Landscape and building product manufacturers face increasing pressure to make BIM models for their products available to the AEC community. There exists a steep learning curve for manufacturers wanting to understand the BIM Revit development requirements for their products. To demystify BIM for building product manufacturers, we have written a two-part article in collaboration with CADdetails’ Senior BIM Specialist Chris Saddler. The first part of this two-part article series discusses the different types of BIM files. In this article, we offer building product manufacturers information about how to review their BIM files.

Reviewing Manufacturer-Specific 2D CAD

CADdetails, as our name suggests, has always offered 2D CAD development to landscape and building product manufacturers. Once a CAD drawing is complete, it is sent to the manufacturer for review and revisions. The process of reviewing is straightforward as everything that needs to be reviewed is viewable without expensive software or the need for specialized knowledge. CAD drawings can be viewed as PDFs or using DWG TrueView from Autodesk, making it easy to confirm accuracy. There are different elements that need to be reviewed, as discussed in a previous article, but everything that needs to be reviewed is plain to see. Reviewing BIM models requires a different approach and is a more involved process. Revit files, unlike CAD, cannot simply be reviewed by opening a Revit file and reviewing.

Reviewing BIM for Usability in Projects

A manufacturer investing in BIM development for their products is doing so in order to increase their chances of being specified. This means the developed Revit file needs to be able to be used within a designer’s BIM project. Unfortunately, we continue to work with building product manufacturers that have previously purchased BIM development but the resulting models are unable to be used in a project. The best approach to review a BIM model in a project is dependent on the intended functionality. For a more detailed discussion on the types of Revit files and their functions, please refer to Part 1 of this article.

When discussing the review of BIM models by the manufacturer, it is important to acknowledge the training and expertise that goes into developing quality BIM models. Most manufacturers will not have the means to independently review all aspects of their files. For example, functionality testing should be verified by an expert.

When loading a manufacturer’s BIM models into a BIM project, one should first review the associated category and classifications. Improper categorization will result in the user being unable to find the data and specify a product. It is also important to discern how the model interacts with other elements of the project. For example, for a window manufacturer, it would be vital to review if a window installs correctly.

Since BIM is so much more than a three-dimensional model, a review of BIM files needs to go beyond a 3D preview. The quality of data, materials, constraints, and overall accuracy should also be critically evaluated.

Reviewing the Data

The data associated with a manufacturer’s BIM model includes product options, dimensions, and other product attributes and information. A review of only a 3D preview would completely miss this crucial element of BIM. When reviewing the BIM data, it should be recognized that the data may change based on the product options and project situations. And thus a thorough review requires verification for all product variations and a range of projects. The data needs to be evaluated to ensure it meets the requirements for the types of projects in which the product is likely to be specified. It should also be confirmed that the parameters are set up as shared parameters to allow the project to use the model’s data, and the parameters must be functionally attached to the model itself.

Reviewing the Materials

Most product BIM models use materials to convey the look and feel of the product to the user. Materials contain their own set of data, shading characteristics, and rendering assets. These layers should be considered in a review to ensure the building product manufacturer’s product is represented well. The materials should be compared against industry requirements and checked to ensure they are applied to the elements correctly. Rendering assets should be reviewed for how they are read in Revit, and how they are transposed in rendering applications such as V-Ray and Enscape.


Constraints and References

Constraints and references impact a model's utility, speed, and consistency of function across project scenarios, and most importantly, its ability to be specified. Every element has base standards and product category standards that should be adhered to. The constraints and references in a model can make the modeled products easy to specify. However, if the constraints are poorly executed, they can cause the model to crash a Revit project.

Ensuring Accuracy

An accurate representation of a building manufacturer’s product is expected. Examine all views to ensure a product has been accurately modeled. In most cases, there are product options that should also be considered in a review. The model should reflect that the BIM developer had an understanding of the product and its usage.

Revit Viewers

Generally, building product manufacturers will not own a licensed version of Revit. One option is to install a full version of Revit and run it in viewer mode. This will allow manufacturers to review the features of their model discussed above, but there are drawbacks to this approach. Revit requires a lot of space and power to run, and viewer mode does not permit saving or editing. Experience and training are required to properly use Revit software, and lacking this could lead to an incomplete review of a manufacturer's Revit files.

There are external applications designed for reviewing BIM projects. When it comes to the Revit files of building product manufacturers, there are currently no existing applications designed to review a product. The available applications read the files that are created for BIM projects. These external applications include Autodesk’s BIM 360, Enscape, and Unity. These viewers are powerful tools often leveraged by firms sharing these applications with project stakeholders to enable project review.

The BIM Developer is The Key

With much to consider in a BIM review and formidable barriers to conducting a thorough review of BIM models independently, the process becomes opaque and daunting for some building product manufacturers. Building product manufacturers’ best option may be to work with a trustworthy team of BIM developers that are willing to sit down with the manufacturer to review the models. BIM models that are not usable in products or are inaccurate will compromise the ability of a building product manufacturer to be specified. 

Landscape and building product manufacturers considering BIM development for their products must reach out to experts at CADdetails for a discussion not only about the development of their models but also about how the models can be thoroughly and transparently reviewed.

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