The BIM approach
Alucobond met Polantis in 2013, and its BIM approach was special because it was developed in two phases.
The decision was made to create a model for the manufacturer’s panels, first of all by developing shades or textures. The objective was for users to be able to view the aesthetic qualities of the Alucobond products in the work that they were currently designing.
In 2016, with many shaders produced and with Alucobond understanding the designers’ interest, the teams opted for the creation of 3 facade panels.
What’s the advantage of downloading a complete Alucobond system? The ability to integrate a panel into the digital model and combine a texture in it in order to:
Throughout the modeling process, Polantis found in Alucobond’s German teams an attentive interlocutor that was careful to respond to the expectations of the user.
Shader modeling for Revit
In 2013, the chief architect of the Alucobond project at Polantis visited the Alucobond factory in Singen to learn about the history of the manufacturer, its manfacturing processes, and the attention paid to the quality of the designs created for facades.
Once production began, back and forth communication between Alucobond and Polantis were mandatory for adjusting the level of realism and specificity of the colors in order to achieve a perfect rendering. The shader modeling was created thanks to the catalog of refererences and the samples scanned which were provided to the architecture team by the manufacturer.
Modeling of shaders for Archicad
In 2016, Alucobond asked Polantis to develop a range of textures first created for Revit for the ArchiCAD software program.
The team dedicated to the Archicad program then took on the project. It was necessary to go back practically to the starting point to recreate each of the 94 textures: it was possible to retrieve the elements since they were RAL, the scale of the textures, and the dimensions of the designs.
Modeling the most elaborate textures was done from the Archicad rendering engine: the CineRender. In the same way as Revit, the level of difficulty varied according to the complexity of the texture: metallic aspects, fresnel effects, reliefs, etc.
The advantage of ArchiCAD is that CineRender is a very high-performance rendering engine, so the user can stay within the software and observe the aesthetic qualities of the product, without having to open up a third-party software program, so it’s easier to view the textures.
When it became involved in a second phase, the team in charge of modeling in ArchiCad suggested to Alucobond to allow the user to download by packs: several shades of the same line available at a single time.
This simpler operation was adopted by the modeling team for Revit.
Modeling of the panels
Three years later, with the textures modeled, Alucobond asked Polantis architects to work on the “background”, or rather, “backstage”. How many panels, how many slabs were there behind a texture applied onto a given surface? What was going on behind the texture?
Modeled facades are a real time-saver for designers, who can try out several possibilities in the drafting phase, with the use of an automatic tile layout calculation and the chance to visualize the applied colors.
First, the team examined the level of detail desired, and it was agreed that three would be developed:
Four layers can be distinguished by modeling the panel with the highest level of detail:
Modeling of panels for ArchiCAD
In order to offer its BIM solution to a maximum number of users, in 2016, Alucobond also chose to offer a range of its systems for ArchiCAD.
The architects in charge of the project therefore produced:
It is interesting to observe that in ArchiCad, the BIM’d product is considered a parametric object while in Revit, it is considered a system object.
The desire to serve a maximum number of prescribers
The two software programs do not at all have the same functions, therefore it wasn’t easy for the Polantis teams to reflect on the modeling of Alucobond products in the same way. So the two teams worked independently from one another.
Over the past months, on Polantis, downloads in BIM formats are distributed between formats as follows:
Revit totaled 47.3% of the downloads, so it is common for manufacturers to start their BIM approach by having their product modeled on that software program. However, modeling in ArchiCad is more and more commonly requested by manufacturers.
The BIM approach
In September 2015, Polantis put the Rector CAD and BIM products online: the “ThermoPreslab and Masonry Wall” and the “ThermoPreslab and ThermoPrewall”.
What makes the manufacturer’s products unique? A part of the system is designed in the factory (with integrated iron framework) and the concrete part is poured at the construction site.
The outcome? Easier assembly and incomparable construction quality, specifically with very strong thermal performance (no thermal bridges).
For Polantis, modeling Rector’s systems was a challenge: how do you design a multilayer object and ensure that it is perfectly adapted to the project?
Test 1: “the super product”
With Rector’s full collaboration, the team of architects in charge of the project launched a study in order to determine the best way of understanding product modeling.
First, it was understood that the walls and flooring would be treated in the same way because the construction system was the same.
Next, the teams decided to create a super product. The iron framework would be distributed automatically in the part treated: this was the insurance that the product would be represented from “the inside” with all of the elements that constitute it.
However, very quickly, the team discovered several obstacles to modeling this product.
The iron framework, which became parameter-adjustable, could not be properly integrated with complex-shaped parts and was not adaptable to all types of surfaces.
What’s more, the Rector iron framework integrates into two principal layers of the system, which could not be parameter-adjustable in Revit.
Lastly, the question was raised regarding the premier user of the products: an architect did not have any utility to exploit this super product which, in addition to being slow to load in the model, included information that was more useful in design offices.
The study, therefore, revealed that this product was too elaborate.
A multilayer system
In parallel to the meeting with Rector, Polantis began to collaborate with Siplast (a specialist in impermeability). As the two products are successive layers of insulation, the reflection for modeling the Siplast products was also useful for reflections on Rector products.
Similarly, the agreement was to design a .rvt format system in which these layers would be represented: the insulation layer, the concrete layer, etc. The iron framework would no longer be represented on 3D elements, but on 2D elements and on other visuals provided with the product when it is downloaded.
The difference between the .rvt format and the .rfa format
On a Revit project, the model is made in .rvt: it brings together all the elements of the project; in some respects, it is the anatomy of the building. The .rvt format model includes the nomenclature, materials, parameters, geolocation…all possible information. With all this information included, it is possible to communicate with the other trades involved in the design & build chain.
An object in the .rfa format belongs in fact to a Revit family. These are objects that can be taken and then simply moved, like a window, a chair, or a lighting fixture. We talk about them in terms of family because there is an organization between such objects: some are parents while others are the children or grandchildren.
The major interest in having designed the Rector system in the .rvt format resides in the fact that it can, unlike the .rfa format, contain information in the form of text or image files.
The “I” in BIM stands for Information
For example, modeling an .rvt object lets you integrate the iron framework layer into the system, not in terms of its geometry but in terms of its information.
This proved to be particularly necessary because, for example, if it was integrated into the product in the form of a layer, without, however, its parameters set by the Polantis teams, it would be up to the architect to decide how to place the iron framework, thereby involving the architect’s liability in the event of a calculation error.
The importance of the information provided is at a maximum in the case of the Rector BIM objects: in order not to overload the digital model, the product is visually “lightened” and represented more simply, but all of its qualities, its placement mode, unique points and performance information, and standards are associated with the object at the time of downloading.
A “hub” object
In order to best exploit this informational dimension, the agreement with Rector was to conceive of the modeled systems as “hubs”:
Information on acoustic, seismic, and fire-resistance performance
The BIM for all the actors involved in construction
Ultimately, this “hub object” proposed by Rector works to serve all the users of the Design & Build chain perfectly. Here is a list of the actors who are concerned with BIM objects:
To be useful for an ever growing number of actors, the Rector BIM objects are also available for the ArchiCAD software program. The objects modeled for Allplan are currently in production by the Polantis teams.
The objective of the BIM approach
In October 2012, Polantis put online 29 brick textures designed for Wienerberger.
This incomparable specialist in terracotta began a BIM approach for a large panel of products: from traditional colored brick to more elaborate effects, and naturally-colored materials.
The goal for Wienerberger, a leader in terracotta, was to confirm its leadership position by putting itself at the cutting edge of innovation.
The issue for the team of architects in charge of the project at Polantis was as follows: with the wall covering being the first view of a project, it was imperative to reproduce with complete accuracy the aesthetic properties of the Wienerberger products.
The documentation provided by Wienerberger
Wienerberger provided Polantis with several sources with which to work: sometimes the photograph of a part of a wall, sometimes the photograph of an area of bricks superimposed but without joints, and other times views of the building in perspective.
The first action taken by the team of architects in charge of the project was to cut out and isolate each brick present in the photograph in order to keep its specific qualities in order to continue to showcase the richness of the material.
It was also necessary to “flatten” the views in perspective so that the user could perceive in total specificity the sizes and formats of the bricks modeled.
The 3D representation
There are four types of BIM objects: the simple object (for furnishings for example), the parametric object (for a product with variable dimensions), the system (for a product composed of several elements and variable dimensions) and the texture (for wall or floor covering, for example).
Wienerberger products are textures: what was needed was to represent a wallpaper that would be applied to a given geometry.
Because the bricks could not be modeled and assembled one by one, since this would be too fastidious, the architectural team designed an infinite texture that could be applied with a click on any wall whatsoever.
An infinite texture
An architect who wishes to apply a given texture could be satisfied with cutting and pasting an image of a “brick” taken randomly from an online catalog: the repetition would be noticeable and the resulting effect would not be natural.
The Polantis teams worked in Photoshop in order to adapt the texture in such a way that it would react like a real assembly of bricks.
The shader, a combination of layers
The term “shader” is used when there is a combination of several textures.
A well-made shader always combines 5 elements:
On the Wienerberger page presented on the Polantis platform, all of these elements are presented next to the shader so that the experienced user can have a glimpse of what is found in the .zip he or she downloads.
This information allows prescribers to obtain in detail how the shader to be applied to projects is composed.
The final informational element accompanying the shader is a view from the Wienerberger catalogue: this will allow the user to note the absoluteness of the resemblance between the given file and the real object.
Exchanges with Wienerberger
The work of the Polantis architects was validated after a meticulous study by teams working with this specialist in terracotta. The attention on the part of the manufacturer was above all devoted to the realistic effect of the shaders. Certain elements had to be modified:
The architect and the client
These points merited a high level of interest because the architect needed the project presented to his client using his software to be highly faithful to reality, so the image and the rendering were prioritized.
This fidelity allowed the client to identify with the result and validate the project more easily.
In the case of BIM, it is commonly said that the digital model allows one to “build before building”, so to present an object with realistic aesthetic qualities helps the architect and his client engage in more constructive exchanges.
The objective of the BIM process
In March 2015, Enveloppe Métallique du Bâtiment (ex. SNPPA) met Polantis.
The objective of this syndicate was to allow its members to see their products integrated into projects created in BIM. To do this, Polantis had to model a selection of generic products among those most currently used in construction.
Enveloppe Métallique du Bâtiment choice was based on 58 construction systems: cladding, panels, covers, etc., to be provided before November, 2015, for presentation at the World of Construction (Batimat).
A unique client and BIM approach
So then Polantis teams asked themselves: “What information is to be submitted to the user for a generic product?”, “How can a synthesis of several products with a diversity of technical qualities be achieved?”, “How to create objects intended to meet the needs of several manufacturers, sometimes even competitors?”…
A revealing pilot project
As a pilot project, a first test object was created to validate this process: the Polantis team of architects modeled a clad on Revit and produced its composition table.
This object was created with some difficulty. In fact, the team had worked using documentation that was very extensive, perhaps too extensive, and presented in diagrams in which there was neither a legend, a scale, nor dimensions.
Horizontal double skin clad: the diagram of an angle
The need for a specific and hierarchically laid-out documentation
Polantis then asked Enveloppe Métallique du Bâtiment for more documentation: Autocad files, detailed diagrams, factory plans, etc. This was a request for specific and hierarchically laid-out information that the manufacturers could have easily provided but that the syndicate, unfortunately, did not have.
With the help of Polantis, a lot of work was then undertaken by Enveloppe Métallique du Bâtiment to gather together the documentation, sort it, annotate it, and organize it. For each product, the syndicate had to provide an informational sheet complete with designs where all fundamentally important information appeared.
A document provided by the syndicate
To facilitate this process, the team of architects and the expert from Enveloppe Métallique du Bâtimentp made the decision to work together.
Half-day meetings were held bi-monthly. The work was organized according to the steps opposite. First, the expert corrected one or two products, and during corrections, he explained the construction principle of the type of product in question. This allowed the architect who was project lead to understand the product and better represents it when she was making her cuts. These exchanges also allowed her to understand what she needed to hide, or on the contrary, show about the object. After the session, similar products were treated independently and sent back to the expert for validation. The following session concerned another category of products.
The expert also took advantage of this work to understand the possibilities and the limits of the CAD and BIM software programs on which the team of architects was working: each person took away from these exchanges more competence about the project, and also a better understanding of the professional task.
Lastly, beyond the architectural work, this collaboration between the syndicate expert and Polantis architects was important in the absence of an industrial guarantor of its products. Indeed, the presence of the expert was necessary to shoulder the responsibility of the products designed, to verify their faithfulness to the reality, and to attest that each member of the syndicate can “be found” in generic products.
It was under this monitoring that Polantis could guarantee the satisfaction of the members.
In BIM (Building Information Modeling), one element is Information. A BIM object is partly the visual representation and manipulation of the model and partly Information (standards, material resistance, thermal performances, etc.).
This information, linked to the product, informs the entire chain from design to building maintenance: it can be consulted by each of the actors.
Composition tables, unique points
First were treated the specific situation in which the products in building phase can be integrated and the way they reacted. The objective: the final user could then have access to a solution for most of the uses he or she may have for the products modeled.
A composition table
This stage was of fundamental importance for the proper usage of the products. Indeed, designing these unique points with such precision allowed them to better perform their function: integration directly into the plans of the CAD and BIM software programs, at scale to understand which detail size is designed, and ensure compliance with placement coherence on the work site, thanks to the organization of legends.
Mastering the information
Regarding the information contained in the products, Polantis shared the expectations of the final user (the architect, the designer, the engineer, etc.) with the syndicate. At the moment of design, what information should be provided to take the best advantage of the BIM? Enveloppe Métallique du Bâtiment teams were able to respond by completing an excel file submitted to them.
In addition, and upon request by the syndicate, users should find this information attached to a diagram outside of the digital model. According to Enveloppe Métallique du Bâtiment, by using this, a user who does not master a BIM software program could ensure that the information was properly linked with the product.
The organization of the information
To best explain the product to the user, the syndicate also thought about how the information was organized.
For example, to be as learner-friendly as possible, a color code was submitted to the Polantis team of architects to enable the user to best visualize the construction principle of each unique point:
– Red for fastenings,
– Blue for spacers,
– Green for finishing parts.
For the same reason, the pictograms below were designed to present regulatory information about the product: the user should be able to click to directly access the site of Enveloppe Métallique du Bâtiment.
There are four types of BIM objects: texture (for wall or floor covering, for example), the actual object (for furnishings, for example), the parametric object (for a product with variable dimensions) and the system (for a product composed of several elements or with variable dimensions).
Based on the request by Metallic Envelop and following a preliminary study, the Polantis team of architects opted to create systems. A BIM system has the advantage of being able to integrate into the quasi-totality of projects and digital models, and it offers a remarkable degree of flexibility.
The 3D product models were worked on in CAD with maximum 3DS for a rendering that perfectly matches the reality, with an extremely well-developed control process, all the way up to a study of the dowels and fastenings.
The product’s faithfulness with respect to reality is also translated into its compliance with the regulation. In the same way that the product is designed according to regulation, its digital avatar complies with standards. For example, for the type of cladding below, construction regulations (interaxial between two IPEs) or types of insulation (rockwool or polyurethane) combined with the product needed to be modeled.
The question of what is visible and what is invisible was also raised: what did Polantis need to show the user? Roughly speaking, Enveloppe Métallique du Bâtiment chose to show the composition of the product in its totality, showing the various elements that constitute the product.
For the example above, moving from left to right, you can distinguish:
The task, therefore, was to translate a real product into a digital system, going from tangible to digital.
A rewarding collaboration
In conclusion, the 58 products that are now available were designed by combining the expertise of Polantis architects and the desire of Enveloppe Métallique du Bâtiment to fully address its members’ needs.
The ultimate proof of the success of this operation: Metallic Envelop received the Industrial Silver BIM during the “BIM d’Or” awards ceremony organized by Le Moniteur magazine.
Today, the BIM process is still underway: Enveloppe Métallique du Bâtiment teams and industrial members are working with Polantis to improve these generic BIM objects thanks to the feedback given by BIM professionals and experts.