by Lowie Van Rymenant
Building information modeling (BIM) is opening up new opportunities for the construction industry. Its adoption differs across various regions, but architects, consultants, engineers, and contractors are realizing the benefits of this new, collaborative way of designing, constructing, and maintaining a building. Heat-tracing systems are one building component taking advantage of BIM. As a solution that ensures comfort and contributes to life safety, it requires special attention.
A clear definition
Not just software, but a new way of working, BIM is a collaborative tool that enables those involved at all stages of a construction project to understand a building through the use of a digital model, made up of information-rich digital objects. By modeling components in this form, the architects, designers, engineers, and consultants can interact with the building and its contents to optimize choices and actions. From inception and design to demolition and materials reuse, BIM can be used to illustrate the entire building life cycle from cradle to cradle. In other words, the software provides a common data environment (CDE) for all information defining a building or facility, together with its common parts and functions.
BIM’s adoption varies from one country to another. In Germany for instance, the extensive German Institute for Standardization (DIN) standard is only just embracing BIM. The construction industry in this market is fragmented and dominated by home-grown products, and its legally-protected professional titles and fee scales are proving more of a barrier to BIM’s collaborative approach. Conversely, in Finland overall market adoption in is estimated to be 20 to 30 percent.
In June 2014, Sylvia Pinel, of France’s Ministry of Housing, announced the intention to put a “French numerical strategy” in place with the possibility of making BIM mandatory in public procurement in 2017. This has had a significant impact on BIM’s adoption in this particular market.
Across Asia, the key growth region in construction continues to be China. Here, BIM adoption is at a relatively early stage, but as the construction economy continues to mature this is expected to change.
The latest “U.K. National BIM Report” revealed that while 80 percent of respondents agree BIM is the future of construction information, 67 percent still believe the industry is not clear enough on what the software is yet. Further, only 25 percent of respondents trust what they hear about BIM software.
In the United States, BIM adoption hovered around 70 percent last year. In 2014, the McGraw-Hill Construction Report, “Business Value of BIM for Construction in Major Global Markets,” found two-thirds of U.S. building owners expected to increase use of the software in the next two years. In the same report, BIM’s users highlighted its benefits. BIM visualization enables better understanding of proposed design while having a beneficial impact on construction cost control and project schedule. Additionally, BIM analysis and simulation capabilities produce efficient design and few issues occur during construction due to deficient documents or coordination.
More efficient design
In an industry where every second counts, delivering an on-time and on-budget build program is vital. A significant characteristic of BIM is the value it adds by combining the efforts of people, process, and technology with all the information about each building component. This way, integrating different aspects of the design is more effective, and the risk of mistakes or discrepancies is reduced. By signaling conflict detection, BIM prevents errors creeping at the various stages of development, costs are also minimized at every stage during construction.
In the heat-tracing sector, there is a real push for design support to enable greater efficiencies during the design and construction phases. BIM delivers these advantages, along with the means to increase efficiency, not only during the design and construction process, but also during the operational life of a building. This helps track and find data throughout the life of the building, and ensures each person working on the project follows the same procedures—leading to a more efficient process. Accessing all project information from a single combined model significantly reduces scope for error.
An intelligent and intuitive methodology, BIM enables the objects to be displayed in relative scale to each other. This shows all components in relation to the project as a whole and informs users about spacing and constraints. It also represents relationships between objects, which allows for superior precision in design, enabling users to create a fully detailed prototype of the building model and estimate costs with greater accuracy.