Recommendations for contract glaziers adopting BIM

By Will Ikerd
September 23, 2009

Samples of portions of BIMs from Trainor Glass, Alsip, Ill. Models like these aid in 3D coordination with other disciplines as well as communicating with clients on decisions made in facade system solutions.
  • This is the first article in a two-part series addressing the rapidly growing adoption of Building Information Modeling in the glass industry. Read part two in the December issue.
  • Read the online-only sidebar, BIM adoption cycle

Building Information Modeling adoption will immediately affect glass companies in how they respond to requests for proposals on progressive projects. Long term, it will change the staff companies retain and train, and how they are viewed by their clients relative to their competitors. Firms that invest in BIM today will be in a position to compete for profitable work with the ever increasing BIM requirements of projects next year and beyond.

Trainor Glass Co., Alsip, Ill., is one of the progressive glazing companies we visited that is implementing BIM as part of its client services. Patrick Bussa, vice president and national drafting manager, says BIM is enhancing Trainor’s ability to achieve the architects’ design intent, provide the general contractor with a product they expect and want, and coordinate with the surrounding trades to eliminate interface conflicts that impact the project.

Bussa recommends glazing firms keep several important factors in mind when adopting BIM.

Software and hardware. Bussa says his general philosophy is to plan for the future when looking at computer systems by not settling for the basics that software companies recommend. Look beyond to a system with at least a 3-year service life.

BIM consultant. Bussa says firms should consider a BIM consultant who is familiar with the applications that the firm may use as well as those used by general contractors. Consultants should provide the initial firm implementation and training in BIM application to existing staff, as well as full involvement throughout the entire project. As in any outsource arrangement, the more information provided about your products—two-dimensional shop drawings, installation manuals of the system, details explaining the anchors required for the systems—will allow the consultant to properly represent the “space required” in the model.

Dimensional changes. Firms also must understand that BIM is a process change that includes three-dimensional spatial coordination, a process where 3D models from the critical disciplines on a project are combined into one model to look for construction and coordination conflicts. “The purpose for the 3D models is to represent the space required for your product,” Bussa says.” As a glazing contractor, we just don’t provide a model of our window frame, we need to represent the space required for proper sealant joints and embed anchors that will infiltrate the precast panel and concrete slab space.”

Outsourcing. Bussa suggests that until firms understand the impact of using BIM on their projects, they should consider initially outsourcing aspects of the BIM portion to a consultant, while managing the project and incorporating BIM into their standard practices. After a company can handle BIM in-house, they can use the effective modeling software they know best. Moving into newer BIM applications will be much easier once a firm establishes their level of BIM usage on a few successful projects.

Bussa says that when used properly, the BIM process provides cost savings and forces decisions to be made before groundbreaking. By being able to model the systems in 3D, spatial problems that previously resulted in site change orders now can be caught in the planning stage.

Trainor Glass has a number of BIM projects they are currently involved in with general contractors. Through significant investments and research, Trainor handles the BIM modeling in-house, and has achieved greater control over how their products are represented, Bussa says.

Typical of firms ahead of the technology adoption curve, Bussa concluded that, “There is a cost to starting up in BIM, but being able to manage coordination details more efficiently while having better control of the finished product with redundant activities is an effective approach in today’s economy.”

The author is director of the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) department at Raymond L. Goodson Jr. Inc., Dallas. The IPD department specializes in BIM consulting on engineered building systems. He can be reached at