18 February 2016

What does BIM mean for the trade counter?

Steve Skeldon, Wavin's Above Ground Product Manager, explores the implications, impact and potential outcomes for merchants and end users within the drainage industry.

How is BIM (Building Information Modelling) changing the industry?

As BIM continues to evolve, the construction industry is taking huge strides to harness technology and embed a new type of collaboration between the design trades and supply.

You only have to join a BIM working group or read the 2015 NBS National BIM Report to see the extent to which BIM processes are changing the the way buildings are designed, constructed and managed and how measurable results are already being achieved for clients.

However, there is long way to go to achieve full collaborative BIM and whilst much is being said about the journey for building designers and manufacturers, there is less emphasis or “chat” on the impact BIM will have on merchant distribution and installers.

BIM and integrated design

The logical Shangri-la for BIM (level 3) is a system of construction which means every component in the building from pipework and ventilation systems to the larger elements of the building fabric will built exactly as it has been designed.

This means complete and accurate clash detection at design stage and, ultimately, the provision of an electronic asset that Facility Managers can use for the future management of the building which details exactly what has gone where; who made it; how it performs and how it needs to be maintained.

Have a question? Ask our experts.

Our expert team is conversant with all aspects of our product range and can assist with questions on system design, installation and product suitability, no matter what the application.  Contact the team.

How will BIM affect merchants?

Given the pace at which BIM is moving in our industry, there is likely to be growing pressure on merchants and installers to play their part in making an increasingly precise design happen in the real world.

This sounds great, but in the case of above ground drainage, for example, product substitution is common practice at the merchant’s counter, even within specialist contract branches where ranges are stocked in depth.

As BIM starts to bite, every time a product is substituted for an equal or approved alternative, due to a lack of availability or installer preference, surely the accuracy of clash detection at design stage starts to become compromised and risk is re-introduced into the project via the back door.

So, three questions emerge:

  • Is this just chutzpah?
  • How are merchants and installers (many of which are SMEs) planning to adapt to a new world in which the client’s total build cost is increasingly dependent upon aligning stock and installation accuracy to a phenomenally accurate building design?  Maybe simpler systems with less variety will be the way forward.
  • At this point in the development of BIM, do installers know what implications may be around the corner if and when they switch brands or fitting type during a fully BIM enabled project?
What do you think? Join the discussion below.

How do you approach a SUDS design?

It’s absolutely about just understanding the site. So we’re talking Greenfield site here.

So the first thing you absolutely have to understand is the topography, because strangely enough water flows downhill as fast as it possibly can in the most direct move that it can. So you have to think about how the water naturally flows through the site, because if you put a building in the wrong place, even sites uphill can flood because you put it in the wrong place and the water will go in the backdoor and out the front door, no problem.

So we would look at topography and how we want to collect water across contours and how we’re going to convey it and where we’re going to take it to at the bottom of the site and where we’re going to discharge it. So that’s the simple approach.

As a landscape architect, if I’m master planning, then I’m going to be looking at trees, and hedgerows, and all the natural features, and the elements at the same time. And we’re going to start to allocate areas of the site to what the uses might be, understanding how we’re going to collect the water and how we’re going to store it and where in principle, but also because we want to have a hierarchy of measures in terms of our SUDS. Because if we put water through green systems, then we get improvements to water quality as it comes down the chain, what’s called the management train.

So we want to have a number of interventions that it goes through. And also we want to have a lot of these features and make them as close to where the water is falling on the ground, because the sooner we can intercept it, the sooner we can deal with it. So we’re looking at multiple interventions spread through a site in a hierarchy that all comes down towards the bottom of the site or where it can discharge. So if you’ve got waterfalls running along the site, you might have several or multiple discharge points. If you’ve got a single point where you can discharge or overflow from, then it will be towards the bottom or wherever that is.

All of these designs are completely one-offs for a site. There is not a standard solution. What there is is there’s an approach, and that it’s down to dealing with it on the ground.

To see more of our experts with water vlog series click here.

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