Thursday, 26 May 2016

BIM for Fire Safety; Beneficial to Building, Structural and MEP Engineers

BIM for Fire Safety

MEP Clash Detection, the spatial coordination capability of BIM, is the key how projects try to take benefit of BIM when it comes to fire safety engineering. It has already benefited building, structural and MEP engineers and fire safety contractors of course.

BIM facilitates discipline-specific models produced by engineers and building product manufacturers to evaluate them together by uploading them onto Autodesk Navisworks. The best part of these is they can read multiple formats – concurrently. This is how geometric conflicts between models are resolved virtually by the project participants before they encounter physical problems in the field.

Since inception, several fire protection companies began working in BIM by leveraging their existing technology tools, trying to accommodate the new or evolved way of working. One of such approach, not ideal but workable though, is the availability of add-on software for AutoCAD to turn 2D lines into a 3D model, enabling drawings that has everything elevated to appropriate height.

Another such example is of AutoSPRINK, a specialized fire protection software program, to draw everything in 3D, calculate hydraulics and prepare a printout list or a file for fabricators. Also there is software readily available to reference 2D drawings and trace them into BIM. SprinkCAD is one of them, which permits a direct integration into BIM that saves time and improves efficiency.

Still there are architects who solely depend on conventional coordination, through transparent drawings on light tables etc., but internally they are also aware of the fact that the activity might yield them mixed results.

Building Information Modeling fondly known as BIM; has rapidly changed the way land surveyors, MEP contractors, general contractors, sub-contractors, architectural design firms and many more, work together to design, build and operate projects. To everyone’s surprise, in the last few years fire protection engineers and trades are being asked to work in a BIM environment and they are gaining tremendous drag.

How BIM helps in fire protection:

Architects, contractors, occupants and various other stakeholders can easily access the valuable information instantaneously about the building model, as BIM makes it easy for designers to create such intelligent environment.

However, the only limitation to such 3D BIM models is that they are prepared basis the amount of information and input fed in the BIM model by the architectural design support team. If a user opts for a specific component of the system, the BIM model can provide relevant details like make, model, serial number, cost and so on.

Spatial coordination is quickly becoming a standard practice, which of course has posed challenges for trades that are not 3D modeling their work. However, several contractors have taken a stand that if any supply chain stakeholder is not modeling the work with others, the non-modeling vendor will have to coordinate with the ones that do modeling. This represents a potentially major change in the traditional pattern, which has always been sprinklers go around everybody else', because now if sprinklers have a layout that goes in the building model and HVAC doesn't, sprinklers take precedence.

As a result, fire protection contractors are getting extra cautious to implement software that works in the leading clash-detection programs including Autodesk Navisworks and many more. Use of BIM is expanding beyond piping to embrace fire alarm control panels, pull stations, smoke detectors and many other elements, which comprise of the total fire protection package.

In case of fire compression system, if the user selects a fire pump; a strong, well-established BIM model can provide the user with all the necessary information required. It can even identify the flow, pressure of the pump and the performance curve as well. If the user opts for pump motor, the information will vary accordingly and it will include horsepower, voltage, service factor and so on as the designer would have fed. It might also contain defensive maintenance information and the part replacement information as well.

Enabling access to the BIM model during the design and construction process, installers can alter information as they install the components. Field technicians or commissioning agents can photograph the motors and pump nameplates, the moment they are installed or commissioned, and associate the nameplate photograph with the specific pump or motor. This info is then accessed by building engineers and maintenance staff without leaving the site.

For fully BIM integrated buildings, building engineers often can review events on the building management system (BMS) for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing issues also known as MEP issues, as a first order troubleshooting measure.

Building engineers and contractors, for buildings that are not equipped with BIM integrated systems, cannot afford to have these luxuries. When it comes to fire protection systems, they are barely integrated with BMS. However; a well-coordinated BIM Model can serve as a sole source for building engineers, contractors, MEP engineers and many more, to assess systems inside their buildings - conveniently.