Jump Start BIM: A CADworks MEP BIM Intregration Suite Product Review

January 5th, 2012

CADworks introduced BIMXchange (a cloud-based MEP content library) to Autodesk® Revit® users several years ago. The content filled an obvious need and has grown to thousands of users. This fall, CADworks will combine BIMXchange with additional BIM tools into a MEP-specific bundle, the CADworks MEP BIM Integration Suite.

The stated purpose behind the suite is to provide additional tools that will assist Revit users to successfully migrate from CAD to BIM, with a focus on small to medium-sized engineering firms and like-sized general contractors.

The suite includes:

  • BIMXchange – a content Web app.
  • Revit Piping Productivity Pack – a grouping of manufacturer specific pipe and fitting types.
  • CADworks  BIM Execution Plan
  • Revit MEP® Process Documents compendium – a set of Revit MEP Project Templates.

All of the tools in the suite run in 2011 and 2012 versions of Revit MEP, and are available through a yearly maintenance subscription program, which includes a single, up-front fee at purchase.

BIMXchange

Providing access to more than 35,000 Revit Family Types and representing products from more than 150 building product manufacturers, BIMXchange offers families primarily for  MEP designers, but with sufficient crossover for architectural work as well.

The install is quick and adds an icon on the Revit ribbon.  The new interface is intuitive; the product search function is faster than previous versions. The interface consists of two basic panels. The left side,  the search side,  has three interactive tabs for Tree View, Filter type, and Catalog.  The right side provides rendered images for product recognition, Type Catalog for availability and selection, and the content download tool.

The tree view function is tacit, and follows product listings/categories according to the library/catalog selected. The filtering in the new version is quicker than in prior releases. It is hierarchical and allows access to the shared parameters in each piece of content. The content is structured in multiple libraries, or catalogs, accessible via the third tab. A user navigates through libraries, manufacturer-specific or MEP discipline-specific, generic, and metric. Figure 1 displays an example of a manufacturer-specific library.



Figure 1: BIMXchange, Bell & Gossett.

Navigating from the Revit workspace to the BIMXchange app to locate needed content and then inserting it into a project is logical in workflow. Users can search by manufacturer model, discipline, equipment type, capacity, or characteristic. Almost all the content has been created with a type catalog. The Show Type Catalog function in BIMXchange makes it possible to view, select, and then insert multiple types into a project.

CADworks has shared items that might be in store for upcoming releases. High on the list is a versioning tool, where existing projects can be checked for out-of-date or discontinued families. They are willing to configure custom content libraries for any firm, or create new libraries using a firm’s Revit content, per the firm’s preferences. BIMXchange can also be branded to a firm’s image and penchant. All custom features can be made viewable only by authenticated users, who would use the same selection menu for accessing the custom libraries.

Pipe and Fittings Package

The initial goal in creating this tool was simple: provide the ability to build a valid Revit piping/plumbing model suitable for coordination purposes, and then print recognizable working drawings. The package has grown to include an increasing list of pipe types and manufacturers, more than six hundred fittings. This offering includes standards for ASTM, ANSI, and AWWA pipe materials, sizes, schedules, and connection types. The fittings are all manufacturer-specific, and restrictive to only the sizes and angles available in the manufacturer’s catalog. There is a package available for three releases of Revit MEP: 2010, 2011, and 2012.

The Pipe and Fittings Package installation includes templates, families, and look-up tables. Fittings can only be placed at angles that correlate to real product. This can be considered a feature of the tool that keeps designers honest, or a source of frustration for engineers who only wish to convey design intent.  The sizes of pipe available included larger diameter types needed for many designs.

CADworks will create pipe types and fittings not currently included in the package along with additional sizes of existing types and additional fittings.



Figure 2: Ductile Iron runs with Victaulic fittings.

It is commonly accepted that the power of BIM is in the data. The two applications above are examples of the power of data. The following three tools—Project Templates, BIM Execution Plan, and Process Documentation—address flow and process.

Revit MEP Project Templates

CADworks has created six distinct project templates suited to any firm or user who needs to get a project started quickly in Revit MEP 2011 and 2012. They are specific to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing disciplines, providing a structured environment for projects while maintaining flexibility for individual firms. The templates are comprehensive and include project tracking information, schedules, temporary sheets, and a preset of 10 floors with associated scope boxes and overall plans.  Depending on a firm’s process and projects, 10 floors may be overkill.

Figure 3: Standard design template portion.

There are three principal template structures: MEP Design Standard, COBie, and GSA Spatial. They are organized identically; the difference is the information and schedules specific to the COBie and GSA initiatives and standards. The inclusion of these specialty templates are based on evolving processes within the buildingSMARTalliance and GSA. Template users will be provided updates as the information becomes available.

BIM Execution Plan

This plan defines a map to follow when participating in a BIM process. It is marketed as being “developed from experience and a keen practical knowledge of what are design and construction methodologies and flow, as they relate to BIM.”  MEP firms should already be aware that they rarely get to define the BIM execution plan on projects, but having a plan to reference can provide insight when working under other plans.

This plan is divided into three components: Organizational Decisions, Project Tracking, and General References. The Organizational section sets criteria and methods for defining and establishing roles, responsibilities, and goals in a project. The Tracking section employs interactive tracking tools for project members to stay current on everything from model/workset ownership, to coordination model nomenclature. The final section, References, is a library of useful information such as BIM best practices, additional resources, and information sources, and includes a section detailing some common elements that a subcontractor could request.
CADworks offers training, project assistance, and mentoring as a complement to their BIM Execution Plan.

Process Documentation

This part of the CADworks MEP BIM Integration Suite is a collection of process documents meant to provide just-in-time information during the span of a project. For example, there is an aid for guiding a project manager through the cleanup and optimization of an architectural or structural model, as preparation for the Revit MEP design and modeling processes, and detailed documents explaining worksharing and shared coordinates. The Internet is already packed with this kind of information, but having it organized, accessible, and standardized can prove helpful for firms starting out.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Instant content
  • Exclusive content
  • No maintenance of families
  • BIM “jump start”

Cons:

  • Additional cost
  • Locked into CADworks
  • Ability to customize reduced

Conclusion

The purchase of a software package or a group of software packages does not a successful BIM implementation make. A jump into the world of BIM needs to be considered and implemented with proper planning. The decisions may carry weighty consequences and should not be casually made. The CADworks MEP BIM Integration Suite provides mature tools that achieve positive results.

For firms looking for a jump start to using a BIM process (even if they have stumbled in previous attempts), the CADworks offering can start the ball rolling in the right direction and help to avoid the pitfalls that can come from being unprepared. For firms further down the path, the CADworks MEP BIM Integration Suite could feel equally freeing and limiting. While there are many tools and functions that help map out BIM processes, firms that already have a map may come to view these tools and functions as “detours.” The culture of each firm should be considered, with the end in mind and a proper expectation of how CADworks can help.

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