Convergence Q&A: Convergence in design: virtual construction

May 22, 2014
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.

Axis Communications has long provided network video design tools through its website and its A&E program. Axis recently released a set of 3-D CAD security camera interactive models for use with the Autodesk Revit CAD software, which is specifically built for BIM. Once incorporated into the overall design model, the camera models illustrate what the camera set-up will look like in real life and which areas the video surveillance system will cover once installed.

When you drop a camera into the building model, camera information such as focal range, resolution and mounting options, as well as pixels-per-foot in the camera’s field of view are available. This significantly reduces the level of effort involved in design work, and helps to detect obstructions that might not be obvious from in 2-D drawing reviews. You can also get a 3-D view of your CAD design, as seen through the lens of the Axis camera. Now clients can easily review the 3-D results of the video surveillance plan, which accurately reflect the fields of view that will be realized in deployment.

As more and more companies provide product information as BIM models, more aspects of security design will be visualized in overall building models. Generic models of vehicles, people, and objects that are targets of detection and surveillance will be discoverable by the interactive models of intrusion detection sensors, long-range card readers, video analytics, and other sensory devices.

Thanks go to TRUSYS—a global security and safety risk consultancy firm headquartered in Bellingham, Washington with additional offices in Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia—for providing the graphics for Figures 1 through 3.

Write to Ray about this column at [email protected]. Ray Bernard, PSP, CHS-III is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (RBCS), a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities. For more information about Ray Bernard and RBCS go to or call 949-831-6788. Mr. Bernard is also a member of the Content Expert Faculty of the Security Executive Council ( Follow Ray on Twitter: @RayBernardRBCS

About the Author

Ray Bernard, PSP, CHS-III

Ray Bernard, PSP CHS-III, is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (, a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities. He has been a frequent contributor to Security Business, SecurityInfoWatch and STE magazine for decades. He is the author of the Elsevier book Security Technology Convergence Insights, available on Amazon. Mr. Bernard is an active member of the ASIS member councils for Physical Security and IT Security, and is a member of the Subject Matter Expert Faculty of the Security Executive Council (

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Follow him on Twitter: @RayBernardRBCS.