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10 BIM Trends in the MEP Industry for 2018

BIM this year promises to be interesting. New technologies will be introduced, trends from last year are now becoming common, and more companies are benefiting from reduced failure costs and productive work processes. For those who want to elevate BIM projects to a higher level, these are the 10 most significant trends to watch out for this year.


1. Modular construction & prefabrication

Two major advantages of modular construction are reduced costs and accelerating the construction process when building elements are already prepared and assembled in the workshop before construction begins. Prefabrication initially starts with prefab concrete walls and floors, however, increasingly more MEP elements are being prepared prefabricated. The Stabicad for Revit prefab module facilitates such a workflow. MEP engineers can now generate prefab drawings based on the information in the BIM model and incorporate the correct product information and instructions for the workshop. This means that components can be assembled quickly, creating an efficient workflow from design to prefabrication and installation.


2. Internet of Things (IoT)

Smart thermostats and intelligent ventilation systems have already been the standard in the installation sector for some time now. The intervention of major technology giants like Apple, Google, and Samsung in this market ensure that homes and buildings are becoming even smarter. However, it is expected that the Internet of Things (IoT) is also going to change the work of installers and modelers. Take, for example, the advantages that IoT offers when it comes to releasing BIM data to prefab workshops, suppliers or modelers. Modeling and ordering are becoming a lot easier thanks to cloud apps like the ABB Switch Range Configurator or the Rexel Wholesale Connector. With up-to-date data, designing can be done directly using ready-to-order products that can be delivered directly to the building site. It may not yet be immediately apparent, but IoT is going to profoundly change transform the work of installers.


3. Augmented/VR Reality

Last year, MEPcontent wrote about the emergence of Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR) in the installation sector. Virtual Reality, which enables you to examine extensive 3D models through glasses like the Oculus Rift, is extremely suitable for giving project presentations to the client. Augmented Reality, which merges the reality with virtual images through, for example, Microsoft HoloLens, is very promising as a training tool or for conducting clash testing on site. Take, for example, the possibilities for remote management through a technician wearing AR glasses on site and an expert in the office. This may still be a pipe dream for many, but when products in construction projects are coupled with the correct data, anything is possible. The developments of this visual technology are also worth keeping an eye out for in 2018 because there are yet more great 4D VR applications in the pipeline.


4. Order directly from the model

More and more installers are realizing that there is more to BIM than offering 3D insight. Enhancing BIM models with data makes a model even more valuable, provided it is used in a clever way. There is an increasing number of companies that benefit from cooperation between manufacturers, suppliers and BIM software developers. New installation engineering products are constantly becoming available for sale as BIM objects, including current product data such as article numbers and dimensions. Thanks to this information, products can be ordered directly from within the model. Examples of such applications are the MEPcontent Rexel Wholesaler App and the link between Stabicad for Revit and Syntess ERP software. A great advantage of such tools is that duplicating work is no longer necessary and the ordered items correspond 1-to-1 with the products used in the model.


5. Mobile cloud applications

The cloud collaboration trend, which is mainly reflected in the use of mobile cloud applications in construction, will continue in 2018. Real-time data from the construction and design process can be simultaneously viewed by different people at different locations. All this requires is an Internet connection. The Trimble Connect app is a great example of such a platform where partners can collaborate in the cloud from the design phase right through to delivery. Engineers can gain access to the relevant and current information via the tablet, smartphone, PC and the hard hat solution for Microsoft HoloLens. This way, BIM models can be easily shared with the building site and reporting from the building site reporting can be effected quickly to facilitate a productive collaboration.  


6. BIM to the building site: 3D laser scans and drones

2018 will bring more possibilities than ever for enhancing BIM models with current information. For example, working with a point cloud. A point cloud can be created by conducting a 3D laser scan at the building site. This scan contains all accurate 3D dimensions of the building site, and the data can be used as a basis for the BIM model in, for example, Revit. This would be particularly useful for complex projects in which it is difficult, if not dangerous, to measure project components by hand. In combination with drones, which are increasingly being used for construction projects, this is a promising technology for delivering accurate BIM models.


7. Mix and match or all-in-one solutions

More and more products can now be adapted to the user's personal requirements. We now see this trend continuing through to the installation sector: modelers are free to choose the tools that they want to work with. For instance, an engineer that is mainly involved in installing valves does not require an expensive software package with all the fixings. He or she can download apps to suit his or her tasks and can cancel his/her subscription when and if the work demands. On the other hand, there is the introduction of all-in-one packages and suites that offer lots of combined software functionality. Engineers, therefore, have a huge range to choose from, giving them access to all the tools. These are two different models that both offer the user the advantage of a wider range and the flexibility to choose which tools best suit their method of working.


8. BIM Goes Green

It is well-known that BIM ensures improved chain cooperation and internal efficiency. But the sustainable advantages that BIM offers plays an ever-increasing role. By taking materials and energy properties into account already during the design phase, buildings can be built more energy efficient. This has advantages both during the construction phase, whereby, thanks to BIM, prefab and modular constructions can be applied, and during the operational phase. In the latter phase, huge savings can be made on energy costs and CO2 emission by using the right product and material. Also interesting is the circular economy, an area in which companies like the BAM experiment; in the design phase simulating all of the dismantling of a building, to ensure that a building can be demolished or recycled with minimum effort and loss.


9. 3D Printing

3D printing technology made huge progress in the construction sector last year. Using the technology, which has long been considered a gimmick for nerds, the first house was fully 3D printed in 2017. The technology has great potential for creating extremely accurate building elements in a relatively short time and with minimum material loss. Thanks to accurate digital product and project data (for example, in the form of 3D components), 3D printing can be useful within a BIM process in a variety of ways. For example, for quickly making prototypes for sharing with construction partners or for manufacturing components and prefab material. This technology is going to develop much further and is certainly worth keeping an eye on.


10. 4D, 5D, and 6D-BIM

At present, there are only a few installers who think beyond 3D-BIM. That, however, is going to change in 2018; the first companies are already progressing towards 4D, 5D and even 6D-BIM. In the case of 4D-BIM, we are talking about the visual representation of the construction schedule. This, for example, can be achieved using the Autodesk application Navisworks. However, 5D-BIM (cost calculation) and 6D-BIM (lifecycle management) will offer much added value for larger projects. 5D-BIM and 3D-BIM adds two properties to 3D-BIM: costs and materials. In addition to the standard design parameters, details such as geometrics, aesthetics, and thermal and acoustic properties are now incorporated in a project. This allows engineers to see how a decision affects the costs of a design at an early stage. 6D-BIM primarily focuses on the long term, whereby data for maintenance and sustainability will be added at an early stage. Thanks to such improvements in the area of collaboration and data usage, installers will also maximize the return on their investment in BIM.


These BIM trends for 2018 are certainly exciting, and it will become increasingly important for the construction sector to stay on top of the latest technologies in the coming years. With mixed reality and IoT on the rise, adopting tech over the next few years will prove to be more important than ever.

Did we miss anything? What other trends do you foresee in 2018 and beyond? Comment below and let us know!

About the Author

Jaap Groen is a BIM specialist and marketer at Stabiplan B.V., a Trimble company offering BIM solutions for the MEP industry. His aim is to provide MEP engineers with the right information to optimize their BIM workflow and ultimately realize better building installations.

Profile Photo of Jaap Groen