Building Information Modeling has potential to improve every aspect of the asset lifecycle
August 20, 2019
By Arnold Fry, P.E.
The first of three articles regarding use of Building Information Modeling to more efficiently plan, design and construct utility facilities and infrastructure.
Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is changing the way we design, construct, operate and maintain utility facilities and assets.
In this and following articles, we’ll look at how using an efficient BIM workflow puts the latest advancements in technologies at the fingertips of the professionals responsible for each of those tasks. Using these modern technologies, they can access the documents, how-to manuals and other pieces of data and information they need, when they need it to do their jobs more efficiently and accurately. Consider the following benefits of using BIM:
- Designers no longer need to visualize how a device will fit into a substation. Designers can create a 3D model to mimic precisely how the device fits, complete with visualizations of the final design.
- Construction crews can view and update drawings to reflect as-built conditions, view assembly videos for complex equipment, etc. Workers can access equipment manuals from a mobile device in the field.
- Crews can download historical maintenance data to compare equipment tolerance trends. They can then instantly transmit out-of-tolerance issues back to the office for investigation and tracking until the issues are resolved.
- We can create realistic renderings for public hearings, project team review and approvals. What once took a graphics design department several weeks to produce, can be generated with just a few mouse clicks.
The BIM philosophy has the potential to improve every aspect of the lifecycle of utility assets. BIM is an intelligent-model-based process that gives professionals the tools to more efficiently plan, design and construct facilities and infrastructure. We’ll discuss intelligent modeling in more detail in following articles, but generally it involves using software to make the best decisions based on the data available.
The origin of BIM can be traced to the mid-1970s with the building construction industry. The early BIM philosophy was geared toward connecting 2D design with asset information that could be used in the field during construction. The architectural design industry has fully embraced this design philosophy to create efficiencies and improve upon razor-thin profit margins experienced by the construction industry.
Newer technologies have expanded the ways in which BIM can be used. For example, advances in the video gaming industry have created valuable tools for BIM. Virtual and augmented reality are now available for operation and maintenance departments to provide realistic training in a safe environment. Workers can use the technology to conduct a pre-job briefing to visualize all hazardous conditions prior to entering the jobsite. Advancements in cloud technologies have greatly improved the ability to share and add data throughout the asset lifecycle.
Intelligent software requires a tremendous amount of processing power. Cloud processing and advanced computing has created a much more pleasant user experience than when BIM was first introduced.
The BIM process incorporates asset data and information, which is valuable during the operation and maintenance of facilities throughout the life of the asset. With advances in cloud technology, infrastructure and software, the BIM process has become a valuable tool for ensuring that staffers working on every aspect of a project have all the data, documents, information and instructions at their fingertips.
Next in this series, I will discuss how the BIM process turns the manual manipulation of design data into an intelligent design process, eliminates multiple data entry and drastically reduces the opportunity for errors.
About the Author
Arnold Fry is a senior project engineer in POWER’s BIM Substation Department. He spent 18 years with Duke Energy where he was manager of the Transmission System Standards Department, which focused on substation, protection and control, transmission line and design tool standards. He was responsible for the initial creation and development of what became the Substation Design Suite software in conjunction with Autodesk and Automation Force.
Contact Arnold to learn more about how POWER can support your transition to BIM for substation design.