Has BIM Changed MEP Design Workflow?

 

BIM Influence on MEP Design Workflow

Critical to effective construction, MEP (M&E or mechanical, electrical, plumbing) design is both one of the key features of a structure and also the one design feature that most people don’t want to deal with, unless something goes terribly wrong with any particular aspect of it. This makes it all the more important to make MEP design as precise as possible. Over time, MEP design has improved and evolved in many ways, but with the arrival of BIM (Building Information Modelling) technology, MEP design has seen modifications in its workflow as well. The workflow of MEP design has been significantly influenced by BIM technology, specifically the roles of the MEP designer and the MEP contractor.

Has BIM Changed MEP Design Workflow

Currently, there are five different MEP design workflow scenarios that exist. They are as follows:

  1. Traditional 2D design and 3D BIM coordination
  2. 3D MEP design and 3D BIM coordination
  3. Designers 3D BIM design and coordination
  4. Contractor 3D BIM design and coordination
  5. General contractor 3D model coordination

It is the third workflow that Is becoming increasingly popular. Let’s look at why that is so.

Designers 3D BIM MEP Design and Coordination

This MEP design workflow method is a direct consequence of BIM and promotes the benefit of BIM more significantly, as it gets closer to the ‘virtual design and construction’ aims of the industry. In this workflow, the approach of the design engineer is to create a BIM model that is spatially coordinated, using the actual specified components for the project. Typically, the consultant during this phase will have more time to create the model, allowing him to absorb the changes from structural and architectural disciplines as they progress through the detailing stages. Since the model is then coordinated with the structure and architecture as well as other MEP services, the consultant can create a model according to installation standards and which is more usable by an installer or fabricator.

When the model in this workflow method is passed on to a contractor, the contractor may still wish to make final changes and adjustments in a round of value engineering. Typically, the contractor will use the same model in this workflow and make changes to the model provided by the MEP design consultant. Additionally, it is probable that the consultant engineer will not have provided invert (height) levels or dimensions from gridlines and walls for the MEP services on his drawings. In such cases the contractor will therefore have to create more detail in the drawings, but again, the contractor could use the consultant’s drawings and progress them in more detail for his/her use.

This design workflow will require competent BIM coordination and MEP modelling teams and resources. XS CAD, with its large MEP coordination team and MEP engineering design team, which consists of mechanical and electrical engineering professionals, is well placed to deal with such projects for companies based in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As all are regions where BIM is now the preferred solution, XS CAD, with more than 16 years’ experience and a presence in each market is an ideal option for such companies.

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Architectural Design Drafting – Concept To Construction Documentation Stage

Architectural design drafting involves a process that is essential to construction, developed into a progression of stages, namely: Concept, Design, Design Development and Construction Drawing.

It was the architect Louis Kahn from Philadelphia who said that ‘architecture is the thoughtful making of space’. The thoughts, concepts and design that drives ‘the making of space’ constitute the framework of the architectural process. Architectural design drafting, or architectural drafting, involves a process of services that are essential to the creation of structures. This process has been developed into an established progression of stages, namely: Concept, Design, Design Development and Construction Drawing.

Blog - Architectural Design Drafting - Concepts to Construction Documentation Stage

Architecture has been both an art and science for thousands of years. It has evolved to embody certain standards of practice. Technology has contributed significantly to the development of these standards, while retaining basic principles. The prime objective is to design and construct a building that is well planned, which means that decisions will be taken, modified and changed throughout the course of the project, and CAD design services are used extensively to cater to these needs.

Examining the process and its stages helps understand its relevance to the current state of the industry.

Stage 1: Concept or Schematic

This first stage of the architectural design process is marked by information gathering and discussions. The architect and client discuss the project in detail and fully understand client requirements, such as budget, aesthetics, location and type of community. Information from the client, field surveys and other sources are assembled, discussed and contemplated in length. Architects research and analyse the site, paying attention to zoning and building codes. Programming begins and the client lists the spaces in the building. The architect then determines sizes, number of rooms, locations, construction material, sustainability and relationships between the listed spaces. All ideas are explored and considered. Generally, 3 or more design options are then provided for client consideration, based on the rooms and features required. These are presented as sketches.

A rough cost estimate may be provided for each option to help make more informed decisions. At this point, clients may ask for modified options and can even make major changes in design requirements. This stage is concluded by the selection of one of the design options. Typically, 15% of the architect’s fees and work is accounted for at this stage. The primary objective of this stage is to resolve the shape and size of the building, showing the basic plan. Also, the look and tone of the building is developed. Several sketches, plans and elevations are created and several meetings take place. Generally, the drawings are loose, hand-drawn at 1/8” = 1’-0” scale.

Stage 2: Design

In this second stage of the architectural design process, an initial design drawing is developed based on the discussions, site analysis, decisions and budget restrictions agreed on during the first stage. This design would show space provisions, planning relationships, proposed layouts based on site views, orientation and access. The design will show the intended concept and form of the building. Layouts will be developed into formal ‘sketch’ floor plans and 3D perspectives to represent the style of the building. As and when the client approves, reviews and comments on this design, further details will be added to the design, such as proposed materials, technical and functional features. For example, this could involve the representation of building sections, detailed dimensional plans showing door and window placement, proposed furniture layouts and building elevations.

Any significant services which could affect the design, such as solar panels, water tanks, etc. This process is likely to take some time, as communication will go back and forth till all parties arrive at a satisfactory outcome. Further review is made of the plans and budget and the scope of the project may be reduced. Conformity regarding rights of use and building restrictions, such as height restrictions, building lines, etc. of the site, will be reviewed. In case of larger projects, quantity surveyors can update earlier cost estimates and provide new cost estimates at this stage, depending on any changes to the initial design. These drawings can be in 2D and 3D, using computer-aided design software (such as AutoCAD).

Stage 3: Design Development

At this stage of the architectural design process, architects and clients work in collaboration to select a variety of materials, such as interior finishes, fittings, windows, doors, appliances, fixtures, etc. Drawings are revised with greater detail. Engineering plans will start, involving structure, plumbing, electrical, heating, ventilation systems, energy analysis and other project-related systems. Towards the end of this stage of the design process, a significant part of the product selection and services and systems design should be completed. At the end of Design Development, both the interior and exterior design of the building is decided on by the architect and the client. A general contractor is hired.

With a fixed design in place, a permit is required. Following a series of lengthy review processes at municipalities, all required drawings for a building permit incorporating the full interior design of the project are created. Then, permit drawings and room layout drawings are produced and submitted to the relevant authorities. At this juncture, a detailed 3D model is produced to help finalise design decisions. The 3D model also helps the extensive coordination process with structural engineers, and the engineering, construction systems design and detailing of the project is completed. Changes updated at this time could include any increase or decrease of thermal protection materials, inclusion or removal of solar panels, rainwater harvesting and interior and exterior finishing. During this phase, architects generally complete 20% of their work and charge 20% of their fees.

Stage 4: Construction Documents

Once the final design is set, drawings, notes and technical specifications required for bidding, construction and permit applications are prepared. Blueprints are created. Further detailing, interior elevations and further material selection occurs during this stage. All technical and engineering design is finalised, namely structural engineering, heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems, plumbing, electrical, gas, energy calculations. Other items included in Construction Documents (CD) are detailed foundation plans, roofing, layouts, window and door sizes, openings, flooring, cabinets, bedroom and kitchen detailing. All fixtures and materials are selected and scheduled. Multiple drawing sets are created. Filing sets for approval and a set of construction documents are produced.

Construction Documents can be customised so that an electrician receives drawings showing only electrical work and the concrete contractor may receive drawings for foundations and concrete work, so as to reduce on-site confusion, correctly price jobs and understand work responsibilities clearly. Generally, building services, plumbing, piping, wiring and HVAC systems are finalised and represented in the design. Structural details, such as roofing, internal and external walls, ceiling, tiling, are also included in these documents. All items are attached with detailed dimensions. Façade options also feature in these documents.

On acquisition of the permit or building approvals, the remaining documents are finalised and grouped together into a set of documents to construct the building. Designs of the approved design development documents are refined with construction details. The construction documents shall are refined. Final selections of products and materials take place. This phase is typically the longest and most expensive stage of the process, since most of the detailing and coordination takes place at this point. The Construction Documents stage in a project may be long, but it is also worthwhile, because working through this stage will distinguish barely planned projects from fully customised and elegant homes. During this stage, typically 40% of the architect’s work is completed and 40% of the fees will be charged.

The methodical completion of the architectural design stages help expedite and improve the finished quality of building projects. It is critical for design team members to understand the evolution of the architectural drafting and design process. This way, when a project is ready to be constructed, most of the financial and technical issues have been taken care of and delays are reduced or eliminated.

Utilise BIM 360 and C4R for AEC Projects – Collaborate, Communicate and Coordinate

Picture3In various stages of the construction project lifecycle, multiple project stakeholders and teams are involved, which involves teams of specific disciplines working on certain elements of the project from different locations on a MEP (M&E) BIM or architectural BIM modeling project. In a multiplatform, multi-device, co-working and co-sharing environment, two-way communication, synchronised coordination, seamless collaboration and clash-free solutions are some of the aspects which determine the successful completion of a project.In various stages of the construction project lifecycle, multiple project stakeholders and teams are involved, which involves teams of specific disciplines working on certain elements of the project from different locations on a MEP (M&E) BIM or architectural BIM modeling project. In a multiplatform, multi-device, co-working and co-sharing environment, two-way communication, synchronised coordination, seamless collaboration and clash-free solutions are some of the aspects which determine the successful completion of a project.

To facilitate collaboration and coordination, reduce costs, improve project management and deliver projects efficiently within the timeframe and budgetary requirement, there are cloud-based, collaboration tools such as BIM 360 and C4R for AEC projects which help in providing improvements to AEC projects.

Some of the ways in which collaboration and work sharing tools help you address project management challenges include:

1. They enable collaboration – To keep all project stakeholders updated with the latest information, collaboration and work-sharing tools provide access to BIM project data which is centralised and help in connecting multiple team members through various devices, platforms and locations. As a BIM manager, project head or architect, you can use C4R to upload your Revit model to the cloud, BIM 360 Team to link your projects and provide access to multiple team members to enable them to make changes, add markups and communicate using features such as the Communicator on C4R.

2. They facilitate two-way communication – When multiple team members are working on various elements in the same, centralised model, communication is important. The Communicator, an integrated, instant messenger type feature in C4R enables your team members to communicate easily in real-time on active projects.

3. They enhance the interference analysis and coordination process – In a construction project, you may have teams from various disciplines working on a model. To ensure the process of clash detection, coordination and resolution are efficient, using a combination of collaborative and clash detection tools is the best solution. You could use C4R along with BIM 360 Glue and BIM 360 Field to detect clashes, synchronise the coordination of changes and create coordinated, clash-free and construction ready architectural models.

4. They reduce costs – By addressing coordination issues in the initial stages of the construction project lifecycle, you can reduce time spent and costs that you could have incurred had you not resolved coordination issues. To decrease costs, deliver projects faster and reduce errors, using collaboration tools help in coordination and enhance project transparency.

5. They provide a holistic view – Typically individual team get an isolated view of specific elements of the project based on their role in the process. For you to enable better coordination, collaboration and communication, using cloud-based, collaboration tools help in providing a holistic view of the project, which is important in creating coordinated, construction ready models.

6. They facilitate remote project management – Using browser-based and cloud-based tools make work sharing and collaboration is easier. You can procure the best resources and cross-border teams by using cloud-based tools, therefore, reducing cost on IT infrastructure, enhancing project delivery time and maintaining budgetary requirements.

By facilitating two-way communication, cross-border coordination and seamless collaboration between multiple project stakeholders, work sharing and collaboration tools such as C4R and BIM 360 provide you with a solution to address project management challenges. To respond to the increasing demand for faster project delivery within budgets, collaboration tools provide you with the best possible solution by increasing efficiency, reducing costs, facilitating effective project management and enabling faster project delivery. While adoption of the latest technology in the AEC industry is gradual, being a first mover could provide you with an advantage. The sooner you utilise tools such as C4R and BIM 360, the easier it will be for you to efficiently deliver projects faster, reduce costs and ensure your teams can seamlessly collaborate, coordinate and communicate.

Technical and Contractual Risks Associated with BIM

Blog-14thApril-2017BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a perfect solution for architects, design and construction teams to address design implementation challenges. 3D BIM coordination facilitates an evolving workflow, interoperability and collaboration between different project stakeholders. This has widened the scope and application of concept design, design development, implementation and project delivery methods.

With 3D BIM coordination, you can collaborate with designers, engineers, building services contractors and general contractors to communicate design intent and ensure the project is implemented efficiently from preconstruction concept review to construction completion. When collaboration happens at this scale, you need to consider the associated technical and contractual risks before you adopt BIM tools:

1.Data control – When using 3D BIM models, you may have different users entering data at various stages of a project lifecycle. To ensure there is responsibility for inaccuracies and control of data entry, you must ensure BIM users sign applicable indemnities, disclaimers and warranties. This will help you in controlling the movement of data and assigning responsibilities.

2.Assignment of responsibilities – Typically in BIM projects, many team members collaborate and ownership of BIM data must be clearly stated. To avoid conflict and confusion, you need to create contract documents that should clearly define ownership and assign responsibilities when using BIM data.

3.Proprietary information protection – In the process of design development and project implementation, proprietary information may be used by team members. While your client may have ownership rights for the design, contract documents need to clearly state the ownership rights of proprietary information to ensure protection.

4.Design licensing – In certain projects, designers and contractors may provide vendor designs and specifications of material and equipment. In such instances, you need to create policies to ensure that only those designs with relevant licenses for the project are used. This will help you in avoiding licensing issues of vendor designs associated with their products.

5.Consistency in the use of technology – When adopting BIM modeling and coordination processes, to maintain an efficient and smooth workflow, you need to ensure that different project stakeholders, who need to work collaboratively, are using software versions that are compatible. All users must be informed about changes in versions and software updates. Based on the BIM environment you choose, whether closed BIM (the use of the same software and version) or open BIM (the use of neutral or compatible file formats), you need to make sure this selection is agreed at the outset of the project. This will help in avoiding compatibility issues that may arise in the later stages of the project lifecycle.

In any collaborative environment, clearly defining responsibilities and rules will help in improving teamwork of various project stakeholders. You may adopt an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) strategy to build successful working relationships and facilitate efficient collaboration between your entire design, engineering and construction teams. While there is no secret formula or a common risk mitigation strategy, you can reduce conflicts and confusion by adopting best practices and creating well-defined contracts. By clearly specifying the roles, responsibilities and accountable members or groups, it will help you to create a successful collaborative environment and embrace an evolving concept such as 3D BIM coordination.

With BIM modeling you can improve the process of concept design, design development and communication of design concept to project stakeholders and clients. As new BIM technology is introduced, the next step would be to adopt a cloud-based BIM collaboration tool, such as A360 Collaboration for Revit (C4R). With cloud-based BIM tools, you can facilitate ‘borderless’ collaboration and allow project stakeholders to work on a model simultaneously from different sites, anywhere, anytime and on any device. By adopting BIM, you can improve collaboration between project teams, optimise project duration, reduce cost and strengthen client relationship.

Why BIM is becoming important for Retail Design?

Across global the retail markets are facing unprecedented challenges from within their sector and also from new e-commerce sectors. Retailers that are successful are aware that this success can be short lived and therefore expansion and roll out of their outlets can sometimes become a limitation for success are aware that Assuming that the challenge is indeed speed to market, for retailers, it is paramount to adopt a design planning process which can help them develop retail ideas that are versatile, clash-free and efficient to build/install within a planned budget. This is where BIM can start to provide significant benefits due to the ease of operation, use of a database of library items and the benefit of repeatability of the design concept.

BIM can be beneficial for the entire retail property development chain from design consultants and architects, to MEP installers and facility managers. If it is used effectively it can lead to faster scale up, design accuracy, higher design flexibility and cost efficiency. Whilst it does take some take and effort to convert conventional CAD drafting processes, blocks and templates to parametric BIM retail design techniques, once done BIM can help retailers to design faster and more accurately. A few of the key benefits of retail design with BIM are discussed in more detail below.

Rapid Development of Design and Construction Documents:

Conventional CAD drafting techniques for building design require different trades to create separate drawings, which sometimes stack up too many inconsistent documents as they are incomplete, usually without a lot of information that may be created by other skilled parties, such as quantity surveyors. This information is usually mandatory for building construction and includes specifications, bill of materials, cost modelling and schedule data. Not only does a BIM model provide this data, freeing up QS (quantity surveyor) resource, it also provides information from the 3d model that contains intelligent data related to design intent and construction and facilities management information. The major stakeholders will typically receive the data that is combined within a master BIM model to then extract further use and benefit from the design model.

Although the success of retail BIM projects depends on the acceptance levels of all the project participants to perceive BIM as a future-ready tool, the actual benefit of BIM lies in its ability to assist in extraction of various documents, data and views including plans, sections, elevations, renderings, bill of quantities (BOQ), material costs and time schedule, all within record time. All this results in quicker, on-demand data extraction and generation from BIM models for any construction-related designs or drawings.

Development of Standardized Re-usable BIM Families:

To maintain consistency, a retailer may use typical fixtures and fittings across their retail network as retail industry primarily focuses on brand image and brand appearance. Retail design teams, with the help of BIM teams, are able to create standardized libraries of BIM for fixtures and fittings which, with further modifications can be used when designing and planning new outlets, thus enabling retail owners to maintain exclusivity with regards to visual elements, consumer experiences and shoplifting layouts. The design team, keeps BIM libraries updated for various unique outlet chains which help in saving time during conceptual and detail design stages whilst boosting efficiency ratios.

For example, consistency within all the outlets can be maintained by keeping the key retail architectural elements uniform with the help of BIM families which leaves scope for tweaking other architectural details and regional elements.

Creating Store Prototype Models that Can Be Localized:

When developing new prototype store designs, BIM proves to be a valuable asset to retailers BIM prototypes not only offer 3D visualisation prowess but also provide a quality database which consists of detailed information on crucial aspects such as materials, fixtures, components, cost estimation and quantity take-offs. As compared to traditional CAD drafting methods, intuitive and elaborate prototypes like these, accelerate the roll out of new store designs.

In summary, using design standards, fixtures, fittings and brand guidelines in a BIM environment as opposed to a CAD environment may incur an up-front cost and time contribution, but the benefit for mass roll out using a library of intelligent components will significantly reduce overall design time and also improve accuracy of project drawings and project data – providing greater certainly for construction teams and also costing teams.

Why Outsourcing Architectural Design Development Can Work For You

How common is outsourcing design development in architecture practices? We think it happens all the time, for big brand-names and small studios alike. It may not always be formal outsourcing, but it carries the same core principles. One way of basic outsourcing is using interns and graduates that work in temporary roles but handling much of the design development work and less of the more demanding creative and conceptual design work. One more sophisticated and organized form of outsourcing is hiring an outside firm, either local or international. Such a firm effectively becomes a design partner, seamlessly integrating in the company’s architectural design team.

An company abroad, for instance, would handle all the drawing/modeling tasks but is not usually in direct contact with the client, nor is it present in meetings and basically works hard to deliver on the lead architect’s requirements. That’s why using “outsourcing” as a term to describe working with interns and graduates is warranted, but as we’ll see, it may often not be the best approach.

Almost all companies fit in one of the two categories above as a natural market adaptation to reduce costs with tasks that, by their nature, are fairly easy to delegate. This is a common practice nowadays and it is a perfectly fine approach, especially when there are proper communication channels in place between the low level and high level staff. Managing an office and/or a suite of projects is a task in and of itself, leaving little room for the drafting or modeling work.

So the question now becomes which one of these work forms is the most optimal? The short answer would be that each company has specific needs and a specific culture, but if we look closely we can easily determine a general trend. Whilst the use of interns and graduates may solve a problem in the short term, the need to constantly re-hire and retain them can be a major distraction. Instead, using outsourcing firms for the architectural design development phase means that you are partnering up with highly skilled professionals, with zero overhead costs. Such firms are often specialized in specific domains where they’ve honed in-house systems that allow them to work extremely fast, relying heavily on advanced BIM solutions. Outsourcing firms can also guarantee on schedule delivery since they typically have buffer resources and larger numbers of employees.

When looking at outsourcing firms, there is little to no distinction between the interaction workflow you will have with local versus international companies. The problem can arise when you limit yourself to a small market, the local one, and you end up constantly swapping providers of outsourcing services and thus rely on new firms to pick up where the previous ones left. The solution is to tap into the international market and chose a quality, reliable partner for long term collaboration. Looking broader as opposed to narrower has the added advantage that you will likely find providers with lower production/management costs that will translate in a much better pricing and therefore a more competive offering.

In today’s hyper-connected global economy, communication is a non-issue and offshore collaborations become opportunities instead of challenges, allowing design leads to focus on the core aspects of their businesses.

How Open BIM Facilitates Collaborative Design?

Due to its multifaceted benefits, building information modelling (BIM) is rapidly gaining traction in the AEC industry as the key pre-construction planning, construction management, and post-construction facilities management tool. Whilst many firms have transitioned to this ‘intelligent’ model-based process, the ‘real’ potential of BIM can only be achieved by open exchange of design and non-design project information amongst key project stakeholders: architects, structural engineers, MEP design consultants, MEP engineers, and other trade subcontractors.

A common challenge faced by mid-sized to large projects is that not all project participants use the same BIM application. This is where the concept of closed BIM and open BIM comes into play. The above two approaches are fundamentally different ways of looking at 3D BIM modelling.

Closed BIM, also known as ‘lonely BIM’, is a BIM environment wherein the same version of a BIM application is used by all key project stakeholders. This approach may also include different trades using the BIM-compatible applications from the same vendor. As a case in point, the lead architect uses Revit Architecture to model architectural elements. The structural engineer uses Revit Structure to take the architectural BIM model as the reference and define the building’s structure whilst the MEP design consultant uses Revit MEP to model building services. Although no file conversion is required in the closed BIM approach, the process is restrictive in the sense that it only allows project participants well-versed with certain BIM tools to collaborate, thereby not allowing ‘true’ integration.

On the other hand, open BIM is a workflow wherein all participants can collaborate and exchange project information with each other using non-proprietary, neutral file formats irrespective of the BIM tools and applications they use. The information exchanged is not only limited to the BIM model’s geometric data but also includes other parametric data, such as specifications, quantity take-offs, material procurement, cost estimation, and construction phasing. Most common open BIM protocols currently in use include Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) and Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie).

Whilst IFC allows exchange of both geometric and non-design data amongst different applications that support open BIM, COBie only allows facilities management data to be exchanged. Using IFC, the architectural BIM model created by the lead architect’s design team in Graphisoft ArchiCAD can be opened and manipulated by the structural engineer when his/her team works in Tekla Structures. Similarly, the integrated architectural and structural BIM model can be imported into Revit MEP platform by the lead MEP consultant. Once the detailed MEP design is complete, the federated model can be taken into a clash detection and 3D BIM coordination tool, such as Navisworks again using IFC format. This leads to workflow-level collaboration amongst key project members which is the essence of BIM compared to the conventional 2D CAD workflows.

At XS CAD, we have an extensive know-how of both open BIM and closed BIM methodologies due to the fact that we have provided 3D BIM modelling and 3D BIM coordination support to architects, MEP engineers, and contractors in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and India. To find out more about how your project can benefit from our BIM modelling services, contact us.