BIM Building Services in industrial projects

Sometimes people ask me if the BIM approach is different for large industrial projects. I would immediately reply, what does BIM mean to you? The use of a 3D model is the answer most of the time. However, BIM is so much more than just a 3D model or a software package. It is a building dossier where all the relevant data is being stored to create a single source of truth. Therefore, the approach of BIM is the same as any approach. Nevertheless, this would be a very short blog were that the only thing to BIM Building Services in large industrial projects. In this blog, I will point out some specific differences and problems.

We see that Building Services is becoming more important for industrial projects and thus more prominently present. This applies not only for food and pharma, but also for chemical plants and production buildings where the indoor air requirements are becoming more important.

When working in a large industrial project there will be some extra disciplines to take part. Let us say if you were to build an Office building then the disciplines would be limited to architectural, structural, electrical and building services. However, a large industrial project would also require the disciplines: piping, mechanical, process and terrain facilities (pipelines and infrastructure). This enormously increases the amount of data being stored and the need for intensified collaboration. The difficulty here being that piping, mechanical and process use different software than architectural, structural, electrical and building services. This causes compatibility issues and requires common ground formats to collaborate with one another. The building dossier is created with the help of Navisworks and Revizto. With these software tools, we can combine all the data from the disciplines into a single source.

The tools to expect are as follows:

  • E3D                  (Piping/Mechanical)
  • COMOS           (Process)
  • Revit                (Architectural, Structural, Civil)
  • Trimble MEP     (Building Services and Electrical)
  • Civil 3D             (Pipelines, Infrastructure)

For the storage of Building Services data, we use the software package called Trimble MEP (previously known as StabiCAD). With it, we can easily collaborate with other disciplines, which use Revit. One of the most important collaborations in projects is the coordination of recesses. It was always a problem to get a recess on the correct position due to misinformation, design changes or lack of communication. Now with the MEP Openings and Openings manager app we can track and control the recesses. It also requires the parties to communicate with each other so that, at the end the recess is generated at the correct position.

Another difference is that industrial clients want to file future data in their dossier. For example, when additional production lines are planned beforehand but not realized at time of construction. This means the air handling unit and ducting space needs to be claimed so that it can be installed later when the production line is being added. These future expansions require a check for constructability. That means that not only data with a future status will be stored but also data with a temporary status. For example, beams that need to be removed in order to hoist an air handling unit into the building.

Finally, industrial plants are quite large as is the process equipment. This means that there will not be a lot of space in the buildings for Building Services or other services. Even more, the process equipment requires piping, cable trays and other utilities. Service space for the process line like manholes, walkways, service area, hoisting areas must be safely available. These are things to consider greatly when you are trying to store Building Services data. Eventually everything becomes transparent when the clash report procedure is being initiated, that being said it is vital that the design is closely coordinated and checked mono-disciplinary and multidisciplinary. Here we have the most important difference between utility buildings and large industrial projects as the number of disciplines is significantly higher and there is no single BIM-tool for all of the disciplines.

About the author

Michiel is a flexible and dynamic Building Services engineer with a strong expertise in various market segments such as food and pharma, automotive, health care, public spaces, offices, etcetera. Driven by his technical interests, eagerness to learn, his team player mind-set and his education he has build-up a solid base of experience with the use of Revit/Timble MEP and integral way of working. Within Bilfinger Tebodin, Michiel is part of the international BIM taskforce to propose and implement the necessary improvements to retain our position as a BIM forerunner.

Author: Michiel Leurs, Building Services Engineer