BIM allows increasingly detailed 3D modelling of the building envelope

Blog: BIM is breaking the supply chain…

Richard Robinson, FK Group design director

Richard Robinson, FK Group design director

Richard Robinson, design director at FK Group, discusses the benefits of BIM to the building envelope design process and the next steps in its evolution.

It seems like we can’t get away from BIM.

I think you’d all agree over the past few years there’s been lots of speculation on its impact and how the construction industry needs to prepare. You can’t flick through any building magazine without spotting at least one BIM article.

Everything has been focused towards the Government’s introduction of BIM specification on all its tenders from 2016. Well we’re now well and truly past that milestone and it’s time to stop talking about how BIM will bring change and instead start sharing how it’s working in practice.

As I’m sure you know, here at FK Group we’ve been BIM advocates for quite some time and early adopters in the envelope sector. At the end of 2016, FK Group became the first tier two contractor dedicated to building envelope to achieve certification through the BSI, following completion of the intensive audit process. The use of BIM is now well and truly part of the fabric here.

BIM is no longer just a buzzword in construction, it’s modernising the way the industry works. For building envelope specialists like ourselves it’s been a breath of fresh air in terms of achieving fully integrated collaboration and co-ordination on the buildings we deliver.

In pre-BIM days the construction of a building was a very linear process. Stakeholders worked in isolation of each other, passing on the relevant information to the next organisation once they had completed their specialism.  Utilising BIM however, means everyone is on the same page from the start. Equal insight is available to all parties and everyone has the opportunity to contribute from the beginning. Clients, architects, engineers and contractors can bring together all the information required to take a building from inception to completion, and beyond. The information BIM harnesses becomes a system that maintenance engineers can use in the upkeep of the building.

We’ve always believed in a collaborative approach at FK Group and BIM is helping us take coordination to the next level. The building envelope is a highly specialised area. In the past, complex facades could be illustrated in a CAD drawing and it wasn’t until much further down the line, when often costs had been set and construction timelines agreed, that we’d be brought in to provide the curtain wall design, fabrication, installation and maintenance plans. We found ourselves sometimes having to fit into parameters already set, which frustratingly wasn’t always the most effective solution.

BIM brings us to the table much earlier on in the design process and provides the capability to delve into layers of information. This wealth of information can be utilised by other stakeholders to ensure all parties seamlessly work together to deliver the end goal.

However, there are still some hurdles to be faced in order for BIM to achieve its full capabilities. A major issue for us currently is the lack of manufacturer’s product that meets the level of detail we need, especially with the façade elements of our projects at FK. The majority of content that’s currently available is aimed at the concept modelling stage, to be used by architects or engineers.

We need manufacturers to supply their components to the level of detail that meet the requirements of the BIM Execution Plan (BEP) set out by our clients, which in turn will result in more accuracy and drive downstream fabrication processes. It is an ongoing challenge for the industry to maximise the potential of BIM.

Simply put… BIM has broken the supply chain, but not in a negative way. BIM has turned the supply chain on its head, it’s not a chain any more… it’s a circle. A circle which envelope contractors are benefiting from being a part of and will become even more integrated in as advancements in BIM continue.

If you want to talk more about BIM, our capabilities, experience and projects where FK Group is using the techniques, please do get in touch.

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FKBlog: BIM is breaking the supply chain…