BIM - Building Information Modeling is not just a requirement for general contractors’ bid, but has become an integral part of construction projects altogether. It sure has increased the efficiency and productivity, but bottom line is that it has proved its worth of being a great tool for coordination and scheduling and thereby; eliminating the errors due to assumptions in construction projects, simple or with multiple complexities.
Amongst the construction projects, townships, innovatively designed malls, airports, metro station lines and multi-utility facility with design mix have the most complicated onsite activities. Streamlining of their activities is a must for smooth work.
For such big projects, scheduling mechanical, electrical and plumbing - MEP activities, becomes most difficult. This is because MEP needs are to be accommodated across the building on each floor and every corner, in accordance with the architectural and structural designs of the building or else the designs will have to be altered. This is where BIM intervenes very swiftly and assists MEP contractors and engineers. Off course, the human brain did it in the past, but to meet the current market demands and building construction trends; it would take up most of the time and contractors would lose their bids, which is surely not affordable.
Drawing - an archaic approach
For the traditional approach that consisted of only the lines and arrows to show the pipes, circuits and the flow the entire layout was left for the project owners to visualize. Also it did not create an exact view of how MEP layout would look like.
Furthermore, the drawings received from the architects, structural engineers and the MEP engineers had to be combined and compared against each other to detect the clashes and resolve them and to look for consistent design and refine it. Many-a-times it so happened that the problems were detected after the construction work started which caused a lot of rework and monetary losses and missed deadlines.
BIM for MEP - Today’s approach
BIM has a capability of eliminating the unnecessary work and gives the construction firms an idea of what they want to construct and what will be constructed, and as Doris McCarthy, a Canadian artist, says, “You are actually constructing what your head understood about. What your eyes saw.”
BIM has essentially removed those lines and arrows and intelligent 3D BIM models give you a perfect idea of what the completed construction will look like. It incorporates little detailing right from the sizes and dimensions of the MEP fittings to their quality, quantity and manufacturers.
The rendered 3D models lessen your worries about the lack of imagination and save a lot of time spent to interpret the lines. Once the sketched and modeled information from all the disciplines is imported in BIM software it is just a few clicks and key commands away to detect any clashes and inconsistency in the design and resolve them.
Complex layout with multiple intersections of MEP circuits in a very limited space is just so difficult to imagine. Minute mistakes in measurement of small dimensions, as small as millimeter, the mating part of building elements and interconnections were made inconsistent. This caused difficulties in designing an efficient MEP layout with limited floor or ceiling area. BIM replaced this, by 3D rendered models from the conceptual sketches with exact and accurate dimensioning.
Revit - MEP lets you generate the parametric modeling for Revit Families for standard light, plumbing and other electrical fixtures, which can be imported directly for model of as-built structures. MEP activities with BIM not only help in planning and designing but also during the installation, maintenance and operation phase.
Even the independently designed drawings for mechanical slots, electrical connections, plumbing lines and HVAC system can be combined and coordinated to find the clashes and be resolved by any feasible design. The RFIs and construction documents generated will help in coordination for carrying out the simultaneous activities with minimum human traffic on site.
One of the booming requirements of global warming era is to cut down the energy consumption wherever and whenever possible. BIM has been able to satisfy this as well, through energy modelling solutions. One of the High Schools in USA was successfully able to get tax benefits as a result of their sustainable design for MEP and HVAC layout.
The design support solution firm assisted them in developing the sustainable design, consistent with ASHRAE standards. The design model was developed in eQuest to analyze it for energy performance. The analysis catered the client with information regarding energy usage across the facility and client was able to amend the design to obtain LEED certification and thereby avail tax benefits.
BIM for MEP Maintenance
The operations and maintenance - O&M team is also benefited hugely by BIM. Once the facilities are constructed, their time to time maintenance and smooth operations are looked after. Intelligent 3D BIM models used during building construction phases helps in knowing the exact location of the MEP elements in the entire building facility, which part was last replaced, which one is problematic and needs maintenance and much more.
It is pretty obvious that to efficiently plan and design HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems in building facilities, BIM is mandatory. BIM saves a lot of cost, time and labor by presenting the construction firms, MEP engineers, contractors and project managers with optimized solutions at every level. The senior management obviously does not have time to spare reading the little lines for fixtures and plumbing lines. BIM saves all this time and helps them arrive at a balanced decision.