Better building with BIM

December 16, 2011 - Fewer building conflicts, less downtime during construction and less paperwork are just a few of the reasons that project owners and their teams are hopping on the Building Information Modeling (BIM) bandwagon.

BIM uses computer-assisted design to create 3-D virtual models of buildings. These models take into account the materials that will be used during construction and the systems that will go into the building, such as fire protection, electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems. By creating a detailed representation of the building and its components, project teams can identify and resolve any building conflicts during the design phase instead of discovering and correcting them during construction.

United States Alliance Fire Protection (USAFP) has used BIM for several years to design fire protection systems, and the number of project owners who request BIM for projects is increasing steadily. USAFP now uses BIM for many new projects and 80 percent of major projects.

"We can keep up with any schedule; we can produce our drawings quickly; and we can make any required changes and turn them over in a timely manner," says Chris Thoune, USAFP's assistant design department manager.

Depending on the project owner's needs, USAFP provides BIM services in two ways. On design-assist projects, the company coordinates with the project owner and general contractor during the design phase to determine the best placement for the fire safety system within the building. In other cases, USAFP works with subcontractors after the initial design phase to place their systems within the building's design appropriately before construction begins.

BIM's biggest benefit is the elimination of wasted time and expensive rework in the field, according to Thoune. BIM is also an eco-friendly solution, since it eliminates paperwork in favor of electronic building plans. In addition, project owners who involve contractors and subcontractors in BIM during the initial design phase can save additional time.

"In design-assist projects, you avoid having to create a partial design and then moving it over to a separate construction model," Thoune said. "It's a big help to the project owner."

BIM-designed fire protection systems don't require any more maintenance than non-BIM systems do. While BIM involves an additional upfront engineering cost, project owners often make up that cost through the reduction in lost time in the field.

Project owners who use BIM during construction also set themselves up for simpler renovations in the future. USAFP provides owners with an electronic drawing and 3-D model of the building's fire protection systems and their exact placement in the building, making it easy to coordinate future work.

For more information about USAFP's BIM capabilities, contact Chris Thoune at (847) 247-4755 ext. 179 or [email protected].

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