Benefits of manufacturer-created BIM models
Building product manufacturers develop models with the specific details needed by architects and contractors to place these models into their projects but creating BIM content is not always easy. However, BIM (Building Information Modelling) models are here to stay.
One of the advantages of the BIM process is that it facilitates easy collaboration between stakeholders. In an environment where the design team as well as manufacturers of construction components can create BIM models, which BIM models would be a better option?
On one side of the construction equation is a team of architects, contractors and owners who now operate through digital approaches. On the other side are manufacturers who design and produce components and equipment and who have been using digital models for some time. Both sides have different requirements.
Manufacturers need high-fidelity models using 3D CAD software to ensure that components and equipment are manufactured and assembled correctly. Project stakeholders in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry use different standards, where each type of model is different and not interchangeable. Both groups are now using BIM to design, construct and manage projects.
 BIM in the residential sector
- Structures data resulting in increased productivity.
- Improves understanding of design intent.
- Enables analysis and simulation of energy and cost.
- Improves planning and accuracy.
- Helps provide cost estimates early on.
- Improves operation, maintenance and facility management.
- Enhances collaboration between all stakeholders so data can be accessible for anyone at any time or any place.
- Uses 3D models to help clients view and understand design early on, helping avoid miscommunication, misunderstanding and waste.
- Reduces waste and carbon emission (BIM-authoring tools like Revit), resulting in the design of sustainable homes or prefabricated homes.
The BIM approach in construction (and with reference to product specifications) is being widely adopted globally, after taking into consideration how much it would alleviate budget restrictions, project management problems, changed deadlines and clashing data on plans. Some of the challenges this may involve are:
Clashes. When systems and equipment have already been installed or if specific new systems and existing mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) connections do not match, BIM can help. However, subcontractors must have detailed product information from manufacturer-created BIM models before construction begins. Otherwise, any errors in product specifications or product details could contribute to clashes.
Operation and maintenance. In case of any disfunction and repair work that may be required once the building has been constructed, by using BIM models with manufacturer details, the location and make of components, their sizes, part numbers and manufacturer name can be easily determined. Without the manufacturer-created model, each of these details would have to be located and checked.
Relevance of data. Using the BIM approach involves a collaborative environment. Content may be added from different sources. This data must be in a form that is consistent for the BIM process. Consistent, updated and precise product data can be extracted for optimum value from manufacturer-created BIM models.
Architects often begin project design using an object model taken from an internal BIM content library. Parameters, scheduling and properties are added to this object for the design and bidding stage.
After the bidding process and before actual construction begins, real products are selected. Then it is important to use a manufacturer-created BIM model to detect clashes, to coordinate between building services engineers and to use for installation and maintenance.
Manufacturers can begin by stripping all irrelevant data from a completed 3D CAD model and exporting a BIM content version of the model from the original. This step works well for products with a single size.
To produce a BIM model for products that can be configured, manufacturers must create each geometry, export the model and store them separately, which could be a lengthy affair and may not be practical when many configurable products are involved. Another option is to simplify the manufacturing model in the same application it was designed, so that manufacturers can access all product details, configure it for specific projects and download the BIM content.
Following the simplification of the model, details (such as connections of electrical, plumbing, ducts, conduits, cable trays and so on) can be clearly defined. In addition, product properties, such as dimensions, voltage, flow direction, numbers and names can be added to the model. As the new model contains the necessary detail in lightweight content as part of a simple model, customers can easily integrate them into their own BIM models.
In the case of configurable products, an online configurator can help make the process of selecting custom products faster without the need for complex programming. This is how it can work, using a configurable engineering model that is fully detailed:
- The model is uploaded to the configurator and embedded in the manufacturer’s website.
- The customer chooses the desired options from the website and can view a dynamic, detailed 3D render.
- The BIM design view is exported to a specified format.
- The master model is simplified.
- MEP connections are defined and added.
- BIM metadata is defined and added.
- The customer now downloads the BIM object and places it into the project.
Manufacturer-created BIM models can also make products more aesthetically pleasing if the BIM content has simple geometry and product information. This allows both designers and and manufacturers to can add value to products, fixtures and fittings.
The manufacturer’s BIM object can be downloaded and easily used, reducing costs for modelling and saving time. Interior fittings, such as escalators, lifts, doors, windows, glazing and so on can be chosen from manufacturer catalogues.
 Negative aspects of using manufacturer-created BIM
There can be risks when using manufacturer-created BIM. Sometimes, content is modelled poorly and fails to interact with other components. Many contain so much detail that they cause model sizes to swell, and the whole design becomes unmanageable. There may also be a serious limitation as to the number of components that are available.
Defining BIM standards for component models is an undertaking of great scale. All construction products, their product lines, categories, market regulations for different countries and specifications make for a complicated stew of standards, with many ingredients, and if different design teams are involved, well, it may be too many cooks.
The manufacturer may involve a third party to create these BIM objects strictly to their standards. This may save time and improve the quality of the models, provided the third party is efficient, experienced and delivers on time.
As far as manufacturers of construction components are concerned, they want their BIM models to be used in as many building designs as possible, which means creating them so that they are easy for designers to work with. Products should be clearly defined, with a need for consistency and the appropriate levels of detail in their appearance, functional data, positioning instructions and operational behaviour.
If the manufacturers need to, they will hire a specialist to create BIM libraries of their products and provide them freely to designers. Many thousands of manufacturers can produce millions of products.
As BIM standards develop (along with BIM-authoring tools and necessary infrastructure), many manufacturers opt for the services of a third party. This third party should ideally have a proven track record providing high-quality BIM services, especially BIM modelling services.