What does BIM mean for the trade counter?
Steve Skeldon, Wavin's Above Ground Product Manager, explores the implications, impact and potential outcomes for merchants and end users within the drainage industry.
How is BIM (Building Information Modelling) changing the industry?
As BIM continues to evolve, the construction industry is taking huge strides to harness technology and embed a new type of collaboration between the design trades and supply.
You only have to join a BIM working group or read the 2015 NBS National BIM Report to see the extent to which BIM processes are changing the the way buildings are designed, constructed and managed and how measurable results are already being achieved for clients.
However, there is long way to go to achieve full collaborative BIM and whilst much is being said about the journey for building designers and manufacturers, there is less emphasis or “chat” on the impact BIM will have on merchant distribution and installers.
BIM and integrated design
The logical Shangri-la for BIM (level 3) is a system of construction which means every component in the building from pipework and ventilation systems to the larger elements of the building fabric will built exactly as it has been designed.
This means complete and accurate clash detection at design stage and, ultimately, the provision of an electronic asset that Facility Managers can use for the future management of the building which details exactly what has gone where; who made it; how it performs and how it needs to be maintained.
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How will BIM affect merchants?
Given the pace at which BIM is moving in our industry, there is likely to be growing pressure on merchants and installers to play their part in making an increasingly precise design happen in the real world.
This sounds great, but in the case of above ground drainage, for example, product substitution is common practice at the merchant’s counter, even within specialist contract branches where ranges are stocked in depth.
As BIM starts to bite, every time a product is substituted for an equal or approved alternative, due to a lack of availability or installer preference, surely the accuracy of clash detection at design stage starts to become compromised and risk is re-introduced into the project via the back door.
So, three questions emerge:
- Is this just chutzpah?
- How are merchants and installers (many of which are SMEs) planning to adapt to a new world in which the client’s total build cost is increasingly dependent upon aligning stock and installation accuracy to a phenomenally accurate building design? Maybe simpler systems with less variety will be the way forward.
- At this point in the development of BIM, do installers know what implications may be around the corner if and when they switch brands or fitting type during a fully BIM enabled project?