Company Spotlight: Schwank UK

Company Spotlight - Schwank

Company Spotlight does exactly what it says on the proverbial tin. Learn all about the history, BIM journey and latest Building Information Modelling developments of some of the industry’s most-recognised names. In the final Company Spotlight of 2014, we look at Heating Products manufacturer Schwank UK. In their spotlight, UK Managing Director, Steve Sherman discusses why the company’s heaters become BIM-enabled.

A look through the HVAC sector trade media will show you that BIM is taken very seriously by the industry, with at least two or three articles a month on the subject.

The need for building services like HVAC to ensure that products and systems become BIM enabled will be even more urgent in 2016. That is when all public sector centrally procured construction projects will have to be delivered using BIM. The UK government Industry Strategy Report has identified that “BIM is a key agent for economic growth in both domestic and international markets”.

BIM requires a high degree of collaboration, which must include those supplying building services such as heating systems. This means that each heating system component supplied for new build or retrofit projects will increasingly need to be BIM enabled in order to meet project specifier demands.

As a world leading manufacturer of gas-fired infrared radiant heating systems, Schwank carries out major installations across a range of construction projects from industrial and commercial buildings to sports stadiums. We have become increasingly aware over the past few years of customer requirements for BIM based solutions and have been determined to meet the demand.

The initial requests came via our North American offices, but subsequently a growing requirement has been seen in the UK, followed by Australia and New Zealand. In our experience, the English speaking nations have been quicker to call for BIM enabled heating product information than other countries worldwide. In response to these developments we set up a working party of Schwank representatives from North America, the UK and our head office in Germany.

Schwank manufactures a wide range of luminous (plaque) heaters, tube heaters and other products, and it was necessary to use both metric and imperial measurements to cater for the different requirements of Europe and the US. Power supply was an additional variation to be factored in, with 24 volts in the US as opposed to 240 volts in Europe. So there were a number of challenges in making our products downloadable and viewable using Revit® BIM enabling software.

We felt that it was vital to provide BIM solutions for the majority of our products as opposed to introducing the development in stages. With a significant number of heating products to incorporate, the project took about a year to achieve, with experts from the US providing the initial drawings and templates and design specialists from both the US and Germany taking over from there. As would be the case with most companies, the Schwank working party members also had day-to-day work commitments, so had to balance the BIM enablement programme with their core activities.

Schwank recognises that BIM is a fantastic tool for building and construction, lowering costs, speeding project delivery, enhancing design, reducing waste and improving energy efficiency. BIM data can record the entire building life cycle from design to demolition and reuse of materials.

For heating systems, BIM creates both scaled 3D physical representations of the equipment to be installed and details of all factors relevant to their operation. Designers can therefore bring in these systems when defining the visual characteristics of the infrastructure. Additionally, heating system information will determine performance, energy efficiency and other key factors relating to the whole life of the building.

Naturally, many large consulting firms, architects, designers and developers are eager to see a speedy universal adoption of BIM. For instance, a major developer of distribution centres now insists that all infrastructure elements must incorporate BIM enabled design. More and more manufacturers are getting involved, but we believe that it will be some time before it is an established norm in building services.

The reason for this is that the high level of investment required is deterring many smaller businesses from opting in. The process of turning 2D CAD drawings into 3D requires specialist skills which can be expensive to acquire. This, together with the time involved in a BIM changeover, can tempt many companies to push the issue onto the back burner.

However, in May 2014 the Industrial and Commercial Energy Association (ICOM) launched a new BIM working group in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) to produce Product Data Templates (PDTs) for the non-domestic heating industry. The aim is to enable ICOM members “to make their product information available in a format that is usable on all Building Information Modelling platforms”. This would certainly be helpful in reducing the time allocation and investment costs required for BIM adoption.

We believe for the HVAC sector, and particularly after the government’s BIM deadline in 2016, will reap significant ROI benefits from embracing BIM. For our part, we at Schwank are fully committed to the BIM process.

For more information on Schwank’s BIM offering for Autodesk Revit, click here to take you to their official website. Alternatively, follow them on Twitter @SchwankUK.

Join us in the new year for the next instalment of Company Spotlight!