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Fenestration Forum: April 2011

See it before you build it

April 7, 2011  By Brian Burton

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a subject you’re going to hear a lot about in the fenestration industry.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a subject you’re going to hear a lot about in the fenestration industry. From what I’ve learned about the topic over the last several months, I believe BIM technologies have the potential to be a radical innovation, and I suspect it will alter certain aspects of the fenestration industry very quickly.

In effect, we are moving rapidly towards an era of 3-D and 4-D virtual visualization of design and construction that will enable us to manage, store and update all of the files related to a fenestration product fabrication, design and installation in a single computerized database.

Most knowledgeable experts believe that companies will be able to save time, improve performance and keep better records. This translates into productivity improvements, better service for the end user and increased profitability. These systems give architects the ability to see buildings before they are constructed without building an expensive model.


Although the concept has been around since the late ’70s, I have been told that it really took off when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began using the software extensively. At present, it has mandated the use of BIM when tendering in awarding contracts.

BIM technologies offer many benefits, including:

  • Enabling computer simulations to assess alternative design and construction schemes.
  • Simplifying co-ordination of contract documents and shop drawings to identify and resolve overlap conflicts in advance of construction.
  • Optimizing the sequence of construction, managing logistics and improving communication with subcontractors and other stakeholders.
  • Illustrating the scope of work to subcontractors during the tender stage and eliminating ambiguities, which ultimately reduce costs.

I interviewed Michael Laurie, president of Planit Measuring, a firm that provides onsite building measuring and BIM services. Laurie explained that they can undertake virtual retrofits of windows to demonstrate the potential for energy savings and complete simulations that show the monthly savings for various types of windows. He also mentioned that the cladding can be demonstrated using BIM technology.

According to Laurie, the technology is “capable of transforming how we approach construction. Using BIM programs, you can bring all the stakeholders together in the same room and have a live, interactive dialogue that will accomplish in one day what typically takes months of effort.”

Using BIM, you can perform virtual retrofits of windows to demonstrate potential energy savings. You can visually illustrate potential energy savings and compare results that would be produced from utilizing different kinds of window profiles and glazing materials.

Window companies could show their clients the benefits of replacing windows using demonstrative visual effects. The programs are also capable of producing are what are known as time-lapse daylighting studies, to show certain areas that do not need light filters, as well as demonstrating other performance criteria. However, the programs cannot really demonstrate the added benefit of proper sealing around the window or replacing of defective windows.

Another potential benefit results from the capability of anticipated overlap and scheduling problems.
Canadian Construction Association recently joined forces with other design/construction organizations to form the Institute for Building Information Modeling in Canada (IBC).

The group’s mission is to facilitate co-coordinated BIM use in the creation and management of the Canadian-built environment. Its members represent industry sectors with an interest in seeing BIM implemented in a way that enables the primary stakeholders to understand their roles and responsibilities.•

Brian Burton is a Business Development Consultant for Kleinfeldt Consultants. He can be reached at

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