What building product manufacturers need to know about BIM

stephen-hamilWe kindly asked Stephen Hamil, Director of Design and Innovation at NBS/RIBA Insight to answer some questions which we had regarding BIM and getting started.

We’ve had lots of conversations with clients and prospects over the past 12 months and many are in the ‘wait and see’ boat and then there are some who are doing the hard work now to maybe reap the rewards later on when everyone will be playing catchup. Following on from our infographic on BIM Survey 2012 I thought it’d be good to get a quick low down on what manufacturers need to know about BIM and where to get started.

PC – If there was one message to manufacturers with respect to their BIM strategy what would it be?

SJH – The simple single message is to focus on the quality of your content – the rest will follow.

If you get the content correct, the objects will be used again and again on BIM projects. However this clear single message can be split into three key points:

  1. The property set information should represent the attributes of the real-world product.
    This should be standardised against international IFC and COBie property sets and then worked up to a full set of properties based on a generic national library such as nationalBIMlibrary.com. What the industry needs is standards and consistency – it needs this between generic objects and those provided by manufacturers – and also between objects provided by different manufacturers. Compare how consumers can use a website such as RightMove.com to quickly find and compare houses – this is only possible through agreeing a standardised information structure. Construction must do the same.
  2. The objects should be provided in multiple software vendor formats. It is true that our web analysis at NBS shows that Autodesk Revit is the current market leader. But providing objects in only one format will allow penetration of only half of the potential market (see the chart below). A manufacturer would consider it unthinkable nowadays to provide a website that only worked in Microsoft Internet Explorer on a PC. They would demand that it also worked in Google Chrome, Apple Safari etc… Exactly the same principle applies when it comes to investing in BIM.
  3. Link your objects to other important sources of information. An object will not contain all the data a construction professional needs – so remember to link to CPD material, catalogues, NBS specification clauses and your installation and maintenance manuals.

Fig 1 - Download statistics 01/12/12 to 31/01/13 from nationalBIMlibrary.com

PC – What is the best way for a manufacturer to promote their objects?

SJH – Clearly promoting objects on a manufacturer’s own website is essential. But in addition to this manufacturers will also want to be on leading digital content delivery websites like nationalBIMlibrary.com, RIBAProductSelector.com and also alongside specification clauses within NBS. The more savvy manufacturers will syndicate the content from a central source to ensure that if their objects get updated then they get updated automatically in all locations.

A secondary method of promotion is through knowledge based marketing. A suggested approach here would be to invest in training for a member of your team who already has good technical knowledge; they can then speak about the benefits of using the objects through CPD, at events and in web articles. There is a real thirst for learning around BIM in the industry currently and there are real opportunities for the manufacturers who invest in BIM to show market leadership.

PC – Are there any manufacturers that BIM doesn’t work for?

SJH – Well-structured digital information is needed for all manufacturer products.  This information is needed whether a manufacturer produces entire systems (ceilings, partitions or roofing), individual products (furniture, sanitaryware or boilers) or details (wall ties or fasteners).


Well structured-digital information for an insulation product

It is true that certain products may not often be modelled in 3D (eg. paint, wall paper or mortar) – but BIM does not necessarily have to mean “3D”. Specification property sets in a tool like NBS Create can be linked to the 3D model so that rich information can be intelligently linked to quantities taken off space models.

PC – What would your message be to those without a large budget?

SJH – It’s possible to get involved with BIM just using a spreadsheet. A manufacturer can look at the published NBS property sets on nationalBIMlibrary.com – combine these with IFC and COBie and generate a spreadsheet containing information representing the physical products. This spreadsheet can be placed on the manufacturers website.

This would allow designers to build their own versions of the manufacturer product to use in their BIMs.

However, many would argue that this job should not be passed to the customer. In a digital world the need for glossy catalogues is being replaced by a need for technically rich digital information delivered over the web.  It may be prudent to look each year at what percentage of a marketing budget goes into traditional hard copy literature and what percentage goes into digital information each year. Times change and BIM objects are manufacturers product catalogues of the future.

PC – What should a manufacturer interested in learning more do?

SJH – In terms of free online information there is an enormous amount at the following websites. The UK Government BIM Task Group is delivering against a very clear strategy. At NBS we have colleagues of mine who are experts that are on the BIM Technology Alliance supporting Government, the BSI 555 BIM Standards Committee and also buildingSMART UK. So I’d strongly recommend reading through the freely available information on the sites below:

For face-to-face expert consultation with NBS/RIBA Insight please either ring 0845 200 1056 or email info@riba-insight.com.

If you have any questions for Stephen then please leave a comment below or you can tweet Stephen directly via Twitter.

About Stuart Dinnie

Stuart has worked in the world of digital marketing for over 15 years. With his measured and planned approach, he has delivered robust digital strategies for construction companies to achieve real business growth. He now heads up the team at Pauley Creative as Managing Director and is leading his team & clients towards digital marketing excellence. He’s worked with over 100 construction clients; helping them on their digital transformation journey, providing sustainable strategies that return year on year incremental growth, delivering award-winning websites and adding value from board level to marketing assistant.

Leave a Reply