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Heat-tracing solutions with BIM

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Building information modeling (BIM) is opening up new opportunities for the construction industry. Its adoption differs across various regions, but architects, consultants, engineers, and contractors are realizing the benefits of this new, collaborative way of designing, constructing, and maintaining a building. Heat-tracing systems are one building component taking advantage of BIM. As a solution that ensures comfort and contributes to life safety, it requires special attention.

A clear definition
Not just software, but a new way of working, BIM is a collaborative tool that enables those involved at all stages of a construction project to understand a building through the use of a digital model, made up of information-rich digital objects. By modeling components in this form, the architects, designers, engineers, and consultants can interact with the building and its contents to optimize choices and actions. From inception and design to demolition and materials reuse, BIM can be used to illustrate the entire building life cycle from cradle to cradle. In other words, the software provides a common data environment (CDE) for all information defining a building or facility, together with its common parts and functions.

BIM’s adoption varies from one country to another. In Germany for instance, the extensive German Institute for Standardization (DIN) standard is only just embracing BIM. The construction industry in this market is fragmented and dominated by home-grown products, and its legally-protected professional titles and fee scales are proving more of a barrier to BIM’s collaborative approach. Conversely, in Finland overall market adoption in is estimated to be 20 to 30 percent.

In June 2014, Sylvia Pinel, of France’s Ministry of Housing, announced the intention to put a “French numerical strategy” in place with the possibility of making BIM mandatory in public procurement in 2017. This has had a significant impact on BIM’s adoption in this particular market.

Across Asia, the key growth region in construction continues to be China. Here, BIM adoption is at a relatively early stage, but as the construction economy continues to mature this is expected to change.

The latest “U.K. National BIM Report” revealed that while 80 percent of respondents agree BIM is the future of construction information, 67 percent still believe the industry is not clear enough on what the software is yet. Further, only 25 percent of respondents trust what they hear about BIM software.

In the United States, BIM adoption hovered around 70 percent last year. In 2014, the McGraw-Hill Construction Report, “Business Value of BIM for Construction in Major Global Markets,” found two-thirds of U.S. building owners expected to increase use of the software in the next two years. In the same report, BIM’s users highlighted its benefits. BIM visualization enables better understanding of proposed design while having a beneficial impact on construction cost control and project schedule. Additionally, BIM analysis and simulation capabilities produce efficient design and few issues occur during construction due to deficient documents or coordination.


More efficient design
In an industry where every second counts, delivering an on-time and on-budget build program is vital. A significant characteristic of BIM is the value it adds by combining the efforts of people, process, and technology with all the information about each building component. This way, integrating different aspects of the design is more effective, and the risk of mistakes or discrepancies is reduced. By signaling conflict detection, BIM prevents errors creeping at the various stages of development, costs are also minimized at every stage during construction.

In the heat-tracing sector, there is a real push for design support to enable greater efficiencies during the design and construction phases. BIM delivers these advantages, along with the means to increase efficiency, not only during the design and construction process, but also during the operational life of a building. This helps track and find data throughout the life of the building, and ensures each person working on the project follows the same procedures—leading to a more efficient process. Accessing all project information from a single combined model significantly reduces scope for error.

An intelligent and intuitive methodology, BIM enables the objects to be displayed in relative scale to each other. This shows all components in relation to the project as a whole and informs users about spacing and constraints. It also represents relationships between objects, which allows for superior precision in design, enabling users to create a fully detailed prototype of the building model and estimate costs with greater accuracy.

Clash avoidance and documentation generation
Clash detection also plays an important role. By verifying the regulations, parameters, and geometric properties of a product, this function signals any conflicts that may arise between components and systems in the building. Identifying clashes ahead of time enables constructability issues to be resolved and onsite remedial work kept to a minimum. This results in a smooth installation once the project is underway, with costs saved and unnecessary delays avoided.

The concept of working with multiple teams and trades underpins BIM and encourages collaboration in capturing, managing, and sharing data. The technology embeds information from a number of diverse disciplines, each of which has a different perspective and priorities that must be reflected in the finished building. Effective and coordinated communication between users throughout the specification chain is essential at all stages of the project to ensure an efficient and successful process. BIM makes this possible as the technology works best when teams interact at the earliest opportunity. Plus, models being housed in a ‘cloud’ provides immediate and simultaneous access to all users.

In the last few years, there have been attempts to get all the information for a project into one place accessible by all parties. Before BIM, traditional 2D or 3D drawing could become insufficient as they lack some of the necessary information for effective design evaluation and construction, such as:

  • bid and contract documents;
  • Bills of Materials (BOMs);
  • timelines;
  • specifications;
  • price lists;
  • installation and maintenance guides;
  • cable lists; and
  • labels.
  • BIM, on the other hand, provides its users all of the above in one central and common location. This facilitates the use of data and creates a more efficient construction process at every stage of the project.

BIM and heat-tracing solutions
BIM is a game-changer in how buildings are designed, procured, built, delivered, and maintained. To ensure quicker and more efficient design, project teams in the heat-tracing sector need innovative tools to enable them to save time and optimize building performance. Some manufacturers offer proprietary comprehensive suites of tools for graphical placement of controls and connectors for visual space planning or help in selecting optimal products for an application. They can offer a more accurate bill of materials for a wider and more complex range of pipe networks, further simplifying project planning and installations.

In an effort to tailor the software to each user, software packages can allows users to open customized specifications, create a Revit schedule, or place critical Revit families into their project. In addition to the add-in, groups of families for ramp heating and surface snow melting, and roof and gutter de-icing, have been developed. Each includes design guides and product information to assist with the design of the heat-tracing system. With this content, architects, engineers, contractors, and building owners can easily incorporate heat-tracing solutions into their building models to optimize efficiencies and performance.

Working with a heat-tracing solution supplier that can provide a fully integrated, connected system will deliver benefits at all phases of a construction project. By being involved in the early decision making and BIM design stage, engineers and architects can work with the wider team to ensure the most appropriate systems are selected for optimal efficiency of the building, its occupants, and contents.

From cost savings, more efficient processes, and ease of generating specification to less remedial work onsite, BIM brings various benefits at many stages of a build project. From one country to another, BIM’s adoption may vary; however, the construction sector is embracing a new era with BIM. Although its adoption for the heat-tracing sector might still be at an early stage, the innovative software brings an array of exciting opportunities.

Lowie Van Rymenant joined the Raychem Corporation (now part of Pentair Thermal Building Solutions) in 1985, working with the team that made the single-pipe hot-water system successful in Europe. Now the global marketing director, he is responsible for further growth and expansion of the Raychem brand in heat tracing.

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