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Why Blueprints May Soon Disappear

New Building Information Modeling (BIM) ‘5D’ technology is rapidly being adopted in the architectural world, requiring integrators to improve their CAD expertise to compete and close more sales.


BIM software allows you to drop individual 3D renderings of products, like this VMP mount, into a CAD file to give a customer a complete visualization of the project. It can even simulate changes in light based on the time of day.
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Will blueprints soon go the way of the Dodo bird? Yes, according to some new data from McGraw-Hill Construction, which reports a 71 percent adoption rate (up 17 percent over five years) among construction contractors, architects and engineers for Building Information Modeling (BIM) software that replaces the use of blueprints.

The report, entitled “The Business Value of BIM in North America: Multi-Year Trend Analysis and User Ratings (2007–2012),” also predicts that eventually 90 percent of those in the construction industry will use the software.

Traditional building design has been largely reliant upon two-dimensional drawings (i.e. plans, elevations, etc.) whereas Building Information Modeling extends this beyond 3D to a virtual “5D” platform by enhancing the three primary spatial dimensions (width, height, and depth) with time as the fourth dimension and cost as the fifth, making the use of BIM a crucial factor for design, implementation, and sustainability with equal importance placed upon manpower and profitability.

“BIM allows all the necessary elements to be integrated into a project during its initial planning stages and flow through to proposed future development, before a hammer or nail are ever used in the project,” says Keith Fulmer president of Video Mount Products, a mount manufacturer based in Stevensville, Md., that recently had BIM files made for 30 of its products to assist architects.

In a nutshell, a BIM file allows an architect to present an impressive three-dimensional CAD file to a client that can be manipulated, moved, tweaked, etc., right on the spot; something that cannot be done with an ordinary traditional blueprint.

And it’s not just a technology destined for commercial projects. Fulmer anticipates widespread adoption among residential architects and integrators, especially for large projects. He cites McGraw Hill Construction data saying there is already 74 percent adoption among contractors in 2012 compared to just 28 percent in 2007. Also, 70 percent of architects are using BIM and 67 percent of engineering firms. He says the study notes a 62 percent perceived positive ROI.

“BIM technology and acceptance has grown significantly over the past several years,” he adds. “The addition of BIM content to the AutoDesk Seek repository is not just another tool in the toolbox, but a viable solution supporting the architectural, engineering, and contracting communities.”

Faster, Slicker for Architect
It’s not only impressive to the client, but helps the architect create the file faster and more accurately than by using blueprints. Using individual BIM files for every product grabbed from a cloud-based repository—from a TV mount to a light fixture—the architect can simply drop the 3D rendering into a CAD file, move it, tilt it, twist it, etc. and output a design document. When the project design is OK’d, the BIM software also immediately generates a materials list for purchasing.

Not only that, the BIM project file itself is hosted on the cloud, so the architect, integrator and other contractors can all have access to a single, living, auto-updated design file. There’s never a risk of multiple designs floating around or a chance that one or more contractors is using outdated blueprints.

VMP is one manufacturer that sees the writing on the wall. Fulmer says the company spent a substantial amount of money to create BIM files using AutoDesk Seek for its 30 most popular products. VMP’s products are also available on InfoComm iQ as well as on its own website.

“It enables you to design faster, it allows for better communication, faster build times, fewer change orders and fewer items on the punch list,” says Fulmer. “Imagine the reaction from a client when you walk into their home with a dynamic 3D rendering of their project that they can make changes to and visualize. Then the next guy comes in with an armload of 3 X 4-foot blueprints that the homeowner cannot decipher. Who do you think is going to get the job?”



  About the Author

Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at [email protected]

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