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Behind Bimfire: Fire protection as a part of the BIM process

Published: 2020-05-20

We´re looking in the rear mirror and ask, where did the idea of Bimfire come from? Fire safety in BIM came into realization after a project study looking into the possibilities of the BIM-environment, a project which Briab was involved in back in 2018. That was the first seed that would come to grow into BIM tools for fire safety designers.

“One of the challenges is to get the fire protection industry involved, but we also need to work actively to get acceptance from clients, owners, property managers and construction engineers, so that a whole new player comes into the BIM process. And to achieve this, we need to create an understanding of what we do, what our role is, and what we can contribute.”

Those are the words of Johan Norén, the Research and Development Manager at Briab – Brand och Riskingenjörerna AB, who led the project study that aims to integrate fire protection in the BIM process. The study was financed by the Development Fund of the Swedish Construction Industry (SBUF), with the participation of NCC and DeBrand Sverige AB. The study shows that such an integration is not only completely possible, it could also lead to large coordination and quality gains for the entire construction industry, and for society at large. The project report proposes a methodology to make the change possible.

However, before this application can begin, there is a range of challenges that needs to be looked into; including everything from changing attitudes to technical development.

“Not least, it is also about finding a standardized terminology and nomenclature for our industry. This also implies that a door is called a door and nothing else, regardless of the project at hand,” says Johan Norén.

What are the success factors then? Learning from the project report, we can list the most important ones:

Knowledge within our own industry

BIM has roots that go back as far as the 1960s, however the fire protection industry has not been a part of the common platform. As a result, there is a lack of knowledge about the BIM process, work methods and technical interface. Which is why we have to find the best means of communicating with the industry representatives concerning information and training.

Speak the same language

BIM is based on several players collaborating on a common platform. One prerequisite for this collaboration to work is that everyone uses the same concept and names for the different types of content to be included in buildings and facilities. Therefore, concepts, processes and data management need to be standardized. This applies to the construction industry in general and to the fire protection industry in particular, as it has been outside the BIM environment. The standardization work should be driven industry-wide, at an international level, and be adapted to a neutral and open file format. In this way, models created by different disciplines can be coordinated and jointly reviewed, independent of the software they are created in.

Adaptation of IFC

The future versions of the file format IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) for CAD programs must get a “model view definition” related to fire protection so that fire-related information in the form of parameters and analysis results can be communicated and applied, independent of the software.

New business models

Today the fire protection industry mainly sells its expertise on an hourly basis. Since model-based engineering in the BIM environment is expected to lead to time gains, new business models are required that value quality and efficiency, instead of hourly time. Otherwise, there is no incentive for changing the working method. This does not apply to the fire protection industry alone, but the whole construction industry.

Clear division of responsibility

BIM design changes responsibilities regarding documents and presented solutions, in relation to traditional workflows. Therefore, the established structures and distribution of responsibilities must be reviewed. The BIM environment may also give rise to new risk scenarios. As the construction process becomes more digital, it is important to find strategies to deal with data theft and attacks that damage data. It also makes sense to look over questions of authorization and access to data at different levels of the BIM environment. Since property managers need access to data during the entire life cycle of the building, it is also necessary to futureproof data access and compatibility.

Updated regulation and control structures

The current fire protection rules are complex and difficult to incorporate into a computer model. This is an obstacle to the automation of control and compliance to regulation in a BIM process, something that negatively affects quality assurance. For future revisions of the Swedish construction regulations, it is therefore important to check the regulation structure in order to facilitate application in digital systems.

Lastly, Johan Norén, what reactions do you get from players in the construction industry when you raise the issue of including fire protection in the BIM process.

“Overall the response has been very positive. Among clients and engineers, we see clear advantages in getting all the players on board. Within our own industry, the reactions have been more cautious. However, we are getting encouragement from various parties, and I would definitely say that the interest is bubbling under the surface. It is hardly just us at Briab who believe that this is something that is necessary to futureproof our business”, says Johan Norén.

BIM Facts

BIM stands for Building Information Modelling. Put simply, it means that we create a digital 3-D model for project design and visualization, so that we gather all the available information about buildings, processes and decisions relating to the construction project in one place. BIM has also become the name of the work method, the process itself, that among other things, includes:

  • Visualization in a virtual environment
  • Project control tools, clash detection and coordination
  • Simulations
  • Information management
  • Calculation
  • Production controls

This text was originally posted on Briab´s blog in june 2018. This is a repost as a part of our project for you to get to know us better. Briab offers products and services in risk management. With a background in fire protection is services are now complemented by project management, HVS design (building services), research and development and risk management in operations and urban planning. Bimfire Suite is a part of Briab's digitalization investments and aim to bring fire safety design into a digital world.

The first part of Bimfire Suite is already on the market. Bimfire Tools is a Revit plugin for fire safety information management. Get your free trial today!