be able to educate clients about what they are. As a relatively new process, the industry is operating at different stages and it’s really important to be able to adapt according to the project.

Experience of BIM at Desco has been positive to date. The company is extremely fortunate to have an exceptionally dedicated team across the UK and internationally, who have been quick to embrace the shift in mindset which is a pre-requisite of BIM. Desco believes the future of the design process is with BIM – it’s reconnecting the industry like no technique before it and the sooner you take the leap, the sooner you can begin to reap the benefits.

Dave Fittis is director at international MEP design consultancy Desco W: www.desco.uk.com

 

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