BIM Objects Data for Architects and Contractors; Building Product Manufacturers in a Tight Spot

Oct 2, 2017 -- Manufacturers are more confused with regards to BIM, and on top of it they are also required to make BIM objects for architects, contractors and operators. The new BIM world and several BIM library businesses have been welcoming manufacturers with open arms, but with a condition that if these manufacturers do not have BIM objects, their survival would be a big challenge.

Upon getting their products converted to 3D virtual representations in file formats compatible with Revit, ArchiCAD, etc., backed with associated product attribute data attached to the geometry; manufacturers took a sigh of relief. The bad news is that they actually are not BIM ready or BIM level 2 ready; but why? 

Manufacturers are combatting several vital questions such as:

  • What product model data is required to meet demands of public sector clients using Level 2 BIM?
  • Does the requirement remain same for all the players using Level 2 BIM?
  • Is there a way to present the data, which eliminates further queries?
  • How to fulfill requirements mentioned by designers and contractors in custom-made data sheets?
  • Do products need to be modelled separately for each BIM platform? 

The main utility of BIM object is that architects and designers to plug and play manufacturer’s objects in their design models. This is really good to hear, but does it go that plain and simple? Aren’t there any challenges to it; and that is exactly what we will be highlighting today. Let’s check out the issues:

Objects without geometrical USP

Manufacturers make objects without paying due attention to aspects like insulation and whether or not it is a Knauf 3D geometry or a Kingspan. At times, for manufacturers, certain BIM objects are just lines or rectangles produced by CAD software. Now, not all architects or contractors intend and require all product specific objects like ironmongery in their models. And this leaves objects without geometrical USPs of any use to contractors or architects, either.

Inclination towards CAD offerings

Architects, upon abiding by contracts are left with very less choices of selecting products from specific manufacturers. At times, they themselves don’t intent to use products from certain manufacturers. This leads to a situation where they take the approach of specifying the performance requirements of a product and system, and opting out for a generic object from offerings that CAD packages, like Revit, have to make.

Revit object with relevant Revit parameters

Clients are gaining knowledge immensely. Thanks to government norms and other international standard requirements. They have become smart enough to warrant data requirements for every project individually in the Employer’s Information Requirement/Asset Information Requirement. They would not have to articulate their requirements as to “please provide Revit object with all relevant Revit parameters available. No deviations to it, but that is what most of the BIM objects are all about. Client data requirements peculiarly depend on the kind of project, and hence; they demand data in COBie or IFC.

Emergence of Product Data Templates - PDT

Contractors are required to collect data for the products that they either purchase or install, and this is all purely based on client’s requirements. Usually, contracts highlight the fact that it is “X product or similar/approved”. Now hailing from the same industry, we all know that whatever is specified is not necessarily of the same product which is installed or purchased by the subcontractor. Hence, contractors end up with data about the wrong product in most of the cases, where they relied on a BIM object in a model from the architect. Revit BIM objects come with fixed Revit parameters, and do not have the chattels that the client requires. This leads to a situation where leading contractors out rightly ask for product data from manufacturers in PDT- Product data templates, instead of BIM objects from manufacturers.

So now the question is that when the requirement is of manufacturer’s data attributed to any geometry, and not BIM objects; how should the data be shared with architects, contractors and operators and in which format?

Manufacturers can make their product attributes available in the machine-readable format with help of PDTs. This is how leading contractors, not in need of BIM objects; select the data they need and attribute it to the objects in the model in order to reach out to the correct manufacturer’s products, with attributes their clients are looking out for. So does the confusion end here? Honestly speaking no.

Considering the haphazard situation and the tiff between manufacturers and architects and contractors and clients and who all, CIBSE smartly prepared standardized PDTs using IFC properties and finally made industry experts to agree on the attributes. Following the footsteps, if we may say so, NBS came up with two PDTs as part of their BIM toolkit. And none of them resembled to each other anyway. Now there are 3 different types of PDTs. What should manufacturers do?

How can manufacturers share their data in standardized machine readable formats?

  • Manufacturers should initiate using attributes from the EU standards (hEN), followed with IFC
  • The next should be to include properties which are not a part of EU standards, from country’s own standards; like British standards in the UK.
  • It would make manufacturers attain 60% of product properties. The remaining attributes should then be agreed on by the market.

What would manufacturers do about managing the geometric USP?

  • As a manufacturer, providing the geometry of my products or BIM objects which designers and architects could use differently than a generic Revit object; should be the first motive.
  • All my products would not be geometrically rich, instead taking product geometries to a level of detail which clients need and understand.
  • With help of PDT, filling up product-specific properties for preparing a product data sheet should be the next step.
  • Look out for 3D BIM modeling experts who can:
    1. Take BIM objects a stage further by linking them to product selection programs which give project level data within the objects, which can be inserted into Revit models saving both time and effort when aiming to be BIM level 2 compliant.
    2. Deliver high quality BIM components that meet and exceed industry standards including COBie UK 2012, BS1192 and AEC (UK) compliant, created by an AutoDesk certified Engineer, Created in AutoDesk Revit 2013.

BIM objects or products included in Level 2 BIM are designated not only by their 3-D geometry. They are described by manufacturer’s data accompanying it. Actually, it is this additional data that differentiates Level 2.  The need of the hour is data, which architects, operators and contractors can select in the format they need it in. They geometry they need and the documents they require, are conveniently available in a model – together.

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