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What Makes for High Quality BIM Content?

Posted by: Charles de Andrade // November 8, 2017

High quality BIM content.  Is there a single definition of what comprises quality BIM content?

For the Building Product Manufacturer, the answer is a resounding yes!  Quality BIM content is defined by the designers and contractors' use of that content.  For the manufacturer, whose life blood is the specification and eventual purchase of their products, BIM is all about easily providing a detailed, accurate respresentation of the product which the designer and contractor can trust when selecting items for inclusion in the building project.

So what causes a designer or contractor to use or not use a particular BIM model in their work?

For the designer, quality BIM in the conceptual stage of design is often defined as a place holder.  The project architect is all about the visual impact of the building being designed. They want to be able to demonstrate to the owner or the representatives making decisions for the owner, what their building will look like.  Often in this early stage, the manufacturer specific object is not required, and instead a generic object, with some geometry but likely little data is used. The goal is to rapidly sketch out what the project will look like.  That is why so many designers use tools like SketchUp in this phase of design.

Often these objects are labeled as level 100-200 objects and labeled as generic - void of much of the data and attributes that will be needed later in the project design.

By the time the spec writer in the architectural office is involved, quality BIM content may be more advanced, needing data sets that can produce attributes of what the product is.  However, in design, as the project is moving from preliminary plans to working drawings, the architect is still saddled with inherent size limitations related to the BIM object memory use in their systems.  Absolutely beautiful BIM objects loaded with information may look like great BIM content, but will not be used by the designer, because of the size limitations. 

Also, the engineering designer, working with structural, mechanical, and electrical components of the building many require much more advanced details related to connections, interference areas, and other geometry needs, that may make one of their objects much more sophisticated than some of the architectural objects at the same phase of design.

These models are often referred to as “design intent” models, and vary from 200 – 350 level models.  Here what it needs to be to fulfill that use, drives the definition of what good quality content is by the end-user.

Finally, the contractor becomes involved. For the contractor, and the Virtual Design Construction units now found in so many of the top GC offices in the country, Quality BIM content is going to be defined by permitting them the ability to resolve all of the conflicts between product systems, in the digital context, before physical decisions are mandated in the field.  The goal of the contractor, is to ensure that decisions are made that resolve problems before they occur.  A recent and very real example of this was a major project at a casino where the ceiling manufacturer/subcontractor needed to provide “constructability” models with all hangers, support, and physical areas for penetrations for sprinklers, security cameras and other products penetrating the ceilings were defined.  Decisions related to moving sprinkler heads so as not to damage the sophisticated design of the ceiling while still providing acceptable coverage needed to be made in the virtual world.  Waiting to the construction was underway to make those decisions, which was common in earlier periods prior to BIM, would have been costly, both in time lost, and additional cost for making the required corrections.

Suddenly these constructability models were unbelievably complex, heavy and were defined as 400 -500 level models.  The contractor’s project size morphed into multi-gigabyte size from the design intent model measured in megabytes.  For the contractor, the BIM content needed to deliver the ability to accurately portray the interactions between all of the building products and systems that would eventually make up the building.

This did not mean that every possible attribute was in the files, but that all of the needed attributes were. The only thing that detracts from the value of the content than information that isn’t needed is incorrect information. The decision process of knowing what is needed, requires object development that is done intelligently, with clear standards applied, so both the developer of the content and the consumer of that content knows what is present and why it is there and most of all, accurate! Questions related to such issues as sustainability contributions can only be addressed if the content is present to permit querying, and the content present answers the questions being asked.

So, what makes "High Quality BIM Content"?  Content that meets the requirements of the user for the context of the development of the project.  BIM is an elegant solution to age old design and construction pain points. Built correctly, it will enhance the design and construction experience across the industry. But BIM is neither simple or simplistic. Creating quality BIM requires understanding what is being used and for what purpose.  For the BPM BIM content can be the life blood of the firm, or it can be an anchor that decorates digital Christmas trees like so many of the Manufacturer physical CD-ROMs delivering CAD and other product information decorated actual Christmas trees in years past. 

BIM

Author: Charles de Andrade

Mr. de Andrade is an AEC industry veteran with over 40 years of experience, first starting as an electrical contractor. Charles holds a Bachelor of Science in History from Towson University, and is known by many as a perpetual student - curious about processes and people.

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