BIMobject is building a reputation for free ‘real world’ BIM components of consistent quality.
Since we started looking into the world of Building Information Modelling (BIM) content, it’s quite stunning to see how many websites offer downloadable content. As BIM adoption grows it seems that manufacturers and third parties see massive potential in serving the BIM community.
On the surface this is great news for increasing the productivity of designers, as it means less time creating families of parts, or modelling specific manufacturer’s components from catalogues. However, as firms spend a lot of time and money in producing BIM models for their clients, it makes sense to use trusted suppliers of these BIM components, ones that have consistent levels of quality and accuracy of data.
Swedish firm BIMobject is quickly building a reputation in this area. It has developed a portal to host freely downloadable BIM content from building component manufacturers. The company provides content creation, maintenance, publishing and analytics for a fee to building merchants while providing these intelligent objects for BIM users containing much of their associated product information.
Registered users can download real-world components that can be used directly in pretty much any of the major BIM systems. However, as manufacturers pay per format some components might not be available in the less popular BIM systems.
All components offer 2D drawings (plans, details), 3D representations (section-3D), materials (views, characteristics) and all required properties (CE, heights, configurations, constraints, etc.).
For products such as Autodesk Revit and Graphisoft ArchiCAD there are freely downloadable apps which provide an additional toolbar within modelling sessions granting access to the BIMobject library for search, browsing and direct insertion. There is also a built-in mail system to contact manufacturers to ask for more details.
Historically speaking, manufacturers have tended to lag behind the market in supplying electronic data of their building products. With the advent of BIM this has changed. If a firm does not provide free BIM components of their products, there is significantly less chance of them being used over a competitor’s product.
BIMobject provides a service for manufacturers to create digital libraries of their real world components. The fee is relative to the size and complexity of the library and the manufacturer can select which BIM formats its data is provided in. It gets its own store on BIMobject.com, which can also run within a frame on its websites and those of its suppliers and distributors.
All BIMobjects are designed to be digital replications of real-world items, support configurations, 3D models / 2D drawings and include all the product information data. Objects are optimised for web search, so appear in a Google search (unlike zipped components on websites which can’t be indexed) and support social media promotion via Twitter and LinkedIn.
BIMobject’s ecosystem also provides a powerful back end for manufacturers to analyse the usage and identify customers that are using their BIM components. The BIMobject analysis reporting page shows component usage in each country and identifies which formats are the most popular (Revit, SketchUp, ArchiCAD etc.). There are lists of ‘top viewed’ and ‘top downloaded’ to find out which products are popular or perhaps need more marketing.
While manufacturers will never have a direct email link to the customer, it’s possible to communicate with them through the mail system within the BIMobject portal. If the customer has downloaded a BIMobject application this can even be done within the BIM system. This is especially useful for qualifying leads, or warning designers that they may be using objects of obsolete products.
BIMobject is a lot more than just an online library for BIM content; it’s an ecosystem for manufacturers and designers. On the one hand it increases productivity for architects who save time modelling libraries, searching for product information and using up to date products. On the other it gives manufacturers exceptionally clear insight as to who is looking to use their products in future builds, in what BIM packages and in what country.
Looking to the long term, it’s worth pondering the consequences of embedding such externally linked data. Most 2D and 3D CAD systems allow the inclusion of URL links (perhaps to manufacturers’ websites) and as we all know, the web is forever changing and links die. It is perhaps unsurprising that these haven’t been used that much. At least with objects / components the geometrical representation will always be there and if that is the actual component that is installed in a building, the information it contains will always be relevant. The industry needs these providers to be financially stable and have long-term plans to be around and stay independent to keep downloaded BIM content up to date.
Generic versus real world components
When it comes to BIM components, a question often asked is when to use generic components and when to use real world manufacturers components?
One of the benefits / drawbacks of BIM is the way it compounds the front-end of the design process. The nature of 3D and use of components requires data to be input, meaning decisions have to be made earlier than in the traditional process. I suspect that many firms conceptualise using standard BIM components — after all it lightens the models — but if a designer has a favourite supplier for doors and windows and already has the objects on his or her system, inclusion of real-world manufacturers’ data could appear in the design very early on indeed.
Also this month, Ian Chapman, director of National BIM Library, makes a case for using generic BIM objects from the NBS libraries at early design stages.