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Expert Viewpoint: The New Face of Design

Aug 10, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jon Melchin

What Building Information Modeling means for the AV industry.

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AV products are considered building components, and in the eyes of a construction professional, manufacturers of AV products are building product manufacturers, not AV companies. The information in the building model can be very helpful to those AV providers.

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First of all, the ability to visualize the physical aspects of the AV products incorporated into the space—such as video display size and location, loudspeaker configurations, projector mounting locations, equipment rack layouts, and head-end equipment locales—is very valuable. To then be able to share all of that information in collaboration and coordination with architects, interior designers, and other construction professionals is beneficial in several ways. Space and system-routing conflicts can be identified, as well as ascertaining clear cable pathways and projector and camera sightlines.

Visual simulation can also detect potential problems, such as natural daylight designs that compromise video display clarity. Control-system software can be coordinated within the model so that the control system can be effectively demonstrated for multimedia, volume, lighting, projection screen, and HVAC applications. Again, the data embedded behind each AV product could also include environmental information, such as recycled content or low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This could help determine implications of green initiatives for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification requirements. BIM tools offer analysis of the performance of energy-efficiency elements and sustainable materials.

The benefits of BIM go beyond the construction phase. Once the building is completed, facility-management professionals can rely on BIM's potential for life-cycle analysis, performance assessment, and routine maintenance. The model stays with the building for its entire life. AV products in the model can be accessed for product information; warranty, operational, and troubleshooting procedures; and establishing additional components needed for future upgrades should application requirements change.

AV professionals will soon see that BIM will affect their world. At the least, BIM projects will require that AV is involved earlier in the design process. That can be a real advantage for AV product manufacturers, consultants, and systems integrators alike. Traditionally, AV has been an afterthought, but now with BIM, it's an integral aspect of the structure.

BIM Helping Hands

Now is the time for AV manufacturers to be BIM-ready. Other AV professionals need to be BIM-savvy, and there are companies that are ready to help. Indeed, several AV manufacturers are taking advantage of opportunities offered by firms that can provide assistance in getting found, selected, "BIM'd," and specified by the architectural community.

One such company is ARCAT, a Shelton, Conn.-based publisher of an online informational resource that offers building product manufacturers a profile page on its website, which allows architects, engineers, and designers easy access to the products that they're looking for when working on a project. ARCAT will list the products on the manufacturer's profile page, as well as all the tools the architect will need to detail the products into the job, including manufacturer specifications, BIM object renderings, and all the information embedded behind the BIM object.

So you can imagine the possibilities with BIM—the ability to quantify construction materials required for the project during the preliminary design phases. Imagine fewer change orders because owners can walk through an exact 3D model of the building. Imagine the sights, sounds, and performance of that building, including the AV systems incorporated in it, before the first shovelful of dirt is thrown.

Welcome to the new face of design; its name is BIM.

Jon Melchin, CSI, is an SVC columnist and serves on InfoComm International's Green AV Task Force. He is an advocate of green building initiatives and Building Information Modeling practices. He can be reached at

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