Volume 12, Issue 7 - September 2011


It is a BIM Deal!

With Impressive Download Numbers, BIM isn’t Something Window Companies Should Ignore
by Tara Taffera

Still think BIM is an unnecessary luxury. Think again. “I have design professionals who say if so-and-so window manufacturer doesn’t provide me with a BIM model then I won’t spec their project,” says Laura Smith who is responsible for BIM tools at Kolbe and Kolbe.

In fact, Kolbe and Kolbe has 3,000 downloads from AutoDesk Seek per month. Customers can also go to a company website to download BIM models.

“We track 500 downloads per month of just our TerraSpan door models. That amazes me,” says Smith.
Simonton has thousands of hits per month in various databases, according to Andy Nixon, architectural specialist for the company.

“We have seen that percentage grow as much as 50 percent over the last several months,” he says. “We think that is a trend that will continue.”

“The number of downloads we have seen at the Autodesk Seek site is absolutely out of this world,” adds Terry Zeimetz, commercial marketing manager for Pella. “These models definitely give us a competitive advantage.”

These numbers may not compare to companies in the commercial building industry that have utilized BIM for the past decade, but fenestration manufacturers forecast additional growth in the residential industry. If you’re not involved in BIM, read on for a primer on everything from how to get started and items to consider before heading into BIM World (by the way, there is a website by that name).

BIM Basics
In case you are already lost, let’s start from the beginning. BIM is a tool that allows planners, designers, manufacturers and owners to work from the same object-related database. Instead of project drawings of lines, arcs and texts, everyone involved with the construction process is able to visualize the entire building with a 3D model representation. So manufacturers offer

BIM models of their products that may be incorporated into designs through software such as Autodesk® Revit® Architecture or the Autodesk® Seek web service.

Most of the large manufacturers offer BIM models and that includes Pella Corp.

“Architects had been asking for these BIM product models for some time,” says Zeimetz. “We developed them specifically for the Autodesk Revit platform because such a high percentage of architects use it.”

“We have offered our clients 2D drawings in different formats for years,” says Zeimetz. The 3D product models are part of an ongoing strategy to engage architects with rich, highly detailed information about Pella products at the exact moment they are looking for it—while they are designing. “Our goal is to facilitate the use of Pella products early in the design process, giving us an advantage over some of our competitors when it comes to winning new business.”

"When you design something in 3D and you move the door and window it may hit something you wouldn’t notice earlier in a 2D program."
—Laura Smith, Kolbe and Kolbe

The Plus Side
There are competitive advantages to moving into the BIM world, which is why a variety of manufacturers of all sizes, including Pella, Kolbe and Simonton, among others, offer BIM models.

Simonton started offering them more than two years ago and actively uses various types of models today. Kolbe started offering models in 2008 and offer approximately 300 today

Nixon says the most prevalent group transitioning into BIM usage is semi-custom to full custom builders.

“Builders receive numerous architectural schematics,” says Nixon. “BIMS enable them to consolidate them all into a few detailed models that translate better into a working picture of the details of the home so the homeowner can get an idea of what the finished product will be. A lot of builders are using them for virtual tours and to show potential customers what they are capable of designing.”

Smith says a variety of design team members utilize Kolbe BIM models, from the architect to surveyors to engineers, builders, contractors and subcontractors down to the homeowner. The largest percentage of customers Kolbe works with is architects, but the company aims to offer BIM models for everyone in the design family.

“The biggest advantage is that BIM allows manufacturers to create a database of technical information and make it available to architects, builders, consumers and others all in one shot,” says Smith. “Everyone can then choose based on our features and benefits the best product available and see visually how it will impact a structure.

“BIM provides virtual information models that house info from architects to engineers to owners. It helps prevent errors earlier in the process,” she adds. “When you design something in 3D and you move the door and window it may hit something you wouldn’t notice earlier in a 2D program. You are noticing those clashes earlier. It reduces time and helps complete the construction process faster.”

The companies that are early BIM adopters say it is paying off.

“For Simonton, competitively one of the more interesting things is that it gives our brand more prominence in the marketplace,” says Nixon. “As a manufacturer that has been primarily marketing to distribution companies for more than 65 years, this software package has given us a footprint into different market segments that may not be familiar with the Simonton brand.”

"The two most prohibitive factors of manufacturers not utilizing
BIM today is cost and time."
—Andy Nixon, Simonton

Green Again Plays a RoleWhile simplifying pages and pages of schematics is a major plus, a growing competitive advantage is of the green variety.

“Builders and manufacturers that are either using BIM or offering models are really going after the green category,” says Nixon. “The technical information that is available—simulating cost savings, energy cost savings, performance factors and other key indicators are amazing.”

“The fact that more customers are becoming increasingly green and energy conscious, and BIM is able to integrate into the energy analysis, is really powerful,” adds Smith. “That’s why we are in the process of adding more performance data into our BIM models. As design evolves so do energy models.”

There is even a website, Green 3D Home, that offers a free BIM authoring tool that consumers can use to model their own home and landscape. Web visitors also can exchange information via forums and learn how to reduce their home’s energy use, save money and lessen their impact on the environment.

The Green 3D Home website says, “No technology has had a greater impact on green initiatives in the software market than BIM,” and those to whom DWM spoke say they agree with that assessment.

“In the marketplace right now most manufacturers are touting their ability to produce a green product. This is a tool that will bring about some validity to the claims,” says Nixon.

Why Not?
While Smith says project cost savings and reduction in project time may be added to the growing list of BIM benefits there are a few drawbacks as well—namely cost and time.

“The initial cost is quite expensive,” says Smith. “And there is definitely a learning curve. Getting educated with the program and learning how it works takes a while,” a fact with which Nixon agrees.

“The two most prohibitive factors of manufacturers not utilizing BIM today are cost and time,” he says. “It is very expensive to get started, and it is extremely time intensive. It takes a lot of time to give employees proper training—and it has to be consistent training. It has to be used daily to develop expertise to truly capture all of the benefits.”

He adds that other challenges associated with BIM are internal ones.

“Our challenge day to day is managing these programs,” says Nixon. “We have had to hire more. We have suffered through the downturn like everyone else but fortunately we have been in a position that has allowed us to grow and add resources for managing this software package and transferring it into leads.”

Watch it Grow
While BIM is being used in the residential industry, it does pale in comparison to its use in the commercial industry—however, it may be headed for a similar growth curve.

“There is no doubt that BIM software is being used tremendously in the architectural community,” says Nixon. “Looking at residential builders, usage tails off quite a bit. It has to be a very savvy builder that uses it—it is complex and that is an impediment to its growth in residential design and construction. However, in the next five years we can reasonably expect 10- to 15-percent growth in the number of builders utilizing it.

“As we work our way through the current downturn, over the next several years as companies have more money to allocate, you will see an increased number of people who will use it daily,” he adds. “I would suggest that over the next five years there will be a sharp increase in companies that will give it consideration.”

Smith echoes these sentiments, saying use of BIM will grow when the economy recovers. She says the fact that BIM is being taught in high schools will help fuel this growth.

“If you are taught at a younger level to incorporate BIM then you will see it being used more and more.”

She also predicts a great increase in the use of BIM in residential green construction in the next five years.

“With everyone being more energy and green conscious and focused on cost savings, BIM provides the ability to create energy analysis and to provide cost savings,” she says.

So while there is a very high cost up-front, companies say the investment will be realized.

“The cost will continue to be worth it,” says Nixon “The start-up costs will be minimized due to positive gains users are getting in return.”

Before You Begin BIM
Ready to step into the BIM world or virtual design construction? If you take time to break down the letters of BIM to decide how the concept will work for your organization, you will prevent enormous frustration and disappointment when selecting software solutions.

What role will your company take in a future project? Design, manufacturing, installation—or perhaps a combination? Too many companies have focused on—and invested in—providing design concepts, thinking that’s the best way to land a project. This approach, however, does not bolster the back end work. Find modeling software that fits your field of work and expand from there.

What type of information do you want to extract from a model? This is the toughest question. Avoid unrealistic expectations of your software.

Garbage in, garbage out, as they say. Most software companies oversimplify the use of their products. There is no easy button. The more information you expect from a software program or model, the more upfront work is needed to get the results you want. The pay-off is a one-source model.

Who will be doing the modeling? This is not an individual sport. Team play is essential when deciding to incorporate this process into your company.

Buying the software is easy; managing it is the challenge.

Knowing who will be on the team, and that they are willing to play nice together, is key to a successful transition.

There are other important
considerations—everything about modeling requires more—more file space, more RAM,

Companies that sell general software and support do not understand your trade. Picking a company that will go beyond a phone conversation is a must. It is important to keep things moving forward in the beginning.

There will be a learning curve steep with frustration and your support team must be available so that your investment does not stall. They should be an extension of your company, especially in the beginning, so explain your expectations well.

In the beginning it will feel like everything is moving at a snail’s pace. To pick up the slack, outsource work to an expert in modeling or BIM projects.

Stan Gibbons is the president of Entelechy Corp., a full-service consulting, modeling and drafting firm.


Still Not Convinced?
See BIM in Action

Z+ Architects, a small architectural firm specializing in custom residential design and commercial projects, recently incorporated BIM models into a renovation of a 5,500-square-foot home in Allendale, N.J. The home contained Pella windows from a previous renovation. The contractor engaged Z+ Architects to modify plans that had already received zoning board approval.

“We had to satisfy the client’s demand for a high-end product, without delaying the construction schedule or straying from the fixed site footprint,” says Michael Scro, principal at Z+ Architects. “The last thing the contractor wanted was to go back to the zoning board.”

In the past, when architects wanted to incorporate Pella products into their designs, they had to painstakingly create the models from scratch or temporarily use a competitor’s models. Using Revit Architecture, Autodesk Seek, and the Pella BIM-ready models, the architects quickly generated a number of alternative design iterations to help demonstrate what would happen if they rotated the roofline, changed materials or incorporated taller, more slender windows. “Having these highly detailed models helped us dive into the particulars of how changes to the house’s style, siding, and materials would impact the window selection, and vice versa,” says Scro.

Based on renderings generated from the building model, the client decided to transform the home’s exterior, undoing earlier renovations and adding new features, such as a custom-designed window for above the entry portico. Translating the original 2D designs into 3D imagery and a building information model helped everyone buy into the project. “In fact, without BIM we probably could not have convinced the client to approve the designs,” says Scro.











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