July 13, 2017

BIM in HVACR: Caleffi products are completely functional models

The BIM families made by Caleffi have a high standard of detail and top-of-the-line quality. They can be used with Revit compute functions or other dimensioning software programmes.

Caleffi develops and manufactures components for heating systems, air-conditioning systems, plumbing installations, heat metering systems and specific components for renewable-energy installations. A major player on the Italian market, in 2016 the company had over 1,000 staff members on its payroll, deployed between the Italian headquarters and its foreign branches. Its products are available in more than 70 different countries, with a turnover in excess of 300 million Euros.

An idea took root a few months ago - that of a comprehensive top-quality BIM catalogue to be an essential strategic asset in the development of new business opportunities and to serve existing customers even better. At a meeting held at the Polytechnic University of Milan as part of the BIM Manager Master programme “BIM - Methods, Models and Applications”, Caleffi was delighted to have the opportunity to share its design experience with a student audience.


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Walter Bertona, Caleffi’s BIM Project Leader, took the floor to explain how the project had first been conceived and how it had evolved. “What started it all off were requests coming in from other countries which had a greater awareness of the need and potential of BIM. This caused us to look into what was happening out there and what was already available, after which we thought about how we could set up and run our own pilot project”. Bertona then added “Once the first benchmarking and analysis work was over, we got the project off the ground. We created a standard-model database for reference purposes and used it to make specific changes for each single target market.”

Bertona emphasised that the BIM families produced have an extraordinarily high standard of detail and outstanding quality, which means they can be used with Revit computing functions or other dimensioning software programmes.

“This is what gives us a competitive edge - and not just in Italy. Our products are not 3D models equipped with some data, they are completely functional models.” Bertona stated.

(We are remodelling our working Research Centre Heating System in Revit)

We also made a very important strategic decision: setting up a dedicated in-house library - which was entirely in line with Caleffi's traditional approach of acquiring new know-how and restructuring it before making it available once again.”

Having such a comprehensive BIM catalogue had the added advantage of cutting costs when acquiring a new “customer”, not only for Caleffi but also for the designer or the construction company choosing to use BIM.

Bertona then handed over the floor to Stefano Carini, who is in charge of the execution of the project, i.e. building the actual models together with the Technical Department. Here we got to the heart of the matter and had a chance to understand how the Caleffi BIM families were created and what problems emerged in the process.

Caleffi decided to go way beyond exporting and reprocessing existing CAD files. It wanted to create the families in Revit natively to achieve a high level of detail while keeping the file weight to a minimum (a project can contain hundreds of files, so that each one of them cannot weigh more than a few dozens KBs).

Six months later, Caleffi went back to the Polytechnic University of Milan for a meeting aimed at taking stock of the BIM situation in Italy.

Many great minds came together in the Polytechnic working group led by Professor Gianni Utica from the Department of Architecture, Built Environment and Construction Engineering, under whose supervision the 2nd level Master course on BIM was set up. Caleffi plays an active role in this project, sharing its experience as an Italian manufacturer that is actively involved with BIM.

The various contributions allowed us to get a complete picture of the situation in Italy. The starting point was a quote from Scott Simpson, FAIA, KlingStubbins, who said that “BIM is 10% technology, 90% sociology”.

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This might sound like an audacious and trite statement, but it is incredibly true. Taking a different approach in psychological and operational terms is a key factor, and the involvement and collaboration of the various professional profiles in a construction project is absolutely crucial.

Collaboration does not only mean teamwork between the various internal department in a company, it means involving the institutions (regional bodies, committees, governmental institutions and regulatory bodies) and third parties to ensure that all goes smoothly throughout. This involvement extends to normal citizens in the case of public works. The term “smart worksite” has been coined and what it means is a careful management of conservative maintenance activities and new building projects that takes into account the needs of the ordinary citizen. This kind of awareness can be achieved with the application of the BIM methodology: knowing beforehand how to manage space, materials, deliveries, equipment, people and design phases is a clear advantage. It allows us to improve overall management levels and reduce negative impact on city life.

BIM means reorganising ourselves quickly (this applies to the public sector but even more to the private one). The attendees were able to confirm this and gave some interesting contributions to back it up. It emerged that many prestigious design firms are overhauling their organisational charts and reviewing their work processes by taking on new specialised personnel (BIM managers, BIM modellers and BIM specialists) who are required to work alongside experts with a more traditional mindset. The projects to be handled with BIM methodology and the ones that can still be run with traditional methods will be defined based on a number of relevant factors. Because even though BIM is here to stay, the traditional CAD technologies are not going away overnight.

Building on that framework, the attention was focused on the various components and installations which make up any architectural project: a BIM project will only work if manufacturers decide to join in and provide functional models which can be integrated into a larger dimensioning system for the definition of costs and work specifications. Caleffi has been working flat-out for some years now, but it is essential to keep on developing and fine-tuning our results to reach the target.