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.


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.

Crucial Developments in 3D Building Services Design and Coordination Field

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.

Building Information Modelling (BIM): An Indispensable Decision-Making Tool for Contractors

General contractors, also referred to as main contractors in the UK, play an essential role in managing the cost and schedule of highly complex construction projects, particularly during the post-design phases. Professional contracting firms and professionals are involved in a list of crucial tasks. These include diligently studying construction drawing sets developed by architects, seeking local construction permits and licenses, examining day-to-day on-site activities, estimating project cost, monitoring schedules, and serving as a key bridge between key trades, including mechanical services, electrical services, plumbing services and fire protection services.

XS CAD’s 3D BIM modeling and 3D BIM coordination services assist general contractors (main contractors) by providing them with a high degree of predictability and enabling on-time completion of projects. Considering that general contractors (main contractors) bear significant risk of project implementation, they appreciate the advantage of our BIM services.


Owing to our extensive experience in pre-construction planning, multi-service BIM coordination, and BIM modeling for education, commercial, healthcare, leisure, and residential projects, XS CAD has served as a valuable partner to general contractors (main contractors) in the US, Canada, Australia, India, and the UK to support the design process for architectural, structural and MEP disciplines.

Apart from helping contractors deliver time and cost efficiencies on their projects, our tailored BIM services and MEP spatially coordinated models enhance coordination and interoperability between general contractors (main contractors) and all the subcontractors responsible for each of the building services — mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection. Since the parametric objects created within BIM models represent actual elements within a construction project, this information is valuable for designers, installers and cost consultants.

Whilst 3D BIM modeling services support contractors by offering them a thorough pre-construction visualisation with regards to structure, architectural elements, MEP spatial coordination, clash inspection, and interference analysis, 4D BIM allows them to create time-based virtual mock-ups, also known as sequence-based simulations to improve productivity on site. Additionally, 4D BIM services help them detect time and workflow-based clashes resulting in efficient materials and equipment planning, besides improving the flow of multidisciplinary personnel in a constrained space and time.

Furthermore, XS CAD’s 4D BIM Services help general contractors (main contractors) test several “what if” scenarios and make improvements if needed. As a result, the simulation of various project sequences relative to their planned timeframes enables quick and effective decision-making. This decision-making advantage and accurate predictability offered by our BIM modeling services leads to on-time and cost-effective project completion by contractors for their end customers.

CAD and BIM Outsourcing: A Positive Value Proposition to Gain A Competitive Edge

Construction and design documentation form an integral element of any construction project’s design and planning stage. With the clients (facility owners) raising benchmarks with regards to quality, cost efficiency and completion timeframes for such projects, the entire AEC fraternity is seeking ways to meet these requirements, whilst staying profitable. In addition to this, there is a growing client-side demand for employing BIM-based 3D virtual planning in combination with traditional 2D CAD methods for multi-faceted benefits. Accordingly, architectural and building services firms are considering CAD and BIM outsourcing as a suitable practice not only to reduce cost but also increase quality, productivity and boost in-house efficiency.

Whether the project requirements include elementary paper-to-CAD conversions or complex MEP modelling and coordination support assignments, there are numerous benefits that architectural, MEP engineering, contracting, project management and MEP consulting firms can derive from outsourcing their construction design and documentation work. Some of them include:

1. Cost-Effective Access to CAD and BIM Expertise

It is extremely difficult for architectural and MEP firms to set up specialised internal teams proficient in developing BIM-based design and construction drawing sets. Transitioning from 2D CAD to BIM is a long learning curve, particularly for small- and medium-sized practises. For such firms, partnering with a third-party vendor who specialises in outsourced CAD services can speed up turnaround times whilst maintaining quality standards and local design regulations.

2. Ability to Concentrate on Core Function

When firms involved in architectural, building services, general contracting, project management and AEC consulting, outsource their CAD and BIM documentation work, they can conveniently reduce operating costs whilst focussing on their respective fundamental services.

3. Support to Share Project Risk

Having a competent and reputed CAD outsourcing partner allows a business to share the project risk. When you subcontract design and construction drawing assignments to a third party, you trim down the risk involved in training your internal team members and having them execute a non-core function. Furthermore, in the AEC industry wherein timelines and quality standards are critical to success, outsourcing can prove to be a valuable route to a business’ success.

4. Time and Resources to Develop Internal Team

Outsourcing saves the time, effort, and cost involved in setting up CAD teams, including procuring software licenses, configuring high-tech systems and putting together a team of expert technicians. As a result, the firms that outsource efficiently use the same time and effort to develop their in-house team.

5. Leverage Time-Zone Advantage

By choosing to offload CAD and BIM-driven documentation work, including drafting, 3D modelling, 4D scheduling, MEP drafting, MEP modelling, MEP coordination and clash detection, architectural and MEP engineering firms can easily make full use of the difference in time zones. For instance, if a UK-based architectural practise outsources its design and documentation work to an Indian-based CAD company, your assignment will be worked upon whilst you are away from office and delivered when you return the next morning. As a result, you get round-the-clock operations for your business that will increase productivity.

6. Save on Recruitment Overheads

Offloading CAD and other complex BIM-based design documentation services to third-party providers offers a business the ability to remain flexible and quickly adapt to market fluctuations as the cost, time and efforts of recruiting, training and setting up a quality team of technicians are saved.

7. Enhance End Deliverables

When non-core functions are subcontracted to outsourcing providers, the entire delivery life-cycle shortens whilst maintaining quality benchmarks agreed upon. Since your outsourcing partner can deliver high-quality documentation sets faster, your business can boost up input-to-output time cost-effectively. As a result, you maintain the quality and timeliness of your service, thereby increasing the end client’s satisfaction.

8. Trim Operating Costs

Establishing a highly-skilled team of CAD and BIM technicians involves recruitment, employee training, procuring software licenses, besides setting up the hardware and online collaboration infrastructure. When your business chooses CAD and BIM outsourcing as an option, you can cut back on the outlay, time, and efforts required for the same.

9. Provide Competitive Edge

As there is a greater push than ever by all the key stakeholders to avoid budget overruns during all phases of the design and build, outsourced CAD services can certainly prove to be a positive value proposition for architects, MEP (M&E) consulting firms, and general contractors looking for a scalable yet cost-effective alternative to setting up in-house teams. This, in effect, provides a highly competitive edge whilst offering a flexibility to tackle the ups and downs of market cycles.
Kuldeep Bwail is a Director at XS CAD Limited, one of the leading 3D BIM Modeling companies providing outsourced CAD services to architects, engineers, MEP (M&E) consultants and contractors across the UK, US, Australia, Canada, Europe, India and the Middle East.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Kuldeep_Bwail

BIM Drives Cost-Efficiencies for Plumbing Design

Since our construction industry is grappled with severe productivity issues and tight margins, the AEC industry is striving hard to come up with new ways of improving productivity, reducing construction costs and delivering a better-built building. Building Information Modeling, a new technological advancement in the AEC industry after CAD seems to have the potential to address these issues.

As per the definition of BIM by The National Building Information Model Standard (NBIMS), “BIM is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility and it serves as a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle from inception onward”. BIM has evolved from being just a buzzword to the centrepiece of AEC technology and it has significant benefits for plumbing design.

BIM enables a 3d virtual representation of the plumbing systems thus helping to better understand the final outcome, make more informed decisions and detect collisions. One of the major benefits BIM technology serves for plumbing is interference-checking. Using BIM to detect early collisions helps to prevent costly design changes during the actual construction process whilst also reducing guesswork and errors.

Since the underground plumbing lines are located in reference to the foundations; BIM enables a plumbing designer with actual building footings marked by the structural engineer to preserve the structural integrity of the building. With the help of the building footings, a plumbing designer can easily coordinate the underground routing without compromising the structural design of the building.

Building Information Modeling is an ‘information’ rich model.  In addition to building shape, costs, design, construction time, physical performance, costs and logistics, BIM also provides information about two additional parameters in the case of plumbing fixtures – information about the required gpm flow of the standard fixture and the reduced gpm flow.

With an aim to conserve energy and natural resources, there has been an increased focus on green building projects. BIM facilitates easier identification of systems in LEED Plumbing Design by creating different colour systems. Since there is a variation in colour, identifying grey water routing becomes easier and hence helps to prevent cross contamination with other waste systems.

BIM creates a unified working environment with multiple disciplines working together on a single file. A plumbing engineer can create a design for hot and cold water and simultaneously check the HVAC design worksheet for conflicts.

BIM serves a plethora of benefits for plumbing design such as increased efficiency, accuracy and coordination of the system as well as reducing the time and cost involved in it.

3D Building Information Modeling Facilitates Accurate Cost Estimation to Avoid Budget Overruns

As the property owners increasingly demand timely and in-budget completion of projects, all the key stakeholders are increasingly adopting 3D BIM Modeling to achieve the same. Whilst the traditional design-bid-build project delivery methods are still significantly used by the AEC industry, the AEC firms employing the same methods increasingly run the risk of cost overruns. Furthermore, the risk factor escalates as the complexity and scale of the build project increases. Since the core team consists of professionals from highly diverse trades, the collaborative BIM workflows, when used within the design-build and integrated project delivery (IPD) frameworks, help avoid drastic cost overruns.

One of the key advantages of BIM modeling over non-BIM 3D modeling and 2D CAD techniques is that the former facilitates rapid and accurate cost estimation during all phases from design through to construction. The ability of 3D BIM models to generate accurate quantity and material takeoffs play a crucial role in enabling better decision-making with respect to project modifications whilst reducing costly budget overruns. Whereas accurate cost estimation is critical during the planning and conceptual stage to seek the owner’s approval, it is equally decisive during the construction stage to keep the entire team in the know of the implications of their design modifications.

The cost estimates derived from conceptual BIM designs ensure feasible decisions are made early on in the design and planning process, which in turn, govern the eventual project cost. As a result, such a valuable cost feedback in the initial stages of the project helps build a strong foundation for the latter stages of the project. Moreover, since the combination of 3D BIM workflow and IPD brings together all the multidisciplinary professionals during the pre-construction phase, such precise cost estimations keeps all the major stakeholders well informed about the financial implications of their decisions. More importantly, this risk and reward-sharing framework facilitates smooth information-sharing and better decision-making so as to keep the project on-track and within budget.

In order to realize the benefits of cost estimation during the design phase, it is critical to integrate the BIM models with an external database which contains costing information relating to quantity takeoffs. Compared to the traditional method of cost estimation, BIM-led cost feedback improves accuracy, offers time savings, and increases the speed of estimation. Whilst setting up BIM-based cost estimating the workflow requires planning, its benefits overshadow the time and effort required to do so.

On the whole, detailed quantity takeoffs resulting from BIM models help key decision makers to consider several what-if scenarios and compare the cost impact of each alternative during all phases of the design and construction. These detailed cost estimates also enable key project stakeholders to assess the deviation in cost from the the planned budget at every stage and make all necessary corrections. Accordingly, BIM-driven cost estimation ensures the entire team can share budget-related inputs, perform cost-benefit analysis of multiple design options collaboratively, and most importantly, curb costly, time-consuming design conflicts and rework.