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Message From the President: BIM in a Tilt-Up World

If you have read any AEC trade magazines in the past few years, you have probably seen the acronym BIM – which stands for Building Information Modeling. At the recent TCA Convention in College Park, Md, speaker Jeff Needham described BIM as a three- dimensional, a four-dimensional, or even a five-dimensional database. Yet, the present-day reality of the construction industry is that three-dimensional buildings are constructed from two-dimensional plans. So, you might ask, how can contractors use the fourth- and fifth-dimensions to build faster, less expensive, and better facilities? And what about BIM’s uses after a project is constructed?

In the structural steel industry, BIM is used everyday by steel detailers and fabricators. Steel detailers are drawing three-dimensional models with data (i.e. the fourth-dimension) assigned to every line, and then using software applications to create bills of materials and detailed fabrication drawings. The use of BIM leads to expedited shop drawing production as well as improved quality control.

Much the same way, BIM can be used by Tilt-Up designers and contractors today. In the past, wall panels and their openings were represented by simple line work in CAD drawings. In a three-dimensional structural model, wall panels are represented by shapes that have height, width, and thickness. Additional properties (i.e. the fourth-dimension) such as panel number and concrete strength can also be assigned to each panel. Upon completion of the structural BIM, bills of materials regarding concrete quantities, forming and rustication materials, insulation quantities, and steel embedments can be readily produced in addition to the conventional two-dimensional detail drawings. Geometrical information for each panel such as panel weight and horizontal and vertical centers of gravity (important information to the lifting designer) can also be obtained from a complete structural BIM.

While today’s BIM can aid the design and construction team for the short term, it is my belief that the BIM of tomorrow will be used by building owners throughout the life of a facility. Imagine a multi- discipline BIM, that in addition to knowing every beam size and panel thickness also has data about every mechanical system, electrical fixture, piece of door hardware, etc. By building the fifth-dimension of time into the BIM, owners will eventually use BIM-related software to manage their individual properties. Maintenance manuals will become part of the BIM database, and routine maintenance programs will begin to happen on an automated schedule. One owner who I heard speak at a recent conference in Philadelphia is evaluating BIM for this very use by modeling its existing facilities in order to know the data requirements for a BIM deliverable on future new construction projects.

While BIM may be in its infancy, it is clear that its use is becoming increasingly more popular. As Tilt-Up professionals, we should work to keep ahead of the curve and examine ways to incorporate BIM into our project. It is important for the vitality of our industry that we embrace new trends and investigate methods for constantly improving Tilt-Up design and construction.


David Tomasula, President

TCA Board of Directors

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.