BIM and Digital Measurement for MEP

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AEC professionals and building owners have already shown their confidence in building information modeling (BIM) by increasingly relying on BIM processes and software tools like Revit and Navisworks, among others. Many trade contractors are being carried along on that wave of acceptance. The decision to implement a BIM workflow in mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) trades is rapidly evolving from optional to mandatory, with BIM required more and more often in project contracts.

graphic showing construction site and circular workflow plan, design, build, operate

According to a recent Leica eBook, 89% of construction professionals use BIM on at least some projects. MEP delivery has a central place in a BIM ecosystem. While each MEP contractor has a different workflow they need to transform in a digital workplace, everyone can benefit from the BIM construction precision that results from digital measurement.


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Contractors can gain major advantages from measurement technologies using 3D laser scanners, robotic total stations (RTS), or scanning total stations (multistations). Each technology provides its unique advantages at different price levels. The RTS has been the most often used BIM-enabling digital measurement tool for MEP companies.

Robotic Total Station; image: LeicaGeosystems.com

Efficiency

Digital measurement technology enables contractors to pinpoint layout coordinates directly using the BIM model, replacing old methods like string, tape measures and plumb lines that can result in errors. Data can be obtained from a 3D scan in the field and transmitted to the office to verify precise placement of components in the model. A user with laser-placed precision and automation can streamline the workflow for better efficiency.

Quality

On-the-fly quality control/quality assurance and documentation are also significant benefits to contractors. The value of the BIM process combined with a digital measuring tool can vary across the trades, but having confidence that components will fit in the field is an advantage everyone can appreciate.

Electrical contractors can model conduit, hangers, racks, and extract precise X-Y-Z coordinates at attachment and layout points. With an RTS, layout can be done on an empty plot with no need for manual measuring devices or offsetting. Plumbing contractors might use an RTS to envision things in a 3D environment on a mobile device if desired. The RTS data can be used to tie work together with the BIM model, reducing project risk.

Competitiveness

Digital measurement tools can distinguish an MEP company from the competition. BIM is gaining traction in the AEC industry, and an increasing number of general contractors are apt to choose companies that have implemented a BIM process. MEP companies that move forward with technology are investing in their ability to remain competitive. Digital measuring tools are not inexpensive, but they can provide a return on investment by reducing job costs and improving profitability.

MEP systems are central to the life of every building. Detailing, fabrication and installation must be coordinated with the 3D model, making BIM critical to a successful project. Tools like RTS are important for coordinating design changes, identifying clashes in real time, eliminating project delays, and reducing liability caused by rework.

Using BIM improves placement and fabrication speed for MEP contractors, making BIM a logical process to use. Digital measurement tools add to that productive combination.


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