How Using Building Information Modeling Makes Things Better

The science of engineering appeals to me for many reasons. I like solving problems. I like to create. I like to look at the glass half full and wonder if a smaller glass would be more effective.

I’m not as interested in counting things.

I realized this at the start of my career. Three or four years after graduating from engineering, one of the first jobs I was given at Duke Energy was to count the nuts, bolts and washers in the design we just completed for a new sub -station. They handed me a stack of drawings and said, “Here.”

I was like, “I’m a professional engineer, right? I finished my degree and I am an engineer. And I count the nuts, bolts and washers to make sure we have the right numbers in the field.

I also thought, “This is not the way to go.” So I took a 3D modeling course for Autodesk’s Inventor design software. And the eureka moment happened. Use the program, put the information in the model and it automatically updates your building materials. No more counting nuts, bolts and washers.

That moment ignited the fire that propelled my decades-long career in engineering design. Understanding the software led me to work with others at Duke to develop specifications and processes to help people design the utility assets and rebuilds we needed. We have succeeded in transforming our existing solid standards into intelligent modelling.

Over the years, my former team and other utility engineers have kept pace with changing technology. Together we developed the Substation Design Suite software in collaboration with Autodesk and Automation Force. We have also formed a community called the Substation Design Solution Industry Consortium (SDSIC), composed of member utilities and contract design and engineering companies that have adopted, or are studying for adoption, leading technology software platforms with these software developers.

The consortium establishes common workflows and toolkit functionality, shares libraries and standards, and discusses technology needs and other topics that help vendors develop software to an industry standard. Our motto, “Design, Integrate, Automate”, reflects our commitment to establishing standards to promote the development of common libraries from internal resources, external partners and/or equipment manufacturers.

Thanks to SDSIC and BIM users around the world, the technology I was eager to learn years ago has become more than just a way to eliminate repetitive design tasks. Utilities are now implementing processes based on a single source of accurate information, connected to an intelligent 3D digital model that everyone in their organization can use to do their job, wherever they are in the process.

Yet, despite all these advances BIM has made in terms of efficiency and accuracy, many substation engineers still use 2D tools for design. There are persistent barriers to the adoption of this technology. For BIM champions looking to advance their organization’s design operations, the struggle is real.

Objections that BIM champions often face include:

  • Is BIM worth it?
  • How are we going to pay it?
  • How do we teach staff to use new technologies while doing their “day job”?

I’m so committed to the value of intelligent design that I worked with BIM subject matter experts to write a guide to help utility staff persuade decision makers. It’s called the “Convincing Your Boss” Toolkit. If you are looking for evidence to help you justify and drive a BIM transition in your utility, download our eBook. If you’re facing a problem that the guide didn’t solve, let’s connect. I would be happy to help you. You can reach me at [email protected]

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