Thursday, July 28, 2011

BIM for Manufacturers and Suppliers

Blog entry by: Dominik Holzer

How should manufacturers and suppliers promote their products in a BIM context?

In my role as the newly appointed chair of the first BIM and IPD Steering Group of the Australian Institute of Architects and Consult Australia, I’ve been invited by the Institute to address their sponsor on how manufacturers can leverage BIM to promote the use of their products. I’ve put together a presentation with a strong focus on Product Lifecycle Data and its relation to BIM. My colleague Bruce Gow from BVN Architecture who is one of the leading BIM content experts in Australia has been pivotal in assisting me in preparing for this task.
BIM consists of utilizing various software to combine to provide on-going information stream about the building(s).  Manufacturers can choose to have their products available in all the various flavours of BIM , or choose one or two products. 
As product manufacturers rarely have the capability to model their own products according to high-level BIM standards, they often rely on third party support to create the models for their products. Firms/initiatives such as ‘Design Content’, ‘Product Spec’, ‘Andekan’, ‘All-In-One’, ‘Broutek’ complement the efforts by  some large scale manufacturers who make BIMs of their components available via BIM content libraries. 
What aspects of BIM modeling are needed ?
BIM requires the information necessary to define and track and analyse the element. From a lifecycle perspective, the correct tagging of information is crucial to identify the sum of components constituting a building project. From documentation perspective, BIM components often encompass a range of parameters that allow them to be used under varying condition (either in terms of geometry or notation). In some cases these parameters need to be supplemented by additional parameters that are utilized by the design consultants ,the builder, the sub-contractor, the fabricator and the facilities managers.  These parameters need to be the same between the various groups who utilize them and they need to be interoperable between various BIM software packages.
It is important to note that not all information that can be included in a digital model, should be included.  The volume of data requires both the technology to drive it and the systems to manage it. Some products do not need to modeled in 3D, such as Paint or Coating Finishes and some Door Hardware. 
Some products should have sustainability parameters added so that they can be utilized by ESD consultants. Some products need Mechanical, Electrical, Hydraulic and Structural parameters so that they can operate effectively in those environments. Some products may need cost information to be utilized by Quantity Surveyors. Every category has its own particularities and needs its own specific list of parameters. By modeling the elements correctly in 3D - 2D and adding the correct BIM parameters, one will have a product available to be used by BIM consultants.  During pre-construction planning and construction, the level of information available may be valuable to consultants and builders. In addition to the parameters, consultants will be mindful of the following aspects for your content:

File Size

In large products , the file size of individual elements can be important.  From your point of view, one would like to see a products represented as accurately as possible.  Many fine details will not be visible or needed at the scale, or the level off detail that the designers works in. To show every screw, fold , junction, connection etc may result in a file size that is 3MB compared to a simplified version that is 400K.  Most design consultants will shy away from the 3Mb version. At times it is not just an excessive level of detail that conflicts with the usability of the component. Some objects will require a high number of polygons in order to represent a curved element and the polygon count will also lead to an drastic increase in file size if multiple instances of that element get included in a BIM. It is advisable to conduct regular model and library audits to filter out those elements that may slow down or even jeopardise the modelling effort in BIM.

In some cases, it may be useful to have a low-fidelity and a high fidelity version of the element to allow users to populate a design primarily with the lo-fi and then add a hi-fi version for use in rendering. Figure 2 has an example of hi-fi content used for rendering.


Most BIM software performs best when the plan , section and elevation views are set as 2D representations of the 3D element.  This does not affect the file size, but will affect the software performance.  Again, most consultants do not need to see the full 3D representation.


The industry is becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of a high quality BIM content library that is available to all at no (or low) cost. Users are discontent about the need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ over and over again by having to model a large number of BIM components themselves. Most software vendors so far have shied away from the responsibility of providing BIM libraries (arguing it is the manufacturer’s duty to do so). We start to see some efforts emerging this realm, driven by industry bodies and manufacturers  

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