Medical Equipment and BIM: Advancing the Planning Process with Building Information Modeling

By Linehan, Michael; Andress, Brandon | Health Facilities Management, November 2013 | Go to article overview

Medical Equipment and BIM: Advancing the Planning Process with Building Information Modeling


Linehan, Michael, Andress, Brandon, Health Facilities Management


As medical technologies become more complex, construction and renovation projects are testing the mettle of a health care facility's design team.

Hybrid imaging suites, robotic surgery operating rooms (ORs), and automation for pharmacies and clinical laboratories all present their own set of technical, financial, structural and logistical challenges.

Because of the unique demands these systems present, selecting a qualified medical equipment planner--one with forward thinking technologies at his or her fingertips--is critical to success.

A quantum leap

Gaining attention in the world of medical equipment planning is building information modeling (BIM). A quantum leap from traditional architectural planning, BIM is a method of digital design that allows knowledge-sharing among the design team, contractor and hospital throughout the design and construction process.

BIM allows the design team to collaborate on a central model, with each member working independently and collectively. Changes can be realized simultaneously by each team member and coordinated with better efficiency. BIM captures each facet of a facility's design as a series of objects--from the simplest computer cart to the most complicated imaging equipment--and gives each its own set of attributes.

Information about size, weight, spatial requirements, manufacturer's details and even cost can be embedded into a BIM object. Because a multitude of attributes can be contained in a BIM virtual-construction process, no information is lost in translation when it is passed from the design team to the contractor.

The medical equipment planner should be brought on as early as possible on a BIM-related project. The methods of delivery for project data should be discussed and agreed upon with the design team and hospital at the beginning of the process. The medical equipment should be placed into the BIM model during schematic design to allow faster detection of spatial restrictions. This will reduce the risk of construction rework or major redesign in the later project stages, thereby avoiding extra costs due to lack of coordination and communication.

Unlike traditional 2-D computer-aided design (CAD), the elements of design in BIM are referred to as "families" rather than "blocks." A BIM family is a spatial and informational representation of an object that can range from a simple physical representation of the space an item occupies, to full-on shop drawings that can contain cost, electrical and other requirements. It is these parameters that BIM uses to generate schedules and create reports that give the architects, medical equipment planners and hospitals timely and more complete information.

Currently, some medical equipment manufacturers have the capability to provide in-house BIM "families" to planners and architects, while other manufacturers outsource the task to a third party on an as-needed basis. However, if a manufacturer cannot provide a BIM family, the equipment planner must create one that meets the level of development (LOD) expectations of the hospital [see sidebar].

Each equipment family included in the BIM model can contain a vast amount of information, and it is often necessary to use additional software to utilize this information efficiently. While there are only a few manufacturers of design software for BIM, there are a multitude of third-party software manufacturers providing tools that integrate the information contained in the BIM model. Clash detection, scheduling and budgeting software are among those available to allow integration of BIM data. Integration with project management tools also is now possible.

In the past, equipment planners would utilize 2-D floor plans to show equipment placement within the project, but BIM can project these plans into the third dimension. Not only can 3-D still pictures be used to present planned spaces to users, but BIM also can generate visual walk-throughs of entire medical facilities. …

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