BIM & Lighting

Recent years have witnessed the Middle East’s architectural and engineering design community embrace a seemingly never-ending cascade of technologies. Such systems and solutions have supported designers in keeping pace with increasingly multi-faceted projects, thus ensuring design processes are streamlined irrespective of project complexity.

Most noteworthy amongst these has been the growing prevalence of Building Information Modeling (BIM); a software in which UMAYA Lighting Design has substantive first-hand experience. Whereas a mere five years ago all projects were completed in CAD, 40% of UMAYA’s current project pipeline is being designed on a BIM platform. Indeed our specialist lighting design scope has been positively impacted by the productive power of modeling in BIM.

A case in point involves UMAYA’s recent involvement in a 47.000m2 leisure and entertainment project located in the heart of Dubai, with our entire lighting scope being designed almost exclusively in Revit Architecture. Given the design/build nature of the overall construction contract, our specialist lighting design scope was planned for submission within an extremely shortened timeline. Our fast-tracked program was further complicated since both the Interior Design and MEP consultants were based overseas; thereby necessitating even closer levels of coordination than would typically be expected. In many ways this project proved to be the perfect stage in which to exploit BIM’s value-add. Accordingly below we’ve listed a thorough evaluation of its key strengths and limitations:

Quick Coordination
Replacing old drawings with new ones in CAD can often become a cumbersome task; one which sets the design team back a few hours at the least if not even days. With Revit this process is cut short with a quick linking method wherein entire architectural and interior design files can be replaced instantly with all views updated accordingly.

Increased Collaboration
One of the major advantages we leveraged is that different members of the design can simultaneously work on the same file. In parallel, different areas can be assigned to specific individuals thereby blocking others from modifying them. Additionally through the use of a synchronized central file, any changes made by any team member are almost immediately updated. This effectively encourages the team to work in a much more collaborative manner since project communication takes on a circular dynamic instead of what was previously a much more linear method.

Seamless Production of Drawings and Views
In CAD merely positioning light fixtures in section and elevation then subsequently producing the final lighting sheets has to be done from scratch. On the other hand once a fixture is placed into a Revit model it will directly appear across all views thus simplifying the process tremendously. Moreover, sheets are created quickly with the use of templates and schedules can be custom-designed to include all necessary specification information.

Resolving Clashes
By importing files from all disciplines, the length of time invested in the review, coordination and resolution of clashes is shortened significantly and at a much earlier stage of the overall design process. In other words both the design community and; ultimately their clients, are immediately empowered through the limitation of change orders/cost variations due to previously unknown clashes being resolved well before a contract award.

Production of Families with Characteristics
Whereas in CAD it is not possible to include fixture characteristics (lumen output, consumption, CRI etc.) directly into the model, Revit enables the lighting designer to review these on the spot within the model itself (as opposed to having to waste valuable time switching between multiple documents). Furthermore Revit also empowers the lighting designer to generate entire fixture families with all their corresponding features such as color temperature, lumen package, wattage and even photometric data. Since IES files are readily available these can be integrated into the family, generating all the information that corresponds to that fixture. With the use of these IES files, realistic renders and walk-throughs can be created which facilitates enhanced content for client presentations.

Importing IFC to Dialux
Dialux has recently added a special feature that allows Revit IFC files to be imported into Dialux Evo. This is a very exciting capability since it enables lighting designers to import the architectural building as it is, without risking the loss of any integral elements whilst attempting to model it from scratch. This feature is surprisingly flexible and allows the user to select which components to import and consequently manipulate them, thus editing the overall model.

Having mentioned all the advantages of designing lighting schemes with Revit, we certainly encountered a handful of limitations, especially in regards to generating lighting design packages. Below is a brief list of obstacles you may face when designing with Revit.

Drafting is Time Consuming
Ensuring that fixtures are correctly spaced and centered in Revit is more time consuming than doing so via CAD. It is often easier to draw layouts in CAD and then import them to use as guidelines in Revit. Unless and until Revit develops a more user-friendly method of drafting, redundancy may occur because lighting designers may opt to switch back to CAD for an easier drafting experience.

Difficult to Produce Details
In CAD the production of details is just a matter of manipulating lines. In Revit however the use of lines can be extremely time consuming, which is why it’s more convenient to develop details in CAD and submit them as a separate, document or imported into Revit. Needless to say this dual process results in further time required and more importantly, increased potential for mistakes/clashes.

Heavy Files
Most Revit files typically include multiple models that relate to other disciplines such as furniture, façade, MEP etc. The overall file therefore becomes extremely heavy and unwieldy thereby taking a large amount of time to open, copy or save.

In conclusion and in terms of the overall lighting design and documentation process, BIM becomes an irreplaceable ally to ensure harmonious integration of project information, simplified coordination between trades and easy synchronization with lighting simulation and visualization software. This has been particularly useful within UMAYA’s Dubai studio, where projects are most often of a larger scale with multiple counterpart design teams; as in the case of the aforementioned Dubai leisure and entertainment project, located across the globe. With that being said however there remains much room for improvement concerning ease of drafting and detailing in Revit.  This factor is especially heightened given the increasing trend of integration between lighting systems with the very fabric of the architectural and engineering systems that lighting cohabitates with. Which is why the clear design of details remains of paramount concern to the lighting designer. As BIM continues gaining territory within the global design market, propelled primarily by new code requirements, geographically dispersed design teams and tighter deadlines, it’s a matter of time before many of its disadvantages are resolved. UMAYA lighting design looks forward to pioneering the use of similarly nascent technologies in the lighting schemes we design.