21 November 2017 | by

Update: Since this article was first written, all the content from the NBS National BIM Library has moved across to NBS Source.

At David Miller Architects (DMA) we place a strong focus on digital design and construction methodology and have for the past 12 years incorporated 3D geometry into our project modelling. As such, we seek out high-quality BIM objects for use in our project designs.

We started out as a micro-architecture practice (a team of four) in the mid-2000s and it soon became clear to us that if we adopted a risk-averse approach, especially on publicly funded projects, we could miss out on the very type of projects that excited us. We quickly realised that to be able to grow and have the opportunity to work on larger and more interesting projects, we needed to find a way to differentiate ourselves.

We believed that BIM provided the opportunity to break the mould of traditional design and construction processes, and by adopting and investing in a digital strategy, we are now a team of 20 forward-thinking architecture and design professionals, working on the types of projects that we had set our sights on. We specialise in living, learning and placemaking and use BIM tools on all our projects at every stage from inception to completion.

Although we’re clearly BIM-advocates, we recognise this isn’t the case for everyone. Even with the UK Government’s April 2016 BIM Level 2 mandate, there is still a need for a large percentage of construction product manufacturers to recognise the benefits of digitising their products and providing dynamic information.

BIM has created an environment where manufacturers have the opportunity to present their products to designers and specifiers in such a way that makes them stand out from their competitors, containing the accurate and structured information needed on the geometry and technical data of the product(s).

There has never been a better time to embrace advanced technologies, having the vision to understand digital construction and in particular BIM, and taking advantage of the technologies that are shaping the global built environment can only be to the suppliers’ advantage.

BIM objects in operation

We are fortunate however that many progressive product manufacturers have adopted BIM and are now adhering to Level 2 requirements, providing all their products’ data in intelligent formats that we can compare and analyse in project workflows and models.

When we first started working with one of our residential developer clients, Columbia, we quickly realised there was an advantage in creating a suite of products that we could use on multiple projects. Having agreed the needs and requirements of the client, we set about selecting manufacturers’ products via the NBS National BIM Library which could offer the suitable properties and met the required standards.

Our first project for Columbia was Salter Street which completed in August 2013. It is a six-storey building immediately adjacent to the Docklands Light Railway viaduct and Westferry Station providing 17 new homes with a variety of types including larger family units and a mix of tenures to create a sustainable development.

The six-storey Salter Street project, adjacent to the Docklands Light Railway viaduct and Westferry Station.

On this project, we worked closely with the client to set-up the first range of BIM objects which were then used again on the second project – Boleyn Road in Hackney.

In May 2015, we completed the third development on Finchley Road, Hampstead. This high-end residential development provided 22 new homes and by utilising the growing library of BIM objects that we had created on the previous developments, we were able to complete our information at a faster rate, with assurances that the products were of the standard and quality needed in the build. We carried on using this same suite of products on a further five projects.

Having this standard format to use for product/object selection meant we could bring significant efficiencies to our project planning and help our developer client achieve their financial goals where speed to market is critical.

Benefits of intelligent objects

Having used high-quality BIM objects on the first project at Salter Street, we had developed a strong baseline where we could evolve and refine our suite of objects which we have grown to trust. By pulling them through to our latest and largest development for Columbia yet – Gateway House, Finchley, a £15m mixed use scheme with 77 homes, commercial space and a new public library – this has given us full technical optimisation.

Gateway House, a £15m mixed use scheme, in Finchley.

This effective and consistent use of objects has sped up our design process and provided excellent quality control. Not only can we achieve substantial savings regarding costs, but we can offer the client a fully interactive as-built model. Having product information in BIM object formats means it is consistently formatted, accurate and correct, providing invaluable reassurances that the information, geometry and behaviour of the product is perfectly suited to the client’s project needs.

Standardised generic objects being used when specifying by performance.
Standardised manufacturer objects being used where a specific product is required.

In an ideal world, the traditional construction industry where we worked with vague and inconsistent product information will soon be a distant memory, and as designers and specifiers we will have greater opportunities to collaborate with those manufacturers who understand the benefits that BIM presents.

This article features in the NBS National BIM Report for Manufacturers 2017 – download our full, free report today!