Installers, it's time you found about BIM!




Roger Baltus's column #6

Installers, it's time you found about BIM!

You have surely heard of BIM, yet another acronym, this time for the English term “Building Information Modelling” - in other words, the digital mock-up featuring all information on the design of a building.

Have you heard that this will impact on the work of economists and architects? As installers, it is true that you will not be the major players in this revolution. But your daily work is bound to be affected by the practical changes generated by this new way of modelling projects. BIM is a development process, an information tool, a new method of collaboration between players and a project management method all in one.

In France, BIM will be applied to certain public contract projects from January 2017. For industrials such as ourselves, our products and systems, more commonly known as “components”, must be digitized.

In concrete terms, what is a digitized component for BIM? It is all the information gathered to describe a product or a system, from its geometric dimensions to its environmental profile via its packaging and even its terms of guarantee. In addition to the geometric portrait, information on the physical and functional characteristics of products and their interactions is also included. This “intelligent” database can be used during the entire life cycle of the building, including its maintenance after construction. BIM reduces delivery times, minimizes errors and improves interfaces between players involved in the process. We are talking about savings of around 15 to 20% on the overall cost of the building.

For installers, quotations will be easier to estimate thanks to more precise descriptions of building work and provision of detailed quantities. And this is just one of many advantages.

Like many industrials, after a 24-month observation phase we are now beginning integration. System by system, we are transferring our catalogue to a digital version so as to be ready by the 2017 deadline. In France, pioneering architects are filling up their digital libraries with components they can already find on dedicated portals (two main portals in France: POLANTIS and BIMObject), on industrials' websites or by defining and creating them themselves! Our involvement in BIM is a real challenge, and a responsibility vis-à-vis our installer partners. If we are not ready to rapidly offer our products and systems, we run the risk of being excluded from certain major projects.

This technological shift requires certain investments which, for the moment, the main players in the sector are prepared to make. Engineering companies, architecture firms, general contractors and industrial firms are integrating BIM more rapidly than others. The strong positions of these leaders will be strengthened further, especially for those who make BIM a means of differentiation from their competitors.

Has the die already been cast? Far from it. Today, BIM contributes to the design/construction of complex buildings such as the Louis-Vuitton Foundation, the Paris Philharmonic and the Odeon tower in Monaco. But we are in a phase of convergence, especially in terms of the software that will soon more than likely reign on this market. To date, two formats are in the lead. Now software publishers and other involved parties are making their software more widely accessible because, let’s remember, BIM can only work if it is shared and used by all players in the construction industry.

The French state decided to devote 20 million euro to promoting the widespread use of BIM. At the start of the year, its spokesperson, Bertrand Delcambre (ex president of the CSTB and ambassador of digitization in the building industry since June 2014), raised the idea of a public portal which in the long term would enable SMEs in the construction sector to download the components they need at a lower price, so as to draw up their own quotations. As for tradespeople, the time will come when they will have to invest in material and software and invest the time necessary to learn this new method, which will mark the end of traditional paper plans.
So our installer partners need to know: the question is no longer whether or not to get ready for BIM, it is how and when to get ready!


Roger Baltus
Engineer- Architect
VMZINC Communication Director


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