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10 September 2020
Kuldeep Bwail

BIM Drives Cost Efficiencies for Plumbing Design

Nobody wants to think about plumbing until it stops working or becomes faulty, but plumbing design services are of paramount importance for both the comfort of building inhabitants and the health and life of the building. Part of the wider ambit of MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) the design of plumbing systems has experienced numerous benefits from using BIM (Building Information Modelling) technology and BIM modelling services. One of the more appreciated benefits of using the BIM process is that of cost efficiency in plumbing design.

As the construction industry faces challenges on several levels, including productivity issues, scarcity of skilled technicians and tight margins, there is an urgent need to improve productivity and reduce construction costs. A technological advancement in the AEC industry after CAD, BIM seems to have the potential to address these issues.

The National Building Information Model Standard (NBIMS) defines BIM as follows: ‘BIM is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility, and it serves as a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility, forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle from inception onward.’ BIM technology has evolved from being just a buzzword to the centerpiece of AEC technology, and it has significant benefits for plumbing design.

Cost Efficiencies for Plumbing Design Using BIM
  • 3D Models- BIM enables a 3D virtual representation of plumbing systems as well as M&E design services that can be rotated to different planes to develop plumbing isometrics, helping to better understand the final outcome, make more informed decisions and detect clashes, saving overall costs.
  • Streamlining Processes- Cost estimating becomes more accurate for plumbing systems, with and accurate and detailed layout in the BIM model, and CAD files can be imported and models can be exported to CAD, so that groups not using BIM can coordinate early on, saving any costs that may be incurred later.
  • Interference-checking- BIM helps detect clashes early in the design process, preventing costly design changes during actual construction and reducing guesswork and errors which may lead to unplanned extra spending.
  • Coordinating Underground Routing- As underground plumbing lines are located in reference to the foundations, BIM enables a plumbing designer with actual building footings marked by the structural engineer to preserve the structural integrity of the building. Using building footings, a plumbing designer can easily coordinate underground routing without compromising the building’s structural design, saving time and costs.
  • Information-rich Models- In addition to building shape, design, construction time, physical performance, logistics and costs, BIM also provides data on plumbing fixtures- about the required GPM flow of the standard fixture and the reduced GPM flow. This information would have to be separately studied and added to the model, costing time and money.
  • Green Building Focus- BIM facilitates easier identification of systems in LEED Plumbing Design by creating different colour systems. With colour variations, identifying grey water routing becomes easier and helps prevent cross contamination with other waste systems, a potentially messy challenge that would require additional expenses to rectify.
  • Unified Work Environment- Multiple disciplines can work together on a single file in the BIM process. A plumbing engineer can create a design for hot and cold water and simultaneously check the HVAC design worksheet for conflicts, increasing efficiency, accuracy and coordination of the system while reducing the time and cost involved.
  • Coordination with Other Disciplines- Clashes between disciplines can be detected easily within the BIM environment. Plumbing equipment, plumbing fixtures, fixture unit counts, and gas loads can be tracked easily. Final documentation can be created in less time. The physical attributes of parametric objects can be adjusted easily, and parameters can be created to allow the object to share information with a schedule.
  • BIM-enabled Software- Plumbing design involving sloped piping, a sanitary drain vent, storm drain lines, etc. can be complicated. Latest versions of Revit (BIM-enabled software) have improved the ability to design sloped piping and piping in small, cramped spaces.

With its many advantages, it is probable that using 3D modelling services & BIM technology processes may change plumbing design services from how it was previously practiced to help cut costs.

How BIM Can Change Plumbing Design

Increasingly, architectural and structural engineering firms find it more profitable for drafting to be handled by BIM software. Ideally, a plumbing draftsman should develop the concept of how pipes fit together and what fittings are required. While designing in BIM, piping systems are installed in a virtual world and modifications can be made easily without the services of specialised plumbing draftsman.

Plumbing calculations can help show building sustainability within the BIM format, providing more credible plumbing systems which require less maintenance in the long run.

The International Code Council is developing standards to include BIM in the code review process, with many national governments making it mandatory to design government projects within the BIM environment.

Using BIM in plumbing design is important for several reasons, all of which ultimately reduce costs.

To summarise, using BIM in plumbing design is a preferred option, because it is:

  • A modern and efficient process to design a plumbing system
  • A technology that uses BIM-enabled software tools for plumbing design, such as Bentley Mechanical, Autodesk Revit MEP, and VectorWorks
  • A design process that helps improve accuracy, save time and optimise the plumbing design to reduce clashes
  • A methodology that uses MEP BIM tools to help project managers improve collaboration, share data and reduce project delivery time from design to construction
  • A design environment with BIM tools that can help design sewage systems underground, for example, by accessing data of footings and structural obstacles, enabling the identification of exact sites so that the sewage system can be laid out efficiently

So, if a firm chooses to move to the BIM process, the plumbing designers must learn and familiarise themselves with new software. Investment in new computer hardware to run the BIM software may be on the cards. Time will be required for technicians to be trained to use the software and to develop content until they reach the optimum levels of efficiency. At this juncture, most firms prefer to outsource their plumbing design services to M&E design services providers who are experienced in BIM modelling services, reliable and cost efficient.

XS CAD has valuable experience providing 3D modelling services, BIM modelling services, plumbing design services and other M&E design services for MEP consultants and contractors. Our range of services for building engineering firms, such as consultants and contractors across the world, include MEP drafting, MEP modelling, 3D M&E (MEP) coordination, designing  MEP systems, fire design engineering and plumbing design services. We create these models and drawings by using  Revit MEP, AutoCAD MEP and BIM 360 Design for cloud collaboration.