Pioneering security system design with BIM

Jason Unsworth, general manager GB at Stanley Security, explains why the company has adopted BIM Level 2 and become the first UK security firm to be accredited at this level.

If you work in construction, or have any involvement in building-related products and services, Building Information Modelling (BIM) is likely to have impacted you to a greater or lesser degree.

BIM is a shared knowledge resource, providing all of the information about every component of a building, in one easy-to-access place. It enables construction professionals to digitally model a building and use the BIM data to reduce the risk of mistakes or discrepancies at an early stage, making for more cost-effective, safe construction, improved carbon performance and predictable planning. 

The concept behind BIM has been in existence for some time, but just not in the prescribed BIM format as we now know it. It was formalised into the BIM programme by the government as a means of improving productivity in construction, which had not only stagnated but was becoming more expensive.

UK BIM processes range from Maturity Level 0 to Level 3. Typically, a Level 1 project will use a mixture of 3D CAD and 2D work and is the level at which most private sector companies moved to initially. Now required for centrally procured public sector projects, Level 2 denotes projects where all parties use their own 3D CAD models and design information is shared through a common file format, enabling any organisation within the project to combine the data with their own.  

BIM Level 2 explained

Whilst BIM Level 2 is not required for local authority or private sector construction projects, main contractors working in these areas are increasingly demanding this as a matter of course. They have seen the benefits of full 3D CAD modelling and shared data and they don’t want to go back to the old ways, regardless of whether the project lies in the public or private sector: why use a typewriter when you have a PC?

BIM Level 2 facilitates well-informed decision making for greater clarity, better communications and better efficiency. Cost savings of around 33% across capital and operational expenditure are possible by following a Level 2 BIM process. As the cost of operating and maintaining buildings and facilities can represent up to 85% of the whole-life cost, savings can pay back any upfront premium in construction expenses in just a few years.

Ultimately, it is only a matter of time before deadlines are put into place for the rest of the construction industry and beyond to meet Level 2.

Security and BIM Level 2

Security companies have been working at BIM Level 1 for a while, but none have moved to Level 2, until now. Stanley Security is the first security company to achieve BIM Level 2 accreditation in the UK. We are a proactive company with a focus on identifying technology solutions that minimise financial outlay for a client; in this sense we are very much aligned with the BIM philosophy.

We worked with Excitech, a technology solutions and services provider to the construction sector, to undertake a BIM Level 2 Accreditation GAP analysis and provide consultancy and training in BIM Level 2.

The transition to BIM Level 2 processes was achieved over a period of 18 months and, following a full Lloyd’s Register BIM Level 2 Assessment to ensure all processes were in place, understood and adopted, culminated in full accreditation.

We’re clearly delighted at this, but what does it mean for construction professionals and building owners/managers? It’s easy to understand how, for example, HVAC systems could benefit from 3D modelling as they have long ducting runs throughout a building and there are many challenges regarding air movement that can be planned at an early stage. But for a straightforward security system – isn’t 3D modelling overkill?

Well, first, there is genuine demand from the construction sector for BIM Level 2 in the security sector. From early in 2017 we noticed increasing customer enquiries relating to BIM services, ranging from design and construction, including COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange), to the provision of BIM object libraries.

There were also increased pre-qualification questionnaires relating to BIM Level 2, which was very much a new turn of events. We went out to the market to actively engage customers on the subject of BIM and it quickly became clear that BIM Level 2 capabilities had to be developed to meet future client requirements, and not just in the public sector.

But that still brings us back to the question, why? The answer, it would seem, lies in two key areas: the benefits of 3D modelling when designing a security system; and the asset management and maintenance benefits that come from adopting the COBie data format which has become integral to BIM Level 2.

3D modelling

Let’s start with 3D modelling. First, for the system designer it’s really quick, being a simple drag and drop modelling process rather than the more laborious 2D CAD drawing. This also makes it much easier to make changes to system design and even try out new ideas. For the customer, it results in a fast turnaround time. 

Second, it enables quicker, more accurate decision making: seeing a security system in a building in 3D is more engaging and intuitive and easier to use than a 2D CAD drawing.

Things get missed in drawings, especially when you’re not familiar with these types of documents, for example bracing is often a dotted line which can easily be misread or missed altogether. Compare it to the difference between using a printed DIY manual versus a demonstration on YouTube – the latter wins hands down for most people. When this is applied to CCTV systems, the results are especially beneficial as you can actually see the camera view, including the focal lengths and where the blind spots are.

It’s not quite virtual reality, but it’s the next best thing! This makes for the most effective security system design and a smooth installation as the installer knows exactly where each piece of kit will go on site, resulting in a first time fix, rather than having to address unforeseen installation issues as they proceed. 

Asset management and COBie

The adoption of COBie is the other leading factor in the drive to move to BIM Level 2. 

COBie is a non-proprietary data format for the publication of a subset of BIM focused on delivering asset data, as opposed to geometric information. COBie was developed by a number of US public agencies to improve the handover process to building owner-operators, and for good reason. In any construction project there are large numbers of specialist contractors and trades working on a variety of aspects of the building, from the structure to the sanitation, the fenestration to the electrics and much, much more. 

The information on every aspect of the building’s design and construction needs to be stored in a central repository and kept up to date, ready for hand over to the client. But this process can be very hit and miss, with data often supplied in a variety of different formats and in separate files, making it difficult to manage.  COBie aims to put an end to that, ensuring that all the key information is in one uniform format and shared between the construction team at defined stages in a project. This is, typically, a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, but other spreadsheet applications may be used.

For the building manager this information is invaluable when it comes to asset management and maintenance. For the security system, every part of the system down to the smallest item is listed and located. If something needs replacing, for example, there’s no rummaging through different files but instead the part number is instantly accessible.

Equipment life is clearly listed, so replacements and upgrades can be pre-planned. Furthermore, there’s no issue if there are changes in key staff as detailed information on the security system is available to the authorised people and not located in someone’s head or a file on their PC.  

Clearly sensitive security information, such as passwords, should not be entered into BIM, so it’s important to determine what information could compromise a security system and needs to be kept as separate documentation. 

BIM Level 2: The holistic approach 

The transition from BIM Level 1 to 2 is a significant one and requires extensive input from manufacturers and service suppliers, from updating operational procedures to learning new methods of working and systems.  It’s not an easy transition, but it is an important, worthwhile one that has long term positive impacts for the construction sector. 

No longer are the different components of a building and its systems designed in semi isolation. BIM Level 2 offers a more holistic approach, looking at the bigger picture for a healthier outcome.

For more information, visit www.stanleysecurity.co.uk/bim

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