Virtual Design Analysis Group is a division of NVentum, LLC.

This unique collaborative endeavor; to utilize the latest reality capture technology to document the artifacts, buildings and campus of History San Jose, provides opportunities for private sector, non-profits and institutions of higher education to work together to solve some of today's most pressing engineering issues. The protocol for retrofitting as-built historic facilities and the use of new technologies to preserve our most prized historic treasures are vital to the continued success and expanded influence of our museums.
This blog will document the challenges and successes of this ambitious, one of a kind project.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

3D Model vs BIM

A major component of this project is the creation of a 3D model of the San Jose History Park. However, the main goal of this project is to create a fully integrated BIM project for the San Jose History Museum and campus. While many people believe BIM and 3D models are synonymous, there is a major difference between to two.

Laser Scan of History San Jose Printers Office by Ken Hanna, NVentum, LLC.

3D Models
There are a number of ways 3D models can be beneficial for building maintenance and operations.

A 3D model can be a tremendously useful cost containment and budgeting tool on Capitol Improvement Projects.
Laser Scanning Services and 3D modeling are more cost effective than manual measurement processes, which are error prone and require a greater length of time to complete. Additionally, because Laser Scanning and 3D modeling are significantly more accurate than manually created documentation there is less need for costly field fit-up. Field trips are also reduced as there is less need for field crews to return to correct inaccuracies. Better visibility of the areas and objects also improves operation and maintenance review.
Many older facilities lack proper blueprints, original construction plans or documentation. Often times, build outs, renovations and upgrades occur and the documentation is not done properly, lost or just non-existent. This is true for historic buildings as well as buildings that were built in the last 40 to 50 years. A 3D model of an as-built facility is not only the most accurate way to monitor conditions, it may be the only truly accurate documentation of a facility. Once again, this process works throughout the life-cycle of a facility. Future expansions, renovations and/or upgrades to the facility can be added to the 3D model to insure proper documentation.

Coordination of Team Information and Improved Scheduling
One of the greatest obstacles in planning repair work may be the ability to share comprehensible information and communications between different project teams who may be impacted by a change in procedure. With a 3D model, existing conditions and documentation can be shared among a number of different project members or teams from a number of different disciplines using electronic files, allowing immediate access to critical information. This fact holds true from the design and construction phase, through commissioning and continues throughout the entire life-cycle of the facility.
Planning scheduled maintenance and facility upgrades is another one of the essential functions of a 3D model. Building operations managers are responsible for completing maintenance and modification plans within a tightly monitored timeline. Each unplanned interference or unanticipated problem resulting from inaccurate existing condition documentation can result in extended outages, possibly a loss of income. The 3D model is an important tool in minimizing these types of problems.

Facility Use Agreements/Sales and Marketing
Operations and administrative staff can use the 3D Model to coordinate events, plan and manage internal projects, assign/allocate space, manage onsite programs and negotiate facility lease agreements. The 3D model is an excellent sales tool, providing perspectives that traditional 2D floor plans simply cannot match.

The bottom line is,the purpose of a 3D Model is to provide a platform to share information between the various individuals and teams involved in the construction, maintenance and operation of a facility. This shared platform provides a seamless exchange of real-time information to optimize productivity, minimize operational cost and maximize revenue throughout the facility's life-cycle.

Building Information Modeling

According to the National BIM Standards Committee (NBIMS), building information modeling as “a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility, forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle, existing from earliest conception to demolition.”

BIM encompasses more than a 3D computer-rendered model of a building. In addition to architectural information, the complete BIM contains all of the building’s information, from wall systems, structural systems, electrical systems, HVAC equipment, plumbing fixtures, door and window schedules, and finishes, right down to the manufacturer, supplier, and square footage of every material specified on the project. In other words BIM is an "Intelligent 3D Model" . BIM is intended to be used as a tool for facility owners and operators to better manage their facility throughout its entire existence.

Throughout NVentum's 7 year existence, we've worked on a variety of projects for government, nonprofit and for profit entities. Basically, our role has been to provide laser scanning services for condition monitoring, construction, expansion and/or renovation of as-built facilities. I don't recall any instance where the 3D model we've produced has been expanded for use as an intelligent facility operations system. Unfortunately, very few 3D Models are currently being used in this manner. Condition monitoring and construction is just a fraction of what this technology is designed to achieve. BIM technology provides us with a way to reduce the carbon footprint of older facilities through sustainable retrofits. BIM systems incorporate state of the art actuators and sensors to monitor and control Indoor Air Quality. This allows owner/operators to monitor airflow throughout a facility, conduct real-time energy audits, monitor and adjust a facility's mechanical systems to insure peak performance.

An example of one way BIM can assist owner operators with energy savings is through virtual simulations. If your building has a functioning BIM program, you could enter all information regarding the building's exterior windows into the 3D model; the thickness of the glass, the reflectivity of the the windows, the manufacturer, date of installation, etc..The building's operators can perform simulations within the model by exchanging all of the building's exterior windows with new windows that have different specifications and standards. From there, a variety of simulations can be conducted to determine changes in the buildings performance in a virtual world:
1. Does exchanging windows affect the ambient lighting in the work areas?
2. Are there any changes in airflow throughout the facility?
3. Do the new windows affect changes in heat or temperature?
4. If we were to change windows, what types of windows would be the most cost effective for the company?
This is one example of many types of virtual simulations that BIM offers facility operators. These same tools can be applied to all of a buildings operational systems; electrical, mechanical, environmental, asset management, security, etc..
Simulations can be done at little cost to building operators and they provide critical information that can have a major economic and environmental impact on the management and operation of a facility(s).

The major benefit of BIM for building operators and owners are the cost savings. The majority of the life-cycle cost of a building does not come from the design and construction phase, but from operating the building over 20 to 50 years. Federal studies have shown that operations and maintenance account for between 60 and 85 percent of total costs of ownership.

A 2004 study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) estimated the efficiency losses in the U.S. capital facilities industry from inadequate interoperability among CAD, engineering, and software systems. According to that study approximately $15.8 billion in annual costs of inadequate interoperability in the U.S. capital facilities industry in 2002. Of these costs, two-thirds are borne by owners and operators, who incur them predominantly during ongoing facility operation and maintenance. Examples of inefficiencies resulting from inadequate interoperability include manual re-entry of data, duplication of business functions, and the continued reliance on paper-based information management systems.
BIM's shared platform eliminates these concerns and results in increase productivity and significant cost savings for facility operators.

From The U.S. Energy Information Administration Webpage 
"Eighty-two percent of all greenhouse gas emitted by human activity is energy-related carbon dioxide. Since 1990, 48 percent of the increase in U.S. carbon emissions can be attributed to increasing emissions from the building sector."


  1. This post is really informative and useful!
    3D modeling

  2. So, other than the Mechanical detail of BIM, is there any other difference between BIM and a 3D Model? is it only the extent of the detail? Can a CAD 3D model with detailed mechanical information be considered BIM?

    The answer is just not clear from this post.

    1. BIM is not necessarily synonymous with 3D models. BIM systems can actually exist without CAD or 3D models. I've seen BIM programs established on spreadsheets.