By Sarah Miller
As an MEP contractor, you understand the importance of accuracy. When a design has mistakes or lacks important details, seemingly small issues can quickly turn into big problems during construction. Even if you identify problems before they become disastrous, they still require time and money to fix, hurting schedules and budgets.
The content being used in 3D BIM models holds the potential to make your job easier or harder. Using the right content for MEP projects is essential in the actual design and detailing process, but it’s equally important for prefabrication, fabrication, and installation. Many MEP designers are saving time, increasing accuracy, and collaborating more efficiently by using third-party managed content.
The Problems with Non-managed MEP Content
Some may reason that it’s faster or less expensive to manage and even produce their own content. But this is a huge responsibility to undertake and often isn’t as easy or costs more than you think.
Trying to create your own content
When you’re in a time crunch, you’re under pressure to find components or equipment quickly. Instead of contacting the content provider or the manufacturer, you might reason it will be faster to create the content yourself. But the main purpose of content is to represent actual building products.
How can you be sure you’re including all of the parametric information needed for the content to be built into reality? Are you including too much information, making your model so large that it’s difficult to work with? Do you have the correct connectors? If your content isn’t accurate or it’s too cumbersome to use, it ultimately doesn’t hold much value.
Furthermore, if you’re producing custom content yourself, you’re essentially duplicating the efforts of someone else. Building product manufacturers (BPMs) are already producing content specifically for you to use. They employ specialists to ensure they produce content that’s as useful as possible—just detailed enough but not with so much detail that it’s hard to work with—and doing this well takes time and specialized skills. And while they define connector rules for their products, the responsibility still lies with you to ensure you’re using those connector rules with your content.
“With today’s fast-paced construction environment, we simply don’t have time to build and maintain the virtual content we use on a daily basis.”
—Patrick Moran, CAD Manager, JW Danforth
Keeping up with content changes
If there’s one constant, it’s change. MEP content is no exception. Unless you have someone dedicated to keeping your content up to date and ensuring that any changes are broadly distributed, you’ll most likely find that the requirements of producing and managing your own content are overly complex and time-consuming.
Even if you rely on a third-party platform for content, there are still no guarantees that the content is current. Keeping up with changes can be just as challenging for others as it is for you.
Since content is constantly being improved upon by content specialists and BPMs, parametric information could be added or removed with every iteration. It could even get updated with completely new or different information than before.
This could result in models that are inconsistent with the components being ordered, which defeats the purpose of fabrication. Ultimately, you can only feel confident your content is current if you know that it originates from the BPM, and using just any content provider is no guarantee of this.
How Managed MEP Content Benefits You
By switching to managed MEP content, you can experience a number of time and cost-saving benefits.
Hands-off content management
Instead of creating and managing your own content, managed content gives you access to a library of millions of components that are always up-to-date. You won’t have to worry about updating the content on your own because the service provider has BIM content specialists who work directly with BPMs.
You’ll have increased confidence in the accuracy of your models, plus eliminate the need to check and recheck all of your content. You can spend more time refining your designs and adding value when you know that your content is current down to the individual component.
“Since we switched to managed content, we can’t imagine how we did all this previously. Estimating, design, coordination, and pre-fabrication efforts have seen great improvements.”
— Christopher Nash, Pre-Construction Manager, William R. Nash Mechanical Contractors
Content is connected with BPM database
When using managed content, such as Trimble SysQue and Trimble EC-CAD, there is a two-way connection between your content and the BPM database. Because managed content providers ensure that every component has the most accurate and up-to-date parametric information straight from the manufacturer, you can feel confident knowing you’re using the latest information supplied by the manufacturer.
A managed content provider like Trimble MEP has its own BIM content specialists that also work with BPMs, creating a feedback loop that ensures content is continuously improved. The teams can exchange information to ensure that content includes the just-right information needed to accurately and efficiently prefabricate and build MEP systems.
How MEP Contractors Are Using Managed Content
MEP contractors are using managed content to produce constructible models that can be built into reality. When you improve the design and detailing process with managed content, you can work more efficiently and use prefabrication to its full advantage. You’re able to:
- Detail with more accuracy
- Reduce change orders and rework
- Achieve greater productivity
- Increase profitability
- Supply as-built models
By making the switch to managed content, contractors are building better reputations and creating competitive advantage, proven by higher productivity and more successful projects.