Adding Electrical Consultant To Bim 360 Revit Work Flow How Engineering and Architectural Workflows Are Integrated With the Help of BIM

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How Engineering and Architectural Workflows Are Integrated With the Help of BIM

The impact of Building Information Modeling, or BIM, processes has been a turning point in the history of the construction industry. Design workflows have been transformed by the advent of BIM technology, and both the architecture and MEP (Mechanical, Engineering, Plumbing) fields have had to adapt to emerging design process trends. Traditionally, architects and building engineers have different design and documentation workflows. These methods have been modified and integrated using BIM modeling.

In the MEP design field, traditional methods of developing 3D models coordinated by MEP designers through 2D design contractors are gaining less popularity. BIM modeling is largely responsible for this change, and we discuss how.

Much of the engineering work in construction follows information from architects’ designs, for example column grids for structural design or ceiling plans for MEP design. Architectural information, such as building geometry, is then used by building engineers as input for structural load, heating and cooling load analysis. The results gathered from such analysis are then applied to the required sizing of components such as structural units, heating and cooling systems. The number and characteristics of structural joints and MEP distribution systems are calculated to determine load and size connections, structural framing elements, ductwork and piping.

In some cases, architects may have to leave areas designed to contain MEP components. At this stage, it is necessary to modify the design layout while maintaining the engineering system of the building. The use of coordinated 3D models allows MEP integration into construction plans at an early stage. Therefore, 3D model-based workflow became a viable option. Models designed with CAD have certain advantages in the field of MEP design, such as the following:

  • Studies show that 3D CAD tools improve development cycles by 30-50%

  • Using 3D models reduces non-conformance problems by 30-40%

  • 3D-based design creates fewer inaccuracies

Hence the use of 3D CAD models saves time and money and reduces errors.

MEP design usually involves a significant number of stakeholders who are responsible for the smooth execution of various phases of construction engineering. These phases generally include planning, design, spatial coordination, fabrication, installation and maintenance. The team involved in building services design usually consists of design engineers (known as consulting engineers or building designers) and MEP contractors. Sometimes, a fabricator who builds ducts, pipes, electric ladders or sprinklers with frame modules may also be involved in the design process. Design engineers traditionally work with architects to oversee lighting, cooling, heating, drainage, waste, fire prevention and conservation services. In this case, the design engineer clearly deals with the detailed spatial design of lighting, cooling, heating etc. It was the MEP contractor, or trade contractor, who would implement the spatial design requirements and installation. The MEP contractor must then develop the consultant design into an installation-ready building services solution.

There were some challenges with this workflow, such as:

  • Design data, architectural and MEP, had to be shared.

  • MEP design prepared by one engineer/team and detailed by other/s.

  • Plans and schemes may present inconsistent data or conflicts.

  • Design changes may occur after the design is finalised.

The introduction of BIM modeling provided a solution to these challenges, as designs were converted into 3D models and design data became increasingly centralized and changes communicated to stakeholders at a faster rate. With the use of BIM modeling, five different MEP design workflow options emerged. They are as follows.

1. 2D design with 3D BIM coordination

2D design outputs, such as 2D plan layouts, 2D sections and MEP schematics, are created by the designer using traditional 2D CAD tools and then given to the contractor who will create a coordinated Revit BIM model that will allow conflicts to be identified and resolved prior to site. Work begins.

2. 2D MEP design and 3D BIM coordination

2D design layouts are created by MEP designers – layouts detail design intent rather than installation requirements. These layouts are then handed over to the MEP trade contractor for detailed 3D coordination. Architectural and structural models are provided to the contractor so that they can coordinate.

3. 3D BIM design and coordination by MEP designers

Design engineers create spatially coordinated Revit BIM models with the actual specified elements of projects. Structural, architectural and MEP service coordination is complete. The resulting model is almost ready for installation. Typically during a round of value engineering or prioritized installation or fabrication requirements, the MEP contractor will still make the final changes.

4. 3D BIM design and coordination by MEP contractors

Design and coordination is undertaken by MEP contractors. Formerly known as a ‘design and build’ workflow, this method is becoming increasingly popular. The contractor works on designs and models based on the client’s specifications. A coordinate drawing is created from the model for installation or fabrication. This is a quick and cost-effective method, as the cost of contractor resources is less than that of design engineers. As he makes the final buying and fabrication decisions, this puts all the control in one team, streamlining the process somewhat.

5. 3D coordination by general contractors

2D architectural, structural and MEP designers work for general contractors. The team will typically include detail teams that handle coordination at the MEP trade contractor level. A 3D BIM model is created for the contractor to review model strength and design compliance. The model is then checked for conflicts.

Although there are five different MEP workflows, there is a traditional architectural design workflow, which consists of three basic phases. They are:

1. Schematic design

Space form and function is envisioned by the architect and converted from sketch to 3D model.

2. Design development

CAD technicians add dimensions, details, and supporting information to 3D models. Mechanical, electrical, plumbing and life safety drawings are prepared. Using standard parts libraries and incorporating tagged component data early in this phase enables productivity tools that enhance construction or shop drawings.

3. Construction Documents

Accurate detailed drawings showing materials of construction, component data sheets, specifications, and materials or component schedules. Data can be assigned to walls, floors, and building envelopes in the model, as well as steel and concrete rebar component information and piece detail information.

Given that MEP and architectural workflows are distinct, how does the use of BIM technology integrate the two? BIM engineering modeling tools can integrate engineer-designed building materials with architectural BIM models to detect clashes. Here’s how:

Construction software platforms, such as BIM 360, use cloud-based checklists to enable quality control, on-site safety, equipment tracking and task monitoring. Project stakeholders, such as project managers, subcontractors, designers, and architects can access, modify, and update data. Models designed using BIM 360 can create 2D construction documents and 3D MEP coordinates. MEP designers, therefore, can plan designs more effectively if projects include 3D modeling of architectural and trade aspects from the outset.

Round-trip transportation

Architectural models created using BIM traditionally do not spatially represent the division of volumes and surfaces, which is necessary to create an energy analysis package in MEP. Revit MEP takes care of the repartition of architectural models into units that can be analyzed for seamless building services. Therefore, BIM model-authoring tools enable the round-trip transport of building data from architectural models to MEP analysis tools and back to architectural models with coordinated and recombined engineering elements.

Some aspects of engineering analysis can be integrated into architectural design for a more interactive interaction with the use of specific tools. Architects can then receive direct feedback on the MEP effects of their architectural designs. Tools that provide these capabilities include IES plug-ins for Revit MEP or Revit Architecture. Recent software program acquisitions by Bentley and Autodesk have increased the facility for interoperability, where engineers may prefer specific analysis packages for internal workflows but are restricted by software suites that create the models required by project contracts. Enabling cross-platform workflows was a major reason for establishing the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) standard, now known as BuildingSMART.

Integrated architectural and MEP workflows are gaining popularity in design circles due to continuous technological developments. With IFC standard guidelines, architects and MEP engineers can use data collected from other disciplines for reference when coordinating and sharing projects. Finally, early integration of MEP analysis data and successful building information modeling implementation can help architects design integrated projects that can be executed in a seamless construction process.

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