Space is always an issue. That’s what is always at the heart of every BIM project. What space is available? What needs to go into that space? How can we make those two things work together?
BIM, ultimately, is about implementing the practical needs – plumbing piping, mechanical piping, ductwork, electrical wiring – into the artistic or aesthetic designs. What I’ve found is that the two never agree in the beginning, but, with the right adjustments, they can work together in the end.
To see how that happens in the real world, here are three real-world examples of our BIM jobs around the United States:
General Contractor: Nabholz Construction
Sub-Contractor: Mountain Mechanical
For this four-story, 132,883-square-foot training and technology center, the challenge was, of course, space. The building, which would house more than 1,000 occupants – employees in training, IT, technology support, etc., had been designed with a chilled beam cooling system, instead of a forced-air system.
With a chilled beam cooling system, heated and cooled water is circulated through the piping to heat and cool elements in other mechanical equipment. Water can be as hot as 200-degrees or drop down to 40-degrees. None of this water is ever connected to a faucet or sink. It is used solely for the purposes of heating and cooling the systems inside the building.
What does that mean?
It means every floor has dozens of chilled beam systems and each system is comprised of heavy hydronic piping. And that piping must fit into the space allowed. While other buildings might have all their piping run into a central room that housed one major system, this building had a system that required mass amounts of smaller piping running throughout the entire building.
What We Did:
To create the spacing, as well as the support, for the amount of hydronic piping needed, we spent months coordinating with the electricians, fire protection company, and ductwork installers to input as much precise information into the BIM model as possible. Then, with everyone coordinating together to outline their needs, we mapped thousands of hanger locations to provide support for all the piping.
General Contractor: Flintco
Sub-Contractor: Harkins Air Conditioning
For this project, the medium-pressure VAV system meant the requirements would be straightforward. However, it also meant a duct system that would have thermostats for individual temperature/airflow control, spread out among 80,857 square feet of office space on three levels.
For an additional challenge, the project was executed in phases. That meant certain areas in the building, originally contracted as central core areas, were not built out. The perimeter needed to be coordinated and modeled, while the central areas were still undefined.
Approximately two months into the project, the core areas began coming online and being released for construction. This created multiple phases in various levels of development being coordinated at once.
What We Did:
Working with the contractors who handled the core areas and shell spaces, we coordinated the work so that each phase was developed in conjunction with the next. Each working off the same plans, designs, and details so that the various areas of the building could connect seamlessly.
General Contractor: JE Dunn Construction
Sub-Contractor: Selid Plumbing & Heating
If space is always the challenge, and it is, then airports are the challenge of challenges. Generally, airports feature varying architectural features. For this project, that meant an open space – the atrium – that extended from the first floor to the third. Walk through it and, immediately, the space closes back. Piping and ductwork had to move through the atrium, somehow, in order to continue connecting each floor.
But how? Instead of going up, we went down.
The Williston Basin International Airport was a three-story project, which was technically a two-story building with a basement larger than the first floor. Tunnels and pathways ran underground from one building to the next so that luggage, equipment, and workers could be transported between buildings and hangars.
The biggest hurdle was to find a way to run the piping and ductwork from underground, all the way to the beautiful second-floor overlook.
What We Did:
In any airport, the space built below the ground level connects the various facilities needed. In fact, most of the back-of-the-house facilities in an airport are located in the basements and subbasements. By utilizing this space wisely, we were able to coordinate and place the piping, electrical, and ductwork throughout the facility without interfering with the aesthetic design.
In nearly every project, the goal is the same: come up with solutions to make the design team’s vision work. Our job in BIM is to find the question with the doable answer. Can we change the size of the duct? Or make it less deep or wide? Can we rerun calculations?
It’s about problem-solving, not just problem identifying. In the end, we make it work.
Talk to you later,