Notifier creates fire panel BIM models

The company is adapting its panels for new building information modeling trend
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Thursday, June 2, 2011

NORTHFORD, Conn.— Notifier by Honeywell is among those who believe that BIM or building information modeling is likely to take hold in a big way in the fire alarm market. To take advantage of this trend, the company recently created digital content models of its most popular fire alarm control panels.

BIM is information-rich, three-dimensional architectural modeling of a structure, and is increasingly being used to design building projects instead of the traditional 2-D format.

“As a manufacturer, we’ve been seeing a lot of requests for our models to be in the BIM format,” David Correia, product manager for Notifier, which is based here, told Security Systems News.

Notifier says it is the first fire alarm manufacturer with BIM content for its fire panels, which Correia said will better position Notifier dealers/installers to win jobs in which BIM is utilized. “We’re trying to be ahead of the curve,” Correia said.

Notifier as of early this year made BIM-format models available for its core group of addressable fire panels—its ONYX Series and of its FireWarden Series—and models of other panels are expected in the future, he said.

The company said that although they’re newly-released, “Notifier’s BIM files have already encountered nearly 1,000 downloads.”

BIM is essentially a detailed computerized database of every object a building being designed will have in it, according to Correia and Steve Jones, senior director of business development of New York City-based McGraw-Hill Construction and a consultant for Notifier.

That database can be used to create a computerized 3-D model of the building so complete that the end user can take a virtual walk-through of the building to see what it will look like before its built, including its fire system components.

“You can see as you walk down the hall, you have a strobe mounted here … and there’s going to be a pull station here,” Correia said.

And with BIM, an end user can not only view any object in the building, but also can instantly call up detailed information about it. For example, Jones told SSN, a BIM model of a door also carries such information as what kind of material it’s made of, what kind of hardware is on it, and how thick it is.

Notifier’s new digital content models of its fire panels can now easily be included in a BIM model of a building, Jones said.

“I can actually put that control panel object right in my model,” he said. Then, he said, if anybody has any questions about fire panels in a building, “… it just pulls it all out of the database and shows you where they are, how many there are, who makes them and all the information about them.”

Correia said he’s been told that BIM as it develops will also include other information about fire systems such as voltage drop and battery calculations.

“Right now, it’s really in the early stages of learning how the fire alarm world will really adapt to BIM,” he said.

According to McGraw-Hill Construction, less than 3 percent of new construction projects utilized BIM in 2007. “Today,” that company said, “BIM is being used in the design of an estimated 38 percent of new starts.” The company expects that figure to double to nearly 75 percent by 2014.

Jones said that to his knowledge, Notifier is the first to make digital content models of its fire panels.

“There’s a lot of activity in terms of trying to make this kind of content for every product that goes in a building now,” Jones said. “There’s a big scramble now, and the people who are in there first are the people who end up getting to put into the models because architects don’t want to build this content themselves, and that’s what they had been forced to do previously.”

Architects don’t like building the content models for a product because it’s more work for them. And manufacturers don’t like architects doing that job because “you have somebody interpreting your product and you don’t control it,” Jones said.

Correia said among other advantages of BIM is that it can make scheduling easier and more precise—a contractor can better pinpoint for a fire alarm dealer the date on which to install the fire alarm system.

Jones urged fire alarm dealers/installers to familiarize themselves with BIM so they can offer their services to architects as they’re planning a building to ensure they get the job.

He said dealers/installers could say, “I’ll take care of that [fire alarm] system for you. Send me your [BIM] model and I’ll put that [digital content model] in for you and just take that off your hands.” He said that makes business sense for dealer/installers “because now they’re in the project.”