Building Information Modeling

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Design Master HVAC and Electrical both support Building Information Modeling (BIM), but it was never an intentional strategy of ours. As a result, the type of BIM that we support is a little different from what you will hear other companies talk about.

First of all, we are not an architectural software company. That’s a pretty full market, what with Autodesk (twice!--ADT and Revit), Bentley, and ArchiCAD all offering high-quality, competitive products. Instead, we are focused solely on the little niche of HVAC and electrical engineering.

Second, most of our customers are MEP design firms, not architectural / engineering firms. Our customers work with multiple different architects, each using a different method for producing their drawings. Some architects take full advantage of BIM, using one of the programs I mentioned above to its fullest potential. Others use one of those packages, but treat it like CAD rather than like BIM. Occasionally, you find an architect who drafts his plans by hand, scans it, and sends you a JPEG! But the vast majority of the time, the architect uses a standard drafting package like AutoCAD to produce 2D line drawings.

Design Master assumes that the architect won't deliver anything more interesting than a background. Some day in the future, cross-discipline BIM will allow the engineer to take the architect's model and integrate it with their design. But today, the reality for the consulting engineer is that they receive plain 2D AutoCAD drawings. Therefore, Design Master focuses on creating a building model that helps the mechanical or electrical engineer do their job, regardless of what the architect is using.

Third, BIM is not the same as 3D. In many cases, BIM and 3D are used as near synonyms, but that is not the case. Yesterday, Nigel Davies, in 3D is Not BIM, wrote about the benefits that 3D gives you without requiring BIM. Similarly, BIM gives you lots of benefits without requiring 3D.

For engineers, this is especially true. There are a limited number of very specific situations where 3D matters to engineers, such as routing of ductwork in tight spaces. We offer 3D drafting in our HVAC program for these cases. We don't have any 3D capability in our electrical program.

Instead of 3D, we offer lots of other BIM features that are valuable to our customers. Most of these features are centered around engineering calculations. For example, the model that Design Master creates allows ducts to be sized and panel fault to be calculated automatically. Integrated engineering calculations are much more useful than 3D.

That is how we are different. We focus on HVAC and electrical BIM, not architectural BIM. We assume that architects are not using BIM. And we focus on features of BIM other than 3D. In the future, I plan to highlight some of the benefits other than 3D that BIM can offer an engineer.

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