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Features List 13
From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 25 No 01 - JAN/FEB 2012
Integrity, Quality, Physical Safety - they are all central to the BIM process
The essence of BIM is that it allows companies to extract a wealth of information from a building model, to share that information with other members of a project team, and to enable buildings to be built in a more sustainable manner - a worthwhile goal for any owner or contractor, enabling companies to improve profits - and yet be more planet friendly. Not everyone, however, is convinced by BIM, don't understand its benefits, and how it affects their own company.
Confusion abounds in the market about what vendor's offer, amid fears that implementation is costly, time consuming and turn a company's working process on its head. The problem is solved when a business is able to use and communicate BIM process data in a simple and unambiguous way.
At a recent meeting with David Jellings, Head of SmartBIM Solutions, we discussed how Solibri Model Checker, a groundbreaking OpenBIM tool, enables companies to utilise BIM effectively from the outset.
Solibri Model Checker (SMC)
SMC is an Open BIM tool, using IFCs as a vehicle for sharing BIM information with any vendor's application that has IFC capabilities; Autodesk, Graphisoft TEKLA, Bentley, Vectorworks, etc.
SMC operates four major functions - Integration, Interaction, Compliance Checking and Information take-off. It also allows users to define their roles - architect, administrator, owner, trainer, etc., showing allotted tasks for each within a project. An architect, for instance, has to validate the geometry, performing space and object checks. Quite apart from any other benefit, establishing everybody's precise role - the very first thing you do - is in itself a valuable tool.
SMC checks the validity of the BIM model, especially if it comprises models from different sources and disciplines, using IFC protocols to do so. Why IFC? It is the only viable protocol on the market that can be read by most, if not all, CAD vendors. Bringing models together will probably show slight differences, columns not meeting piles, staircases not attached to floors, etc, and Solibri compares IFC data and revision levels throughout.
The process is straightforward. Available models are displayed in a browser. Clicking on each enables them to be imported into SMC - using the same space saving principal as Graphisoft's ArchiCAD - importing only those elements required. The validation process uses a set of rules to look at the structure, components, deficiencies and performs space checks etc., showing the results both graphically - e.g. highlighting differences between models, and space problems, such as rooms with no doors, and as a list. Clicking on items in the browser highlights them in the model.
To broadcast results to the team, clicking on a 'Presentation' tab allows the checker to paste in comments, saving them with the image as a file that can be subsequently emailed. As a model checker, the model can't be manipulated, so there are no security issues. Anyone can view presentations using the free Solibri Viewer.
Once validated, the model can be checked for instances where the geometry of the combined models clash, e.g., comparing MEP against structural and architectural models. The Rulesets used work in exactly the same way as they do with Integration, with the image displaying clashes occurring between technologies, and allowing annotated presentations to be prepared for collaboration.
Users can use predefined Rulesets, or define their own, as precise as they would wish - like ignoring pipes in an MEP layout with less than 2" diameter, as these could be bent to fit. SMC offers total flexibility over what can and what needn't be checked. The browser operates much like all browsers, where significant numbers of checked items in a large model can be collapsed into groups, for convenience.
Architects know how much time is spent checking that building plans comply with Government standards - are stair risers the right height, treads the right length, are ramps for disabled access set at the right angle - and so on ad infinitum. A thankless task, but absolutely essential that it is done before the Building Inspector arrives on site!
Rulesets can be set to check any measurable element, including ingress and egress analyses - a fascinating feature that looks at two aspects of building access with quite different priorities. Ingress is concerned with the ease with which occupants can enter a building in comfort - whilst egress looks at how swiftly the building can be evacuated in an emergency! It checks the whole building and identifies any areas where the means of escape regulations from each area are not complied with
With SMC, compliance checking, therefore, is automatic using Rulesets to analyse the model - an invaluable tool for the architect. A pity that Building Inspectors are not yet in the loop.
The fourth function concerns Information Take-off. The BIM is a storehouse of information, but each contractor has different requirements from the model - area calculations, building schedules, material quantities etc.
SMC enables users to set up precise rules to extract the information that they need at any time, by clicking on 'Information Take-off Definition'. It allows users to define their roles, and set up lists of objects and classifications to control the analysis. Each element identified is colour coded for ease of identification within the model.
This can be defined at any depth, such as door types, column materials, and son on - even down to floor slabs, which can be subdivided into specific casting areas for the convenience of sub-contractors, or bending radii for establishing the numbers of rebars required in a column.
Solibri in practice
Although Solibri was founded in 1999, its products are relatively new to the UK market. There are a number of large organisations here who are using SMC - perhaps they are keeping tight lipped about their findings at present to develop a potential advantage over their competitors! Internationally however, Solibri is becoming a major player, being very well established in the Nordics and increasingly in the US, where government agencies are developing a range of Rulesets based on ICC and similar standards.
Rulesets are in development for specific UK applications; BS, Building Codes and key regulations such as Part M Access & B Means of Escape. I do not think it will be long before SMC becomes an integral part of the BIM language.
GETTING UP TO SPEED
SMC is now available in the UK via Graphisoft www.graphisoft.com. Free trial versions are available via Solibri at www.solibri.com. For application advice email firstname.lastname@example.org
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