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BIM's Window of Opportunity

With a major building information modeling platform embracing acoustics and more, the time is right to build new bridges between AV and architecture. AV consultant Thom Mullins, CTS, explains what it will take.

Assuming we have the technological capability to share, that is. One of the Revit Ecotect images I saw recently showed lighting levels in a model. It looked remarkably like the plots of direct-field loudspeaker coverage we might find in EASE or Modeler. Are either of those programs ready to interface with Revit or Ecotect to transfer information back and forth? How easy will it be to bring data from an acoustical modeling package into Revit for presentation to a client, or to assist in adapting the architecture? Pushing the point even further, will it be possible to enter pertinent data about a projector, a projection screen, and an audience viewing plane into such a program in order to accurately predict how an audience will perceive an image? Will we be able to predict contrast ratio for any seat in the house?

You might say, "No, we can't do that," but you can bet owners and architects will want that information. They'll want us to demonstrate, in a model of their room, the differences in image quality between two projection technologies on a variety of screens. Are projector manufacturers up to providing that? How about projection screen manufacturers? Ecotect is able to generate a model of radiance in a space-basically how light is reflected in a room based on ambient light and the reflectance properties of materials. The AV industry must be able to feed meaningful information into those models.

The hope is we can eventually make it easy to transfer information back and forth between our modeling programs and BIM programs. Already, albeit with some headache and adequate file preparation beforehand, we can get bring a 3D DXF file into EASE, but it is neither easy nor intuitive. A Revit model consists of complex objects that must be blown up, sifted through, and reduced to the essential information needed by EASE. Otherwise, you can end up spending hours in EASE trying to sort out what stays and what doesn't.

It happened to me recently on a high school auditorium project. I spent close to a day-and-a-half wrestling with data before I found an approach that worked well: EASE recently came out with the ability to import a Sketch Up model. But much longer will it take to create a smooth interface with BIM software? AFMG, Bose, and Odeon need to step forward and show what we're capable of after all these years. We in AV have a lot of experience to share.

We'll make it, I'm sure. But there's going to be a lot of groaning in the meantime.

Thom Mullins is senior consultant with BRC Acoustics & Consulting in Seattle

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