By Chad Riegle, Drafting Manager; Paladin, Inc.
Walking into the typical building, be it a school, hospital or office complex, the average person is blissfully unaware of a battle that rages in the walls, floors and ceilings. That conflict is between the cable runs, ductwork, piping and conduit that fight for room in a space that grows tighter as the number and complexity of competing systems expands. The best hope for “peace” is a technology-driven collaboration between competing interests with the owner’s best result in mind.
That technology is emerging as part of the Building Information Modeling (BIM) revolution, leveraging 3D modeling and essential algorithms to provide detailed options for layouts. When viewed by building teams made up of architects, engineers, contractors, commissioning experts and owners, these plans become a roadmap for identifying problems and crafting solutions acceptable to all.
Before the technology was adopted across the industry, it was not unusual for the conflict resolution process to happen on the job site, with pipe-toting plumbers facing off with electricians wielding flexible conduit, arguing over who would get what space above the acoustic tiles. The resulting mix of work stoppages, cost overruns and widespread frustration has become the exception thanks to the ongoing adoption and increasing sophistication of the modeling software.
While various disciplines have always vied for the best spot in walls & ceilings (shorter runs equal less materiel and lower costs), several building trends have combined to make the situation even more challenging. On the one hand, owners are pressing architects and engineers to maximize the usable space in any structure, including the addition of higher and higher ceilings to meet tenant demands. On the other, the volume of items needing concealment in smarter and smarter buildings has rapidly increased, with high capacity data cables, expanded electrical conduit and cabletray joining an already crowded field. Throw in the demand for space needed for ongoing maintenance access and the management challenge facing building teams just grows even tougher.
These trends are especially challenging in hospitals as more and more connected technology comes to the patient bedside or surgical suite. Throw in oxygen lines and electric-powered booms for moving patients and you have a crowding situation that may not have crossed anyone’s minds twenty years ago. Fortunately, today’s super sophisticated modeling platforms can aid in conflict resolution.
BIM’s 3D models establish a starting point for conversations between the building team members including architects, engineers, plumbers, fire protection, electrical, and others. They are not easy conversations, as each member is inclined to satisfy the client by pushing for the best possible accommodation that meets their own needs. However, the discussions get easier when they come together with a 3D representation of the situation and agree to compromise in pursuit of a shared solution in the owner’s best interest.
At Paladin, we spend our time doing AutoCAD & 3D modeling of these challenges, taking advantage of Navisworks’ ability to ingest design files from every collaborative partner and suggest harmonious solutions. They still tend to flow from the age-old hierarchy of building systems in which the biggest mechanical elements (ductwork, etc.) go in first, followed by gravity-reliant flow items (ie. water & waste piping). In keeping with that tradition, electrical & fire protection generally come in last, fighting over the remaining space. The BIM technology helps arrange them all in the most sensible, cost-effective manner.
So, on behalf of my fellow BIM advocates, I officially call for a truce in the “war overhead” and invite you to learn more about the technology solution that can bring your work and your properties into harmony.