It is a BIM Deal!
With Impressive Download Numbers, BIM
isn’t Something Window Companies Should Ignore
by Tara Taffera
Still think BIM is an unnecessary luxury. Think again. “I have design
professionals who say if so-and-so window manufacturer doesn’t provide
me with a BIM model then I won’t spec their project,” says Laura Smith
who is responsible for BIM tools at Kolbe and Kolbe.
In fact, Kolbe and Kolbe has 3,000 downloads from AutoDesk Seek per month.
Customers can also go to a company website to download BIM models.
“We track 500 downloads per month of just our TerraSpan door models. That
amazes me,” says Smith.
Simonton has thousands of hits per month in various databases, according
to Andy Nixon, architectural specialist for the company.
“We have seen that percentage grow as much as 50 percent over the last
several months,” he says. “We think that is a trend that will continue.”
“The number of downloads we have seen at the Autodesk Seek site is absolutely
out of this world,” adds Terry Zeimetz, commercial marketing manager for
Pella. “These models definitely give us a competitive advantage.”
These numbers may not compare to companies in the commercial building
industry that have utilized BIM for the past decade, but fenestration
manufacturers forecast additional growth in the residential industry.
If you’re not involved in BIM, read on for a primer on everything from
how to get started and items to consider before heading into BIM World
(by the way, there is a website by that name).
In case you are already lost, let’s start from the beginning. BIM is a
tool that allows planners, designers, manufacturers and owners to work
from the same object-related database. Instead of project drawings of
lines, arcs and texts, everyone involved with the construction process
is able to visualize the entire building with a 3D model representation.
So manufacturers offer
BIM models of their products that may be incorporated into designs through
software such as Autodesk® Revit® Architecture or the Autodesk®
Seek web service.
Most of the large manufacturers offer BIM models and that includes Pella
“Architects had been asking for these BIM product models for some time,”
says Zeimetz. “We developed them specifically for the Autodesk Revit platform
because such a high percentage of architects use it.”
“We have offered our clients 2D drawings in different formats for years,”
says Zeimetz. The 3D product models are part of an ongoing strategy to
engage architects with rich, highly detailed information about Pella products
at the exact moment they are looking for it—while they are designing.
“Our goal is to facilitate the use of Pella products early in the design
process, giving us an advantage over some of our competitors when it comes
to winning new business.”
design something in 3D and you move the door and window it may hit something
you wouldn’t notice earlier in a 2D program."
—Laura Smith, Kolbe and Kolbe
The Plus Side
There are competitive advantages to moving into the BIM world, which is
why a variety of manufacturers of all sizes, including Pella, Kolbe and
Simonton, among others, offer BIM models.
Simonton started offering them more than two years ago and actively uses
various types of models today. Kolbe started offering models in 2008 and
offer approximately 300 today
Nixon says the most prevalent group transitioning into BIM usage is semi-custom
to full custom builders.
“Builders receive numerous architectural schematics,” says Nixon. “BIMS
enable them to consolidate them all into a few detailed models that translate
better into a working picture of the details of the home so the homeowner
can get an idea of what the finished product will be. A lot of builders
are using them for virtual tours and to show potential customers what
they are capable of designing.”
Smith says a variety of design team members utilize Kolbe BIM models,
from the architect to surveyors to engineers, builders, contractors and
subcontractors down to the homeowner. The largest percentage of customers
Kolbe works with is architects, but the company aims to offer BIM models
for everyone in the design family.
“The biggest advantage is that BIM allows manufacturers to create a database
of technical information and make it available to architects, builders,
consumers and others all in one shot,” says Smith. “Everyone can then
choose based on our features and benefits the best product available and
see visually how it will impact a structure.
“BIM provides virtual information models that house info from architects
to engineers to owners. It helps prevent errors earlier in the process,”
she adds. “When you design something in 3D and you move the door and window
it may hit something you wouldn’t notice earlier in a 2D program. You
are noticing those clashes earlier. It reduces time and helps complete
the construction process faster.”
The companies that are early BIM adopters say it is paying off.
“For Simonton, competitively one of the more interesting things is that
it gives our brand more prominence in the marketplace,” says Nixon. “As
a manufacturer that has been primarily marketing to distribution companies
for more than 65 years, this software package has given us a footprint
into different market segments that may not be familiar with the Simonton
most prohibitive factors of manufacturers not utilizing
BIM today is cost and time."
—Andy Nixon, Simonton
Green Again Plays a RoleWhile simplifying pages and pages of schematics
is a major plus, a growing competitive advantage is of the green variety.
“Builders and manufacturers that are either using BIM or offering models
are really going after the green category,” says Nixon. “The technical
information that is available—simulating cost savings, energy cost savings,
performance factors and other key indicators are amazing.”
“The fact that more customers are becoming increasingly green and energy
conscious, and BIM is able to integrate into the energy analysis, is really
powerful,” adds Smith. “That’s why we are in the process of adding more
performance data into our BIM models. As design evolves so do energy models.”
There is even a website, Green 3D Home, that offers a free BIM authoring
tool that consumers can use to model their own home and landscape. Web
visitors also can exchange information via forums and learn how to reduce
their home’s energy use, save money and lessen their impact on the environment.
The Green 3D Home website says, “No technology has had a greater impact
on green initiatives in the software market than BIM,” and those to whom
DWM spoke say they agree with that assessment.
“In the marketplace right now most manufacturers are touting their ability
to produce a green product. This is a tool that will bring about some
validity to the claims,” says Nixon.
While Smith says project cost savings and reduction in project time may
be added to the growing list of BIM benefits there are a few drawbacks
as well—namely cost and time.
“The initial cost is quite expensive,” says Smith. “And there is definitely
a learning curve. Getting educated with the program and learning how it
works takes a while,” a fact with which Nixon agrees.
“The two most prohibitive factors of manufacturers not utilizing BIM today
are cost and time,” he says. “It is very expensive to get started, and
it is extremely time intensive. It takes a lot of time to give employees
proper training—and it has to be consistent training. It has to be used
daily to develop expertise to truly capture all of the benefits.”
He adds that other challenges associated with BIM are internal ones.
“Our challenge day to day is managing these programs,” says Nixon. “We
have had to hire more. We have suffered through the downturn like everyone
else but fortunately we have been in a position that has allowed us to
grow and add resources for managing this software package and transferring
it into leads.”
Watch it Grow
While BIM is being used in the residential industry, it does pale in comparison
to its use in the commercial industry—however, it may be headed for a
similar growth curve.
“There is no doubt that BIM software is being used tremendously in the
architectural community,” says Nixon. “Looking at residential builders,
usage tails off quite a bit. It has to be a very savvy builder that uses
it—it is complex and that is an impediment to its growth in residential
design and construction. However, in the next five years we can reasonably
expect 10- to 15-percent growth in the number of builders utilizing it.
“As we work our way through the current downturn, over the next several
years as companies have more money to allocate, you will see an increased
number of people who will use it daily,” he adds. “I would suggest that
over the next five years there will be a sharp increase in companies that
will give it consideration.”
Smith echoes these sentiments, saying use of BIM will grow when the economy
recovers. She says the fact that BIM is being taught in high schools will
help fuel this growth.
“If you are taught at a younger level to incorporate BIM then you will
see it being used more and more.”
She also predicts a great increase in the use of BIM in residential green
construction in the next five years.
“With everyone being more energy and green conscious and focused on cost
savings, BIM provides the ability to create energy analysis and to provide
cost savings,” she says.
So while there is a very high cost up-front, companies say the investment
will be realized.
“The cost will continue to be worth it,” says Nixon “The start-up costs
will be minimized due to positive gains users are getting in return.”
Before You Begin BIM
Ready to step into the BIM world or virtual design construction?
If you take time to break down the letters of BIM to decide how the concept
will work for your organization, you will prevent enormous frustration
and disappointment when selecting software solutions.
What role will your company take in a future project? Design, manufacturing,
installation—or perhaps a combination? Too many companies have focused
on—and invested in—providing design concepts, thinking that’s the best
way to land a project. This approach, however, does not bolster the back
end work. Find modeling software that fits your field of work and expand
What type of information do you want to extract from a
model? This is the toughest question. Avoid unrealistic expectations of
Garbage in, garbage out, as they say. Most software companies oversimplify
the use of their products. There is no easy button. The more information
you expect from a software program or model, the more upfront work is
needed to get the results you want. The pay-off is a one-source model.
Who will be doing the modeling? This is not an individual sport. Team
play is essential when deciding to incorporate this process into your
Buying the software is easy; managing it is the challenge.
Knowing who will be on the team, and that they are willing to play nice
together, is key to a successful transition.
There are other important
considerations—everything about modeling requires more—more file space,
Companies that sell general software and support do not understand your
trade. Picking a company that will go beyond a phone conversation is a
must. It is important to keep things moving forward in the beginning.
There will be a learning curve steep with frustration and your support
team must be available so that your investment does not stall. They should
be an extension of your company, especially in the beginning, so explain
your expectations well.
In the beginning it will feel like everything is moving at a snail’s pace.
To pick up the slack, outsource work to an expert in modeling or BIM projects.
Stan Gibbons is the president of Entelechy Corp., a full-service
consulting, modeling and drafting firm.
See BIM in Action
Z+ Architects, a small architectural firm specializing in
custom residential design and commercial projects, recently incorporated
BIM models into a renovation of a 5,500-square-foot home in Allendale,
N.J. The home contained Pella windows from a previous renovation. The
contractor engaged Z+ Architects to modify plans that had already received
zoning board approval.
“We had to satisfy the client’s demand for a high-end product, without
delaying the construction schedule or straying from the fixed site footprint,”
says Michael Scro, principal at Z+ Architects. “The last thing the contractor
wanted was to go back to the zoning board.”
In the past, when architects wanted to incorporate Pella products into
their designs, they had to painstakingly create the models from scratch
or temporarily use a competitor’s models. Using Revit Architecture, Autodesk
Seek, and the Pella BIM-ready models, the architects quickly generated
a number of alternative design iterations to help demonstrate what would
happen if they rotated the roofline, changed materials or incorporated
taller, more slender windows. “Having these highly detailed models helped
us dive into the particulars of how changes to the house’s style, siding,
and materials would impact the window selection, and vice versa,” says
Based on renderings generated from the building model, the client decided
to transform the home’s exterior, undoing earlier renovations and adding
new features, such as a custom-designed window for above the entry portico.
Translating the original 2D designs into 3D imagery and a building information
model helped everyone buy into the project. “In fact, without BIM we probably
could not have convinced the client to approve the designs,” says Scro.
© Copyright 2011 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.