Hand drawing to BIM: NFPA codes and the AEC industry

Blog Post created by laurenbackstrom Employee on Apr 30, 2012

Hand drawingThe march of technological progress has left its footprints on the design, construction, and operation of buildings and facilities. It is easy to find video evidence on YouTube of the converts — architects, engineers, and facility managers — using new software solutions that can handle the sheer volume of information required for new projects.

The process of Business Information Modeling (BIM) has been around for as long as we’ve had buildings, but, increasingly, the term BIM has become shorthand in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry for the software that greatly streamlines that process.

In essence, BIM software provides a set of rules to govern large data sets from a wide variety of systems and render it in a way that humans can easily control. Think of it as the autopilot on the new Airbus A380. The pilots can control highly complex systems with an analog of the control interfaces of the earliest airplanes: the stick and rudder. There’s a lot going on under the hood — too much for a small team to reasonably manage — so the computer handles a lot of the routine work, letting the pilots make the strategic decisions.

This is a lot like what NFPA codes provide for their users:  sets of rules that govern large datasets (wood sheds to skyscrapers, rockets to cargo ships) to make it easy to design and operate systems for safety. Time and cost savings are available if designers, builders, and operators don’t have to reinvent the process. The code outlines the safe practice, allowing more time to be spent on functional design, aesthetics, and practicality for the client.

Our next challenge is to take these two logically aligned concepts and bring them together. We’re starting to delve into the needs of our members and customers to figure out how you want to use codes and BIM software together. If you have a perspective on this, drop in a comment.

-Sam Driver