future view

BIM Bots boost construction sector productivity

16 April 2018 • 4 min reading time

How about entering staircase specifications at the start of the construction process to avoid unpleasant surprises later on? Or calculating a wall’s thermal resistance and immediately being able to test it against the requirements of the Buildings Decree? You can do all this, and more, with BIM Bots.

TNO has a rich and long-standing involvement with the field of Building Information Modelling (BIM). The associated tools, data standards and expertise have led to many sustainable improvements in the sector. Building on this foundation, TNO is now introducing BIM Bots – smart tools that can be used with any BIM package. These can greatly optimize a building design, thus boosting the construction sector’s productivity.

Customized products

Using BIM Bots, suppliers can be involved in a construction process at an early stage. This means that products can be tailored to an office building, to a hospital or to a planned housing development. The tools are meant for architects, engineers and project leaders who want to check the feasibility of constructing a building from a given design, while the work is still in the early stages. For example, you can run simulation software on a BIM model to find out if there are any potential fire resistance issues.

Automated knowledge input

Together, the user-friendly BIM Bots form an ecosystem that anyone can use to input knowledge automatically while working with the BIM model and the associated data. BIM Bots streamline workflows, automate tasks, and help make designs more transparent early on in the process, while improving the quality of the work itself. These tools provide feedback on aspects such as clash detection, or they can be used to generate energy simulations. One or more bots can be used, each of which can exchange data with the others.

“The time and money that suppliers previously invested in solving issues encountered in the final phases of construction can now be channelled into tools that show – right from the start – whether a given product is suitable or not”

Constantly playing catch-up

“In most construction projects, the suppliers usually don’t get involved until the implementation phase. This means they often find themselves having to play catch-up. For example, a floor supplier suddenly discovers that a floor’s span does not match the current design,” says Léon van Berlo, senior BIM researcher at TNO. “It often happens that one supplier will contribute their know-how to the project, but that the property developer then decides to go with an alternative supplier. This means that a valuable investment, in terms of time and money, is lost.”

BIM at a higher level

Léon has been working on Building Information Modelling for many years now. TNO’s stated mission is to elevate BIM to an even higher level in the Netherlands than it has already achieved. BIM Bots are the future. “While working on Streamer (one of our European research projects), we developed a BIM Bot capable of calculating and analyzing the energy performance of a hospital. This BIM Bot then optimized the model, based on the programme of requirements. For example, it showed which spaces could best be placed side by side.”

During the past year, TNO has developed two more BIM Bots. One is a simulation tool that calculates the thermal resistance of a wall while the other models all types of bricks. For instance, at an early stage, the latter tool shows whether it is feasible to create the openings for windows and doors shown in the design. Léon adds: “This greatly improves the building’s productivity and quality, as well as the use of materials.”

“It is not only a smarter way of working, it also automates work processes”​

Extra service

He also thinks that BIM Bots improve the relationship between suppliers and the construction sector. “You can deliver extra service by showing that certain products fit into the model and that they meet the standards. The time and money that suppliers previously invested in solving issues encountered in the final phases of construction can now be channelled into tools that show – right from the start – whether a given product is suitable or not. This is very different from a static Object Type Library, which often requires clients to decide for themselves whether a given product is suitable or not. In this way, suppliers are much better informed about projects that are still in the design phase.”

BIM Bots are attractive options for clients too. Architects no longer have to develop and fine-tune their designs by hand. Now they can get immediate feedback about the feasibility of their designs. Léon points out: “It is not only a smarter way of working, it also automates work processes. Ultimately, this gives you a BIM model, while also boosting the quality of the finished building.”

“BIM Bots make the construction sector more productive and efficient”

Convinced of the tool’s usefulness

In technological terms, the BIM Bot concept is ready to be put to work. This is partly thanks to funding from the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, which is also convinced of this tool’s usefulness. The initial talks with government bodies and suppliers have been very positive, says Andrew Koster (senior Business Development Manager). “BIM Bots are based on open standards. This means that, as a data owner, you will never have to deal with a lock-in. Another advantage is that you know that you are compliant with the Buildings Decree. BIM Bots make the construction sector more productive and efficient, and when all is said and done, that’s what it’s all about.”

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