Convergence Q&A: Convergence in design: virtual construction

The increased use of BIM modeling in security planning is a potential game changer

Q: I am a long-time security consultant, and recently I was asked if I could provide a 3-D model of my security video system design for a prospective project. I haven’t heard of this before, where can I find about it?

A: There is a lot of technology convergence going on in the field of building design and construction. This column provides some online references.

I was recently doing some homework for a presentation at the annual IAPSC Annual Conference (International Association of Professional Security Consultants), relating to the subject of this issue’s column. I was struck by how much convergence is going on within the building construction industry. It’s no wonder that the IAPSC wanted to have this topic covered at their conference -- BIM – Building Information Modeling. The National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee provides two official definitions:

  • Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility.
  • A BIM (Building Information Model) is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.

A Building Information Model (BIM) is not just a visual 3-D model, but like the definition says, it’s an Information Model about a building.


Traditional design and construction

Prior to BIM, building design was based upon three-dimensional architects’ scale models, two-dimensional drawings (such as Figures 1 and 2 below) and lists of doors, windows, equipment and various materials needed to build the building as envisioned by the architects. Such plans constituted hundreds of pages of information that had to be checked for conformance to the architect’s ideas and for compatibility for each piece of information in the plans. Errors occurred, and it was common for many to be missed until construction was under way. The negative impacts to cost and schedule would often mean work would have to be redone. One of the key purposes of BIM is to make traditional building project waste -- and cost and scheduling overruns -- a thing of the past.


Virtual design and construction

With BIM, the various design disciplines provide their information (or have it converted into) information models that conform to BIM standards, such as the National BIM Standard – United States Version 2, found at Both 2-D and 3-D drawings, lists, schedules and cost estimates are generated by computer from the Building Information Model (see Figure 3).

Referred to as Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) a building is built first virtually, before physical construction begins. BIM software runs a clash detection algorithm on the building model before physical construction begins in hopes of eliminating any issues. If problem are found, they are then corrected in the building’s design and proved out in the virtual model, saving money and time.



The 3-D visualization capabilities of BIM software make a powerful tool for builder and customer visualization of the intended result. Understanding is instantaneous as seen in Figure 3. Contrast that with the time and effort required to build the same mental picture by studying the drawings shown in Figures 1 and 2, along with the various equipment lists and product brochures relating to the design. Design decisions and customer approvals are reached in a fraction of the time compared to the traditional building design approach.


Security design and BIM

BIM models are built using smart objects that represent walls, doors, floors, equipment, plumbing, surface treatments—everything that goes into constructing a building. This can include security equipment.

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