4 Ways BIM is Changing the Electrical Market Forever
Written By Caitlin Dunn

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is an object-oriented approach to building design. Using Autodesk Revit software, the BIM process creates a 3D digital model of a building, enabling realistic engineering analysis well before the construction begins. Hearkening back to the Graphisoft ArchiCAD software that was originally launched in 1987, the BIM process provides “clash detection…avoiding the costly rework of these problems; productivity improvement; and reducing conflict and change orders on jobsites” to engineers, architects and designers. Unlike the far more limited ArchiCAD, the BIM of today lets us do much more than design buildings in 3D.

According to a Dodge SmartMarket brief, about 32% of electrical contractors were using BIM, compared to 64% of plumbing/piping contractors and 69% of HVAC. Electrical contractors may tend not to use BIM because of the software and training commitments needed to fully integrate BIM into their workflow. However, they may want to reconsider that decision based on the ways the BIM process is changing the electrical market:

  1. In investigating the potential for BIM in the electrical discipline, the Journal of Engineering Science and Technology Review article, “Applications of Building Information Modeling in Electrical Systems Design,” reports that integration of BIM with GIS (Geographical Information System) can be very useful for electrical grid optimization and city energy modeling. A 2019 Esri article explains that integrating GIS and BIM technologies requires that we think beyond the 3D model to the workflows of a project.
  2. BIM is a powerful tool both during and after the design and construction of buildings and other projects. There’s great potential for incorporating electrical design and specification information into the building model, which also helps transform the building model into a virtual owner’s manual, complete with the information needed for a facility’s ongoing operation and maintenance.
  3. Thanks to 5D BIM, which “integrates the supply chain directly into BIM designs at the product level,” electrical contractors can develop accurate materials lists for every job. Electrical distributors will see increased demand for digital libraries of product data and icons to be used in BIM modeling. Mike Podaris of Trade Service Corporation says, “[If] the distributors want to have some influence on or ability to keep involved with or support BIM, it’s to make sure their brands or manufacturers have the BIM libraries that they will need,” adding that they should “be proactive” putting product data standards into place.
  4. BIM offers sophisticated tools for electrical trade design and estimation, including automated detailing of shop drawings with the Revit plug-in eVolve Electrical. In terms of detailer time saved alone, BIM is promising as a future direction in the electrical market. Yet few of the smaller electrical contractors are far along with BIM. As more contractors adopt the BIM process, demand for BIM objects will increase. Organizations such as The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), IDEA, and Trade Service Corporation have encouraged electrical manufacturers and distributors to meet the demand.

In 2011, the Electrical Wholesaling article “Welcome to the World of BIM” described how quickly the world of BIM was changing. The process has developed by leaps and bounds since then. Grant Shmelzer, Executive Director, IEC Chesapeake and IEC Chesapeake Apprentice and Training, Inc., mentions that there is an additional layer to the adoption of BIM technology. “One of the challenges is training the workforce to utilize BIM. The technology is here,” he says, adding that one issue with BIM is training the electrical contractors workforce to utilize it more.

While companies may be hesitant to invest the time, money, and training necessary to adopt new software, the ever-adapting climate of the AEC industry signals that it’s worth it. In the long run, such an investment will put companies closer to the top and able to keep up with the competition.

The experts of eVolve MEP have worked in the construction trades, so they know the challenges you face and the innovations that can make a difference. Contact eVolve MEP today and learn how the industry-trained eVolve Electrical and Mechanical consultants can partner with you to keep your business relevant and competitive in the years to come.

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