Manufacturers Content for BIM

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Space Group CEO Rob Charlton talks about bimstore and why we support manufacturers content

We recently came across a blog post from Miles Walker on his 4BIM blog questioning how useful manufacturer content is for BIM. Here. Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Group talks about the background and why bimstore supports manufacturer content.

The case put forward by Miles is extremely valued and we are always interested to hear a range of opinions from both manufacturers and specifiers. Of course, there is always going to be differences in these opinions but this can be healthy and only adds to the debate. We know that Rob Jackson from Bond Bryan has always been a great supporter of generic content and he, and Miles, come from one particular viewpoint, having both developed their views through their experience and knowledge. What is of greater risk to the development of digital workflows are the views which are not based on experience, and provide misinformation to manufacturers and specifiers.

To understand our position at bimstore it is important to know that, as part of Space Group, the platform was developed by specifiers, for specifiers. At Space Group we have seen the inefficiency of the design and build process in recent years and are therefore always looking for ways to deliver as much value within buildings as possible. To achieve this we need to minimise cost in the process of design and delivery and put the value back into the product.

When I started off in the architectural profession I had the opportunity to specify. I would select components for a wide range of reasons. For example I may have selected a suspended ceiling for its acoustic properties or a door for its robust construction. We would include this information in the drawings and specification and we were aware of the sizes so we were sure it would fit. These were the days of the RIBA Library, when a designer could select the accurate product information from a folder on the shelf and incorporate it into the design at the earliest stage.

In the 1990s there was an increase in the use of design and build. The control of specifications moved to the contractor who selected products largely on cost. They would select the most cost effective ceiling or door without a great deal of consideration for value or lifecycle benefit. Designers were therefore forced to refrain from specification and just use generic objects which would be selected later by the subcontractor or the contractor’s QS, who would have deals with his favoured supplier. Design information was rarely updated until handover, if at all.

In the M&E world, consultants became more focused on performance specification and left the detail design and coordination until Stage F, by the trade contractors. A practical example of inefficiency would be if a slimline fan coil unit was required for a restricted ceiling space - this product may be more expensive than the standard product but without detailed 3D coordination at the early stage, this wouldn't be identified until site installation. The installer then had to find a solution or the architect had to reconsider coordination options whilst being forced into compromise due to the advanced nature of the project. If the actual geometry of the fan coil had been included in the model at Stage D or E this waste could have be avoided.

Specifiers reluctantly accepted this approach but have more recently acknowledged that they can push responsibility further down the line, for others to take. This makes coordination difficult and puts great pressure on the trade contractors and the construction stage. In many cases designers have become lazy and happy to abdicate their responsibility (though often design responsibility and coordination remains in the consultant’s appointment meaning they are unknowingly putting themselves at risk).

At bimstore we acknowledge there is still a large amount of design and build in UK construction however we are increasingly seeing an opportunity for designers to specify the right product, not solely based on cost alone.

With a manufacturers component we know the exact geometry. We know the true energy performance and the carbon performance for lifecycle calculations. When deciding space allocation for a plant room we can be accurate, with construction and land prices increasing we cannot afford to over or under design plant space. No client in central London would thank you for an over-designed plant room which could have been utilised for prime commercial or residential space. Software is becoming increasingly sophisticated and this means we can make decisions about performance at a much earlier stage. Platforms such as Sefaira allow designers to optioneer the building performance by using accurate product data.

When we designed Spacehus we used the actual components at the outset to assess whole life performance, not just cost. We knew we could buy cheaper products but the product performance was all-important. We used BIM components from Jaga, Marley Alutec, Gyvlon, Forbo and Silva Timber who are all customers of bimstore. To achieve the high performance of Spacehus we needed accurate data and this meant we could not leave the specification to a builder’s QS. Energy performance is critical in contemporary building and to achieve this high performance care must be taken with the specification.

If we look at the Ford design team, it is unthinkable that they would allow the procurement team to select the lowest cost engine. They would know the performance of the engines and would work with their supply chain to deliver the best all round performance.

There will be a need for generic components in the years ahead but at bimstore we believe innovation is in the supply chain and not in the commercial department of a Tier One contractor. We believe the person with the best knowledge and experience to make these specification decisions is the engineer or architect. The design and build process needs generic components to allow the costs to be reduced. Even if manufacturer components are added later in the process it means an additional activity is required. At bimstore we believe the specification is done when the component is put into the model. A generic decision abdicates responsibility and passes it down the line.

bimstore is proud to only support manufacturers’ content. This content is developed closely with the manufacturer with the family performance validated by them. We acknowledge the point about too much information in components from some manufacturers and the bimstore team has often had to explain that whilst the manufacturers may want every nut and bolt, this is not always relevant to the specifier. As specifiers ourselves, we make sure our content is right for specifiers to use. Only recently we very reluctantly had to tell a manufacturer that we were unable to host their significant library of useful components as they were built using data heavy CAD files which would ultimately affect model performance.

We know other libraries such as National BIM Library support generic content. Their reasons are different. Without generic content their specification tool does not work. Every specification clause has to link to a component. NBL have always supported generic performance specification as opposed to proprietary specification.

bimstore believe the people who know the most about a given product is the organisation who manufacturers it. A generic specification is just that, generic. It's useful when developing an initial requirement but soon you need to deliver the building performance and you will need accurate information for this.

We will continue to build our library of quality BIM components with manufacturers, so that the best design can be delivered by the best people.

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