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Open BIM: The Benefits For Lighting Design

EX-OR being BIM readyBIM (Building Information Modeling) is the future of project design for the country’s construction industry.

BIM provides the platform for collaborative information modelling and management, allowing different groups of contractors to work together on a building project from beginning to end, and even after it finishes.

A BIM model that starts with the design team can then be passed on to various construction teams, then on to lighting design and other electrical installers. By ensuring everyone works from one master model, BIM minimises the risk of errors and unexpected waste. For lighting contractors, BIM is essential for ensuring they can work seamlessly on larger projects – no matter when they join the process.

BIM also provides additional value at the very beginning of the project, allowing lighting contractors to visualise projects and sell-in to customers on a professional platform. Contractors can use a flexible BIM model to offer the customer different lighting design options, as well as liaise with architects and contractors earlier in the design process. Getting this feedback early on is vital to ensure any adjustments are made well in advance – reducing churn, time, and budget spent correcting mistakes.

For instance, a warehouse will need a different type of sensor compared to an office building, due to ceiling height and where the sensor picks up movement. With BIM, the contractor can visualise different absence and presence detection sensors, demonstrating their range and capabilities. This ensures the right sensor is installed to meet the customer’s precise needs, saving time, money, and providing a better service.

The ongoing problem
Despite its clear benefits, the construction industry is still divided on how best to adopt BIM. There are many software options available on the market – options such as Revit, Bentley, Trimble & Archicad. This leaves manufacturers, contractors, and specifiers hesitant to invest in one particular version.

The UK governments’ recently adopted Level 2 BIM regulation, meaning BIM is now essential for publically funded projects, and privately funded projects are also following suit. As a whole industry, we need to overcome this roadblock in order to create a collaborative building environment. One possible answer is Open BIM.

Why Open BIM
Open BIM doesn’t rely on one specific BIM platform, so everyone – whether contractor, installer, or specifier – can work from the same data, using the software and tools they are familiar with.

Open BIM is vitally important to the industry for several key reasons. Firstly, it is only with Open BIM that the industry can deliver the level of detail and data customers need before, during, and after a project.

Open BIM’s flexibility also benefits customers once the project is over. With Open BIM, once a project is finalised, the customer knows they can easily access and use the model and data provided to them. This is incredibly useful for customers looking to use this data to manage their own building systems, for example, by ensuring they have an accurate overview of the building and its components. From lighting, to ventilation, to access control – this level of product detail is crucial for ensuring the building is well maintained now and in the future.  

Adopting Open BIM is also crucial for keeping our industry competitive. If one company dominates the market for BIM, then its services may become very expensive. But an Open BIM system, which supports multiple software platforms, ensures there is healthy competition between software providers.

Open BIM can also provide better value for our customers. An open platform creates additional savings, which can be passed on to customers to keep the overall cost of projects down.

Keeping it integrated
There are still integration challenges to overcome before Open BIM can be adopted by the industry. One key problem is the number of Product Data Templates (PDT) available on the market. Currently M&E manufacturers can apply their own interpretation of the IFC specification to create their own PDT, or, they can use a CIBSE, BIM4M2 or a NBS PDT for relevant product data. This creates additional confusion for contractors as to which template to use – so the industry cannot be guaranteed consistent and quality data.  

Another challenge is the lack of Industry-derived bespoke PDTs. The majority of bespoke PDTs have been created without consulting the relevant industries, so much of the data required to complete them is either excessive or too minimal. The UK government is working on a singular, industry derived set of bespoke PDTs, but the slow release to the market is an ongoing frustration. Unfortunately, these delays are necessary in moving the industry towards a standard model.   

Meeting the challenge
The industry can overcome these challenges through a few simple steps. If manufacturers release their product data sheets in Excel, which is all the UK government requires to provide level 2 BIM, then manufacturers are instantly supporting Open BIM. Every contractor, manufacturer, and specifier can use Excel, so this is the easiest way to provide a reliable data source accessible to all. Honeywell has already taken this vital step in supporting Open BIM for its products including MK Electric, with further product launches in the next few months.  If more manufacturers followed suit, the industry as a whole would find it much easier to convert to the Open BIM format.

Another significant challenge is whether Europe as a whole will adopt the UK’s approach to BIM. If other European countries decide not to adopt the UK’s approach, then manufacturers may be forced to tailor BIM data on a geographical basis –a costly waste of time and resources. However, if Europe accepts and adopts the UK approach, then it’s likely that the rest of the world will follow suit.
European committees are already in place to determine the best way to roll BIM out across Europe, which is an encouraging sign that the European industry sees the potential in a standardised system.

Education is another crucial step in promoting BIM adoption. There are a number of seminars, webinars and workshops available to teach BIM at every level, no matter what sector of the construction industry. Ultimately, contractors must take the responsibility to read up, get savvy, and understand these new technologies. It is the only way to future-proof our organisations and ensures we provide the best quality of service possible.

Looking to the future
In as little as three years, BIM will be the way we all do business.  It is therefore in everyone’s interest for us to accelerate that transition. BIM will likely become the standard, if not a necessary requirement, for all kinds of building projects in the future.

As the most flexible option that is also easiest to understand, Open BIM provides the ideal solution for manufacturers, contractors, and specifiers looking to stay ahead of the competition.

By Logan Colbeck, Sales Strategy Leader at Honeywell E&ES UKI


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