What Is BIM and Should You Care?

BIM modeling for security applications

It is likely that virtually every security professional knows something about computer-assisted design or drafting (CADD). Many recognize the software, such as AutoCAD 2012, an Autodesk product.Most probably don’t know too much about its recent companion, Revit and, I presume, far fewer know much about BIM or building information modeling. You should know about BIM! It will be increasingly important in the coming years and it’s possible it will forever change how some of us do our work, especially security engineers, manufacturers, vendors and integrators.

What is BIM? It is a collaboration software program that provides a repository for each discipline to add digital, facility-specific knowledge into a single shared dynamic model, typically online. The most obvious feature is that it develops drawings in three dimensions (see graphic at left on this page).


Seeing buildings in perspective

This kind of representation makes it much easier to visualize how the completed building will look, how people will move around and how spaces relate to one another. For example, it would allow you to see how judges can securely move around a courthouse, or how they safely go from their car to the elevator that takes them to their chambers. But BIM is more than that. Conventional 3-D drafting illustrates a facility in length, width and height, but with BIM there is 4-D, 5-D and by some accounts, even 6-D (Simon Hensworth, “Building Information Modeling and Security Design,” The Australian Building Services Journal, Volume 2, 2011). The fourth dimension is generally denoted as time, the fifth as cost and the sixth as life-cycle, such as building operations over a 20-year period.

Clearly, BIM is intended for far more than drafting. As the abbreviation CADD implies, the BIM software programs are also meant for detailed programming and design work. The BIM software can conceptualize, plan, schedule, estimate, coordinate, verify and do “what if” analyses—and more.


Coming to vertical markets

BIM is already a mandatory requirement for some federal and military construction projects and is gradually emerging at the state and local governmental levels as well. Although it was primarily developed to be a tool for new construction and major renovation projects, just like “apps” for the iPhone, I expect that over time new functions will be added that will provide dynamic capabilities to support ongoing building operations, including security, fire protection and life safety—long after construction is completed. A few “apps” and some BIM “objects” are available now.

Free BIM object downloads are found online at the websites of a number of security manufacturers and vendors. For example, the BIM object illustrated on page 32 is a PTZ 510 series CCTV camera for Galaxy Control Systems and is provided by Arcat (http://www.arcat.com/bim/galaxyco/security-surveillance-cameras.shtml).

It is available in Autodesk, Revit and Bentley formats (DXF, DWG, DWF, RFA, RVT, and DGN). Similarly, Verint provides online BIM objects for its S5000 Nextiva IP series cameras (http://www.verint.com/videosolutions).


Historical perspective

The technology to use a computer for drafting began to emerge in the 1980s. It was crude, difficult to learn and used lumbering pen plotters that often worked all night to complete a single complex architectural or engineering drawing. The drawings were two-dimensional, 2-D. By the 1990s, the technology rapidly advanced along with microprocessors. Innovation exploded. CADD suddenly became faster and increasingly sophisticated. Oversized Xerographic copiers replaced the plotters. Most, importantly, the emerging technology added extreme precision and speed to the drafting process—and we got color. Perhaps the most sensational improvement was that it was possible to describe drawings in the third dimension, 3-D. Autodesk even had a program in its AutoLISP library in the 1990s for security. If a drawing was developed in 3-D, you could specify the lens format and focal length of a video camera and “see” exactly what a camera shown on the drawing would view. Now you could change lenses or move the camera around until you got the exact field of view you wanted.

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