The advantages of BIM put into practice – whether in a factory hall or tunnel

18. May 2020

A massive wood and steel construction spans 50 metres across an enormous factory hall without a single support at the centre of the room makes an impressive sight! And also a challenge when it comes to installing ventilation and cable systems. “It’s almost impossible without a BIM model”, says Jan Popma, Technical Manager for the Benelux countries at the fixings specialist fischer. Together with his colleagues he developed a digital building model for the Dutch installation firm, which allowed all the required parts to be prefabricated and assembled on the construction site within a short space of time.

The fischer experts on BIM: Emil Kral (l.), BIM Project Manager, and Jan Popma, Technical Manager for the Benelux countries.
fischer’s BIM experts: Emil Kral (l.), BIM Project Manager, and Jan Popma, Technical Manager for the Benelux countries.

What is BIM?

Building Information Modelling – BIM for short – is a hot topic in the construction industry. But there is still uncertainty about what the term means and the advantages it really offers. “A lot of people might think of software at first, but BIM is much more than that”, explains Emil Kral, who is involved with fischer projects across the globe as the international BIM Project Manager. “At fischer we see BIM as the process of creating, managing and using the digital twin of a real building. Ideally, this model will be used by all parties involved for duration of the building’s entire life cycle, from the planning stage to facility management”.

At the moment, this type of “big BIM” is more of an ideal concept than reality. Isolated solutions known as “little BIM” can frequently be found within companies or planning departments. “There can only be an improved flow of information in addition to a higher level of quality and lower costs once we turn these little BIMs into one flowing big BIM”, Kral states. “We try to get on board with projects as early on as possible. In cooperation with the other parties involved we can then design a 3D model that incorporates all of the mechanical anchors, installation systems and facade substructures”.

Is BIM mandatory?

“In China, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and the USA, nothing can be done without BIM, you can’t even submit a quotation”, Emil Kral declares. “Building contractors and investors often demand BIM despite that fact that it is not legally binding, because they know about the advantages of BIM”. This trend has been significantly slower to develop in Europe, and there are major regional differences. “BIM is being used more frequently in the Netherlands and Great Britain, who are sending more and more enquiries to us”, Kral explains. “From 31st December 2020 onwards, BIM will be mandatory in Germany when awarding public contracts for national infrastructure projects and infrastructure-based structural engineering”.

fischer’s full range of BIM services

(1) BIM-ready Product Data: Every relevant fischer product has been equipped with the fundamental BIM attributes which allow the products to be displayed digitally.

(2) 3D Scanning: fischer offers 3D scanning to capture the precise geometry of a building and allow perfectly fitting components to be prefabricated.

(3) BIM Engineering: fischer finds the right solutions for mechanical anchors, installation systems or facade substructures –ranging from the design concept to the highest level of detail (LOD 500).

(4) BIM to Field: Components can be precisely projected from the BIM model onto the building site with fischer’s on-site support.

BIM Best Practices, Example 1: A factory hall in the Netherlands

A printing firm in Ommen (the Netherlands) opted for a very special type of architecture for the construction of its new factory hall. The load-bearing construction is made of wood and steel and has a span width of 50 metres. “The company responsible for installing the ventilation technology asked us to support them with the project through BIM engineering, which is practically indispensable in this case,” Popma states.

“We needed a channel system among other things in order to install the ventilation technology. The BIM model allowed us to see exactly how high it had to be, and we precisely adapted the entire fixing technology structure down to the nearest millimetre”, Popma says. All the components were prefabricated and easily installed without requiring the added effort of measuring them out on the construction site. The digital model offers two additional major advantages: It lets you know the precise quantity of products required ahead of time and the building contractor has an exact model of the building for maintenance or future extension work.

BIM Best Practices, Example 2: A tunnel in Austria

Setting 500 drill holes in three and a half hours with precision – “that’s a tremendous achievement in a tunnel where not a single surface is straight”, Kral explains. This was achieved in record time thanks to BIM to Field. “We work with a robotic total station on the construction site”. The BIM model and all information on the fischer products (such as anchorage depths) are stored on a tablet. After selecting a pipe from the display, for instance, a laser projects the exact position of the drill hole onto the real pipe. “Our fast drilling progress alone saved the construction firm three and a half day’s work, along with the associated costs”, Kral says. “Not to mention other types of delays on the construction site when the holes don’t fit the challenging designs”.

The project is part of the unique “Zentrum am Berg” (ZaB – “centre on the mountain”) research project by the University of Leoben (Austria), where research into tunnel construction and operation is carried out in a total of five road and railway tunnels. The research also involves fire brigade exercises, fire protection properties and testing fire extinguishing systems. “One of our customers supplied a high-pressure spray fire extinguishing system for the research project”, Kral states. “We carried out 3D scans on site and subsequently fitted the BIM model together as an Open BIM”. Each company worked with its own software, but in the end it was incorporated into one digital model which allowed the drill holes to be placed in record time. “We need everyone involved to work together in order to reap the full benefits of BIM”, Kral summarises.

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