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Q&A: CIBSE’s Carl Collins

BIMHawk and product data

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BIM+ spoke to Carl Collins, CIBSE digital engineering consultant, to learn more about the BIMHawk Toolkit.

What is the BIMHawk Toolkit?

Launched by Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) the BIMHawk Toolkit (www.bimhawk.co.uk) is a free online suite of software programs designed to enable building services product manufacturers to create, manage and integrate product data templates for use in BIM objects.

A product data template (PDT) is a collection of pre-defined industry-recognised parameters that describe a specific product or product type. If five manufacturers all make a certain widget, then using a PDT they can all describe their widget using the same fields or parameters.

Only parameters useful to a designer, contractor or maintainer are generally included in a template. CIBSE is a neutral arbiter so to ensure a broad consensus of opinion as to what parameters should and should not be on a particular PDT, the Institution worked with trade associations, competing manufacturers, designers and maintainers.

To date, PDTs produced by CIBSE include those for: air heaters, boilers, cable tray systems, manholes and pumps.

Alongside the website, CIBSE worked with Paul Marsland, design and BIM development manager at NG Bailey, to develop a free Revit product data plug-in to allow designers to acquire product data in a structured format from a PDT.

The plug-in removes the need for manufacturers to create new product models from scratch. It also has the ability to update any matching parameters, within existing families, to the BIMHawk standard, a feature that has the potential to correct and align any non-conforming existing Revit objects created by manufacturers.

What prompted CIBSE to create the BIMHawk Toolkit?

In Level 2 BIM, products are described by 3D geometry and by their accompanying technical information. Until the launch of BIMHawk, the challenge for designers was that very few building services product manufacturers produced BIM models incorporating product data.

In the absence of specific product data, designers were often forced to resort to using data gleaned from BIM vendors’ libraries of generic products. This can result in a design being dumbed-down at the point at which a product is selected. And, where manufacturers do add data to a product, it was often on a project-by-project basis in the form of bespoke responses to consultants’ equipment data sheets, which was wasteful of both time and effort.

CIBSE recognised the need for standardised product data in 2011. BIM is supposed to make the construction process better, faster and cheaper, but often these bespoke product models suffered from flaws which limited compatibility and interoperability between BIM modelling platforms.

Without agreed industry product standards, CIBSE recognised there would be no consistency in manufacturers’ data so many of the benefits of BIM would fail to be realised. CIBSE set out to establish the common parameters for building services products through its creation of product data templates.

Who do you expect to use the toolkit?

BIMHawk is not just for building services engineers, it is designed to be of use to any construction discipline. To that end CIBSE is working with the Landscape Institute, BIM4Water, BIM4FitOut and others to create a much larger product database. Currently the PDTs outside of the CIBSE remit are not yet on BIMHawk, but they will be soon.

What’s more, the next iteration of the Revit plug-in will bring the values from the PDS into the BIM model. This will allow designers to look through the data sheets of different manufacturers to see which products are the best fit for a particular design concept and then import the data on the size and performance characteristics of that product.

Why do you believe companies will use the BIMHawk Toolkit? 

Building Services product manufacturers, designers, contractors and maintainers will use BIMHawk precisely because it has been developed by CIBSE in collaboration with the industry. CIBSE is a neutral arbiter working on behalf of its members. To ensure a broad consensus of opinion as to what parameters should and should not be on a particular PDT, the Institution worked with trade associations, competing manufacturers, designers and maintainers.

The website enables manufacturers to create, review, manage and upload PDTs quickly and easily. Completed PDTs can then be integrated with BIM authoring systems.

The BIMHawk Revit plug-in automatically and instantly binds the set of parameters defined within a CIBSE PDT to a Revit family or project. When binding the parameters to a family the plug-in will also include the correct Industry Foundation Class export category to automatically enable the model to be exchanged from one BIM Platform to another.

And, most importantly, BIMHawk and the Revit bolt-on are free.

Is the lack of standard templates slowing the adoption of BIM?

Yes. With the launch of BIMHawk, CIBSE will help speed up the development, dissemination and adoption of standardised building services product data for use in BIM models. This will be a massive step forward in enabling collaborative working and in enabling the exchange of data and information throughout the project life-cycle in a consistent manner.

What one thing needs to be done to encourage all CIBSE members to adopt BIM?

The majority of CIBSE members have adopted, or are adopting BIM. However, the big challenge for CIBSE members has been that they are unable to maximise the benefits of BIM because of a lack of consistent building services product data attached to BIM Object models. BIMHawk now ensures that a product model and its accompanying data can be imported directly into a BIM platform.

 

CIBSE recognised the need for standardised product data in 2011. BIM is supposed to make the construction process better, faster and cheaper, but often these bespoke product models suffered from flaws which limited compatibility and interoperability between BIM modelling platforms.– Carl Collins, CIBSE