To inform its membership about transitioning from 2-D CAD to 3-D modeling, PCI held an April 24 workshop in Chicago introducing Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology for precast concrete
Sources: Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute, Chicago; CP staff
To inform its membership about transitioning from 2-D CAD to 3-D modeling, PCI held an April 24 workshop in Chicago introducing Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology for precast concrete. Speakers at the well-attended event, including precast producers already using the technology, discussed BIM’s adoption and application by fabricators; offered case studies of recent projects that took advantage of 3-D modeling methods; and advised on integrating digital precast concrete data in different workflows.
The workshop saw BIM users discuss the advantages of the technology, including its ability to a) capture facility information from 2-D drawings, 3-D models, and other manually entered data; and, b) enable extraction of 2-D plans, sections and elevations for contract purposes. The software also improves design, avoids spatial interactions, and reduces requests for information. Speakers repeatedly cited BIM’s role in reducing the number of hours it takes to generate finished plans, therefore saving the customer money. Since BIM tracks the exact number of elements needed for each project, it can also be used to determine how much rebar and prestressing strand will be required, and generate purchasing, fabrication and delivery schedules. Since all special conflicts are worked out before construction begins, prefabricating can be done earlier with little or no concern about having to custom fit an element on the jobsite.
Still, there was hesitation on the part of a few workshop participants regarding the path toward 3-D modeling. Some commented on the difficulty they have had finding and hiring qualified engineers familiar with BIM software. Others made a challenge to software company representatives to make the product more “ready-to-use,” although one speaker, a Canadian structural engineer involved in Alberta’s fast-track building boom, said his firm used the software right out of the box. While customization can be done either intermittently during the first project or with entire libraries that can be built ahead of time, he added, his staff found it best to master the basics on smaller jobs before attempting something larger in scale. Some speakers acknowledged that adopting BIM into a design environment means a radical reorganization is inevitable in terms of workflow and training. Still, the meeting made it clear that the digital revolution has a strong foothold in the precast industry.