Manufacturers’ Monthly spoke with Total Construction about Building Information Modelling and how it will revolutionise architecture for Australian businesses.
Imagine clicking through the model for your new home or office and being able to learn exact details like window materials or when the air conditioner was last cleaned.
That is the direction architecture planning is heading in Australia if builders are to survive well into the future, according to leading Australian construction company Total Construction.
The concept is called Building Information Modelling (BIM), a modelling process that builds on a basic 3D model to support multiple applications for viewing information on a certain project.
Total Construction general manager Rob Blythman said although there are currently no Australian companies using a 7D BIM model, it will eventually prove useful and for businesses in terms of manufacturing operations and maintenance that can be used by an entire design team.
He thinks of a BIM model like a physical plaster model but in a portable digital form.
“Your BIM is your foundation and you can take it to anyone, it’s a global standard for them to work with, and you own it,” Blythman said.
A 4D model provides site planning and scheduling, while a 5D model gives a real time cost evaluation. 6D gives project managers the ability to flag certain parts and notify about maintenance.
“The objective for most companies is to get to the 5D and 6D,” Blythman said.
“If you could fly through a 3D model, look at every room and go ‘Okay, I need to look at that piece of equipment, when was it last maintained?’ You can just click on it and it tells you.
“A 7D model is where you can have all the training requirements listed, and it will tell you the parts that are required – so it’s an extrapolation of 6D but in far greater detail.”
Total Construction offers 3D scanning to assess the entire layout of a building and then uploads information in the form of images into a BIM modelling software.
“You set it up to have a look at the room and it spins at 1000rpms,” Blythman explained.
“It just takes multiple pictures of everything, and what that builds up is the 3D model of the internal layout and all the equipment in there as well.”
Software engineer Tom Franks believes the advantage of BIM modelling is that it is owned by a BIM manager and acts as a central model that is continuously live-fed.
“You’ll have your structural engineers, your mechanical engineers and your electrical engineers put in a design – they’ve all got services that need to go into the ceiling, for example,” he said.
“It will pick up that your fire sprinklers have clashed with your electrical cabling and it won’t be at the eleventh hour when its being installed on site. It makes that project run a lot more smoothly.”
At the end of a project, a BIM model is handed back to the client to cross-check all information involved in a project.
“From a building perspective, the BIM manager managing that build up manages the changes made as the build goes on,” Blythman explained.
“Once the building is finished and people move in, the BIM is handed over to the client and the client will have their own BIM manager on staff to manage that.”
And it’s not only a matter of convenience for design and construction purposes.
Blythman believes in order for Australian manufacturers to stay competitive and remain cost effective, companies will eventually push for higher levels of BIM modelling.
“If you don’t have BIM, you’ll be wasting a lot of labour resource on maintaining your operation,” he said.
“Ultimately that’s what the owners and boards of manufacturing plants will look at, is cost saving.
“Like anything, you’ve got to spend money to get the cost saving over the long term, so you have got to spend that short-term money for long-term gain.”
Many multinational companies are increasingly demanding their consultants to use BIMs as part of on-site projects they own, according to Blythman.
“If they’re doing an extension to a building, they’ll say ‘Right, as part of that we want a total building done with BIM because we don’t have one here – we have one in Japan, we have one in our operations in the UK, in the US, but we don’t have one in the Australian operations,” he said.
For businesses who cannot afford services worth up to the millions, Total Construction helps companies assemble a team to achieve a BIM building.
“It may not get to the 7D level, but if you’ve got a foundation to build off it becomes the new norm moving forward,” Blythman said.
“They’ve got that base model that they can then, when they want to expand it and do more with the BIM, they just add to it.”
Total Construction believes BIM models will eventually become a backbone for Australian businesses, and not only a tool.
“If the project is going to be a BIM project, everyone working on that project needs to be across BIM models, and has to have some accessibility to the BIM model,” Franks said.
“There are different types of accessibility you can have with the BIM model: you can have just read-only, you can have read – upload, read – download, you can have read – download – upload. So, you can edit the actual model.
“Anyone on that BIM project will have to know how to use it.”
Although labour costs remain high, Blythman believes BIM modelling will become more affordable and more common.
“The difference is that, now, it’s getting cheaper to do it, and that’s where we will see it start to filter down to the SMEs as opposed to the big end of town,” he said.
“Everyone wants to be like the big manufacturers, so they’ll all be looking at this.”