For some time now I’ve been quite curious about BIM (building information modeling) as a result of its increasing appearance in news stories related to engineering (plumbing and otherwise). Yet it wasn’t until the recent viewing of a television show by the noted chef Emeril Lagasse that I felt the need to pen an editorial on the topic.

His constant use of the phrases “let’s turn it up a notch” and “BAM!” [complete with the word flashing on the screen] had me seeing variations of BAM in my mind all night. “BIM” was the spelling that came to mind most often, and it stayed there until I arrived in the office the next day - ready to research the topic a bit more.

Many readers of PM Engineer are probably knowledgeable about and/or have used BIM software, but I only had a generic knowledge from reading news stories. Although not a revolutionary concept, BIM does more than simply provide 3D graphic presentation layers (plumbing, HVAC, electrical, etc.) for each part of a structure, like CAD. It lets engineers and architects see through the layers and view them in combinations.

Bill Smith, president of Elite Software Development, says that, for CPDs, the location of structural components such as columns and beams are of prime importance with BIM. “The piping and mechanical systems designers can route the piping with confidence such that no physical interferences or conflicts will occur. They also will know the effect of roof slopes on the available space in the plenum area and whether the desired piping will fit in the space available.”

Glumac, a MEC consulting engineer firm, was awarded the Autodesk Revit BIM Experience Award in November 2007 for its use of the software on numerous projects. Using BIM proved critical for routing piping up and down the risers and routing the plumbing system in order to complete the space planning for the risers.

“Rapid integration of the 3D environment results in a robust understanding of the project holistically,” explains Bill Moore, ACI practice technology coordinator for Canadian MEP firm Stantec on why the firm prefers BIM to standard CAD. Stantec won the Revit award in January 2007 for using the software on projects such as the Art Gallery of Alberta.

Not surprisingly, the mainstreaming of BIM has caught the attention of the governmental organization National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), which formed an executive committee to create the first National Standard for Building Information Modeling in December 2005. The NIBS’ Facility Information Council announced in February that this committee had released theNational BIM Standard Version 1-Part 1: Overview, Principles, and Methodologiesfor public use.

Alan Edgar, committee chair, said he hoped the document would facilitate discussion and lay the groundwork for ongoing activities not only in the United States, but also with international counterparts.

As editor, I invite you, the plumbing designers, to contact me and share your experiences with BIM. This feedback will not only help PME gather information for an in-depth feature on the topic in a future issue - it will help us turn up our design knowledge many notches.