Phil Turner, director at CEDIA member Philharmonic AV talks Building Information Modelling (BIM) and explains how it can benefit smart home technology businesses.    

Building Information Modelling (BIM) allows an architect to create a 3D digital version of a traditional wooden model similar to those often festooned around most architects’ practices. Similarly to the wooden model, this then allows the client to visualise the space more easily than is possible with a 2D representation. Where the wooden model falls apart (not literally) is in abstracting further important information that expands on the basic conceptualising and this is where BIM excels.

Clearly, the ability to view a space from a 3D perspective or even move around within the space is useful. But BIM goes well beyond that. 

Let’s start with an external wall. In a BIM model, this wall object will be broken down into the key products that make up its structure. For example, plasterboard dry-lining, internal block leaf, cavity insulation, external brick leaf and render. Each of these elements now becomes a model itself; allowing the number of bricks or sheets of plasterboard in a building to be calculated at the click of a button. Already, the time and cost saving to the client can be dramatic since they no longer need to guess these amounts but can be much more precise about it, reducing the risk of shortage, delays or excess waste.

Imagine the amount of data that can be extracted when every element of the model is treated in the same way as a wall! 

For a light fixture, we can represent more than just the wattage of a lamp, although that too is stored in our model. In addition, we can show the full photometric data of a light source, revealing how areas of a room are lit depending on the layout of the fixtures or by choosing different fixtures to provide a warmer or cooler light source.  A combination of sources in a rack can easily provide us with BTU requirements for cooling and ventilation for the space or the energy consumption of the items within it. This is all possible with the elements sitting as smart products within the BIM software.

At Philharmonic AV we are currently using BIM for visual representations so a client can see a 3D rendered version of the cinema we are proposing or how a lighting scheme may affect a room. Where architects have fully adopted the software we can be more adventurous and can represent our hardware and cable routes alongside structural beams and joists, heating and cooling systems and other M&E services.

BIM is being used by the larger architectural practices who work on large MDU or commercial projects. However, any architect working on government projects from 4th April, 2016 will need to be implementing BIM (until that date it is projects of a size of £500k or more). Perversely, in the residential space, it is the smaller practices that we have seen adopting BIM software as the advantages appear to outweigh the headaches of firm wide integration.

For the few architects we work with who use BIM constantly, we are a valuable partner and they provide us with regular business. For the jobs where the architect is working in 2D CAD, we work in a 2D space within the BIM software but can quite quickly and easily mock-up a 3D render showing the client what a media room or cinema proposal will look like when completed. We have found that just a simple render will increase client involvement and, ultimately, make the sales process an easier one.

The actual cost of the implementation for a business like us is significant. Excluding the CAD technician’s lost time, it costs around £3k for the software, £1k for the training and an annual software subscription of £1k. The only other expense has been a super-powerful computer to run the software which was approximately £1k. But we believe BIM is the future, and we’re not alone. 

In a 2015 NBS BIM Report, respondents believed that BIM will become the ‘de facto’ standard for the design process within three years. 92% expected to be using BIM within that timeframe and 95% before 2020. There is a long road ahead but early adoption from our industry will be beneficial from a standards point of view, especially since BIM has significant Government backing. The goal will be that each home has a chip/cube/processor/cloud file which stores the BIM model for that house showing the full 3D representation including where each cable is run, the full specification for all products including manufacturers, model numbers, connections, etc. The realisation may be several years away but we have no doubt that eventually it will arrive.

Discover more with CEDIA.