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Enabling Holistic Project Collaboration Through BIM

Enabling Holistic Project Collaboration Through BIM

It should seem like no surprise that the earlier issues are resolved in the construction process, the least costly and time consuming they become for the Owner. With the ever-evolving advancement in technology, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is enabling teams to communicate, visualize, and solve problems in a more collaborative environment than ever before.

So what is BIM? To put it simply, BIM is digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. It allows architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals to have better insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct and manage buildings and infrastructure. A perfect example of the efficient use of BIM collaboration is on a 30,000 s.f. office building Russell recently completed design coordination efforts, for a confidential client.

Case Study: 30,000 s.f. Office Building
The architectural, structural and civil design of the building was well underway when our mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire partners (MEP&F) came on board. With the square footage spread out in opposite directions, unique ceiling plenums*, and exposed clerestory space**, we knew proactive planning and good communication amongst all of the team players was vital to having the MEP&F systems design completed and fit within the building envelope in less than two months.

To do this, Russell led weekly BIM clash detection efforts, alongside the typical design meetings, with all parties present. From the Owner’s representative to the system detailers, we were able to quickly establish and validate – in 3D – any areas of concern allowing us to gather each trades perspective, problem solve and move forward with a cohesive decision made as a group.

One particularly impactful example of this collaborative BIM approach was in our initial kick-off BIM meeting. The team was able to see in 3D the affecting relationship between our mechanical system and our structural system, when typically it’s the other way around. Since the clerestory was designed to be located in the center of the building wing, large ducts running the length of the building on either side had to be used. Once the team could see just how large this supply duct would need to be, and that it penetrated nearly all of the structural metal stud shear walls, we knew we had a challenge to overcome.  To make matters worse, the mechanical return duct transfers weren’t even accounted for yet… which would be equally as large. There just wasn’t any room to run both supply and return ducts through the shear walls and maintain their design integrity.

With a great challenge set before our team, they knew that a collaborative effort was the only way to solve this.  With the structural engineer and the mechanical designer in the meeting together, we were able to quickly validate the priority of the design and communicate the design restraints from each trades’ perspectives.  Immediately, the whole team provided ideas, some more drastic than others, but within one sessions we were able to decide our path moving forward.  The solution was to add cross bracing to the walls and align them with the steel joists, making use of the openings in the joists to allow the return air to transfer back.

The above ceiling mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire systems running through the new cross bracing design, with the open joist space above. Overhead view of the mechanical rooftop units and the large ducts needed to supply air to the building, along with the other plumbing, fire, and electrical systems.

“The constraints of the shear walls on the mechanical duct would not have been caught as early in typical 2D coordination. The cost savings of resolving this before it hit the field are immeasurable,” stated Russell’s Project Manager. If this issue would have arisen in the field during construction, special mechanical connections and reinforcing the walls in other costly ways would have likely been the only solution available.

Challenges like these are prime examples of how BIM is enabling the construction industry to approach and collaborate on a project holistically, in lieu of just making sure a single system will work on a trade by trade basis. This ultimately saves everyone time and money.



Interested in learning more about BIM and how it can help you save time and money on your project? Contact us today!

Becca Frangipane
Director of Virtual Construction
(563) 459-4600

*Ceiling plenum: Space between the structural ceiling and the dropped ceiling.
**Clerestory:    A high section of wall that contains windows above eye level. The purpose is to admit light, fresh air, or both.