Badda bing, badda BIM

by Brian Cornwell
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If your specifications of doors and door hardware are reliant on disparate and possibly inaccurate spreadsheets, text documents and pdfs stuffed in a filing cabinet somewhere, it could be time to partner with a provider utilising more up-to-date and efficient technology, writes BRIAN CORNWELL.

The idea of a building information model (BIM) first appeared in the 1980s, but the actual term as a noun and indeed a verb with the acronym BIM (building information modelling) didn’t really take off until the early 2000s, spurred by the advancements in three-dimensional technology and computer processing. Now, however, it has become ubiquitous. So ubiquitous that those in the property and built environment spaces are expected to know exactly what it means.

But do you? Or is it just some nebulous phrase that you assume has something to do with plans and blueprints and how a building operates?

It is all of those things, but for a facility manager the most pertinent explanation is this: BIM allows users to digitise and visualise a building prior to it even being built, to understand the layout and how everything within that building is linked.

And there’s more… As the ever reliable Wikipedia explains it: “Traditional building design was largely reliant upon two- dimensional technical drawings (plans, elevations, sections etc). Building information modelling extends this beyond three dimensions, augmenting the three primary spatial dimensions (width, height and depth) with time as the fourth dimension and cost as the fifth. BIM therefore covers more than just geometry. It also covers spatial relationships, light analysis, geographic information, and quantities and properties of building components (for example, manufacturers’ details).”

But BIM itself is not actually software. It is the files that contain digital representations of the physical and functional characteristics of a building. Structural details, architectural trades and MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) can all be represented within it.

Once the building is up and running, the information contained within the three- dimensional BIM or project model allows the facility manager to better access information, to do so more quickly and more efficiently, compared to the two-dimensional models of old. More importantly, this information can be continually updated as necessary. Unlike previously when a facilities manager might have filing cabinets overflowing with plans and specifications from the initial project construction, using BIM there is just one single source of truth where all the necessary information is stored in one project model. Accessing this model means that every last item of built information is at their fingertips.

What this also means is that when it comes to specifying fixtures and fittings such as doors and other access control features, the vital statistics are available at a keystroke. Enterprising providers are able to take advantage of this by writing their own compatible software, so that independently created programs for door hardware specifications, for example, can work within the building’s design program.

This is what ASSA ABLOY has done with an internal program entitled Openings Studio, which can receive a project directly from an architect, using design software like Revit (and shortly ArchiCAD) via a plugin, take that information directly from the project
and then write appropriate schedules more quickly and efficiently – without the time intensive middle step of deciphering PDFs and Excel door schedules. This traditional two-dimensional document-based workflow is the system that has been used for decades in the door and door hardware industry. But it has long been riddled with inefficiencies. Specifications, schedules and submittals reliant on disconnected or abstract text documents, technical drawings and spreadsheets are inherently riddled with errors and inaccuracies.

The technology behind Openings Studio has been around for nearly a decade, having been developed in 2010 and it works very well when it comes to integrating with the software used by architects. Where there is even greater potential, however, is with facilities managers or, depending on the substance of the various relationships, developers or property managers. Architects already have preconceived notions of the door openings in the buildings they are designing, but facilities managers aren’t working to the same restrictions.

If, for example, a large facility is planning to grow – perhaps it’s a major university that is adding new building after new building
– and has a preferred hardware supplier in mind, the two parties can sit down and work out a future permanent strategy. They can design, if you like, a digitised door family integrated into the three-dimensional BIM. Again a step is then removed, as the facility manager can go to their architect and explain that this whole element of the building is already taken care of and no longer even needs to be considered. If it’s a classroom door, a storage door, or perhaps a dormitory or unit entry door, the facility manager will be able to indicate to the architect where the openings should be and what they should look like.

The net result is saved time, saved headaches and a reduction of errors, and an opportunity for a facilities manager to say to their architect, ‘We’ve already defined this. Let’s move onto something else.’

Brian Cornwell is BIM technologies manager at ASSA ABLOY Australia Pty Ltd.

This article also appears in the June/July issue of Facility Management magazine.

Image: 123RF’s weedezign © 

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