BIM and fire protection engineering


Clash detection and commissioning 

For large buildings that have tenant improvements, a BIM could be an ideal tool. Casinos in Las Vegas are continually modifying and improving their environments to stay on top of trends, attract new customers, and maintain loyal customers. Each improvement requires documentation with the local authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ); however, without an overall plan identifying each of the small changes, a building could completely reinvent itself such that compliance becomes questionable.

Figure 2: Manufacturers can provide information about each piece of equipment, including where to find more information. This screenshot of a packaged special suppression system allows users to select the cabinet and its properties and identifies the info

Having a model established for a property allows the owners and designers to understand the impacts to the overall property when even small changes are made. Changing a retail store to a restaurant may not seem like a significant revision. However, if the occupant loads increase beyond available capacity or the kitchen floor drains penetrate an exit passageway below, there may be more costly impacts to the overall building that a model could mitigate. Modeling might be able to identify conflicts or issues with certain design elements early in the design or planning stage. 

The ease of accessing a model rather than drawings applies to many disciplines. Smoke management systems are often designed, tested, and/or commissioned by fire protection engineering specialists. They often involve multiple systems such as sprinkler waterflow switches, smoke detectors, dampers, and fans. Having a well-established and maintained BIM model allows each trade to identify not only its equipment but also the equipment it interacts with.

During commissioning of the smoke management system, it is often difficult to carry around the sprinkler, fire alarm, mechanical, and architectural drawings that show all of the related components. Having a tablet that connects to a cloud model would greatly improve efficiency. As the commissioning commences, portions of the system are marked with the appropriate information about commissioning that takes place directly in the model. Pressure tests and inspection of ducts, fan start-up, and measurements are all directly recorded in the model and associated with the respective equipment. If specific components fail, they can be red-flagged for follow-up. Integration with the model would allow for all the detailed commissioning information to carry on through the life of a building. 

When testing and inspections are complete, the model serves as a database to generate reports of tests conducted and inspections observed. During final testing and commissioning, if portions of a system fail to operate properly, information on specific equipment tests can be viewed directly from the model. After handover, reports of failures from testing and commissioning can be reviewed so that if recurrent problems exist, the system(s) can be modified to correct them. The model can also serve as a database for how the system performed at start-up so future revisions can be evaluated.

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