Building services projects have benefited from many developments that have occurred in the last decade. Whether in the areas of MEP (M&E) systems design, 3D building services coordination, or interdisciplinary collaboration, the major advances seen in this field have emanated both from within the industry as well as from other sources, such as government regulations and economic developments.
- Intelligent BIM Software for Planning and Design of Projects
One of the biggest changes in the modern building services industry is the use of intelligent building information modelling (BIM) software tools that allow for the creation of accurate and detailed representations of mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems using computable data. The fact that there are BIM tools more intelligent than ever and also which work across disciplines, such as architecture, structural engineering, and building services engineering, increases interdisciplinary coordination and reduces construction waste and rework.
For instance, the BIM models created using Autodesk Revit Architecture and Revit MEP can be used by building service designers for developing concept designs, schematics, and tender drawings. The same parametric model can be worked upon and used by contractors to create detailed installation and 3D MEP (M&E) coordinated drawings, including services-specific as well as multi-service coordinated plans, sections, and elevations. Furthermore, fabricators and installers can use the BIM model in conjunction with FAB MEP, a fabrication tool, to manufacture pre-assembled modules for installation on-site.
Not only does BIM allow creation of a coordinated 3D model, it also allows for information to be added to the model that can be used for project-critical purposes, including schedule creation, cost estimation, energy analysis and facilities management.
- Greater Interdisciplinary Collaboration
Due to the growing adoption of BIM tools industry-wide complemented by the availability of sophisticated hardware systems and online collaboration channels, there is a far greater degree of interdisciplinary coordination between different stakeholders involved in AEC projects. As a result, architects, structural engineers, MEP consultants, MEP engineers, main contractors (general contractors), cost estimators, and fabricators can seamlessly collaborate during the design and planning stages and avoid costly rework during the construction stages.
For instance, large-scale construction projects generally have a complicated project structure comprising diverse project teams based in different geographical areas. During the pre-construction stage, sharing and interlinking the BIM model prepared by architects, structural engineers, MEP specialists and contractors enables respective designs to stay coordinated. Due to cloud-based collaboration tools, team members can hold review sessions online without having to be physically present together.
- Higher Degree of Pre-Fabrication and Just-In-Time Delivery for Installation
With the widespread use of parametric modelling techniques in MEP design and planning, a major trend is to use BIM models for pre-fabrication purposes with a view to enhance the logistical cycle on the construction site. When used in conjunction with CNC fabrication applications, such as FAB-MEP, the BIM design data can be used to create fabrication drawings that can be recognised by CNC machines. Such a BIM-led prefabrication can streamline the installation process on site and avoid costly miscalculations.
Taking into account the complexities of the MEP (M&E) systems industry, BIM-driven prefabrication and modularisation has led to multifaceted benefits: reduced rework, in-time project completion, cost savings and increased efficiency.
- Government Intervention
Another critical development from outside the industry is the government policies in different parts of the world either promoting or mandating the use of BIM in varying levels for government-funded or private projects. In the US, the General Services Administration (GSA), through its Public Buildings Service (PBS) Office of Chief Architect (OCA), established the National 3D-4D-BIM Program in 2003. GSA mandated the use of spatial program BIMs as the minimum requirements for submission to OCA for Final Concept approvals of all major projects receiving design funding in 2007 and beyond.
In Europe, the UK Government has made Level 2 BIM compulsory for all publicly-funded projects from 2016 onwards with a view to trim the cost of public-funded projects and to reduce carbon emission to meet its EU commitments. Government agencies from the Scandinavian nations have played an important role. Senate Properties, Finland’s state property services agency, required the use of BIM for its projects since 2007. Neighbouring Norway and Denmark have also made sufficient headway towards adopting BIM practises in their public-funded projects. Statsbygg, the Norwegian government agency that manages public properties, including heritage sites, campuses, office buildings and other buildings, employed BIM in all its projects by 2010.
In Asia, Singapore was in the forefront of driving the adoption of BIM. After implementing the world’s first BIM electronic submission (e-submission) system for building approvals, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) mapped the BIM Roadmap with the aim to adopt BIM for 80% of construction projects by 2015. In Hong Kong, the Housing Authority (HA) not only developed a set of modelling standards and guidelines for BIM implementation but also stated its intent to apply BIM to all its new projects by 2014-15. South Korea’s Public Procurement Service, which reviews designs of construction projects and provides construction management services for public institutions, has made BIM mandatory for all projects worth more than S$50 million and for all public sector projects by 2016.