Building With Intelligence
DS BIM LLC leverages architectural talents and modeling technology
The DS BIM LLC team likes to say that pixels are cheaper than bricks. “By creating a 3D digital model of a project through building information modeling (BIM), we detect and prevent problems before they happen in the field, before any systems are installed, avoiding costly problems,” says Camilo Garcia, founder and President.
DS BIM provides BIM solutions for large commercial and high-rise projects. The firm creates, manages and coordinates 3D models of mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire sprinkler and structural systems for architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals. Its projects are concentrated along the Eastern Seaboard and throughout Florida, with clients served from offices in New York City and Palm Beach, Florida.
The company originally began as an architecture firm, with Camilo at the helm as lead BIM architect. When an electrical contractor working on a Florida jail project requested drawings in 2007, Camilo realized that the unique concept of an architectural firm providing BIM consulting services and project coordination was a strong business model. He launched DS BIM in 2012 as an extension of his original firm, DS Architecture.
Managing and Executing BIM
“BIM has become a standard for projects over $1 million,” Camilo says. Contractors hire the firm to consult on and manage BIM requirements on new construction projects. The BIM execution plan and schedule are usually provided by the general contractor.
“Ideally the BIM schedule and coordination should be completed before ground is broken on a project—before the first concrete is poured—so design issues can be addressed prior to construction,” Camilo says. However, the BIM process is often playing catch-up with the actual contracting process. “It’s always a good idea to work everything out before guys are in the field to avoid costly mistakes. It’s much more cost-effective to discover issues and reroute systems within digital models before construction begins.”
“We put an intense amount of data into the model,” Camilo says. “The BIM drafter assigned to a project and the project superintendent meet via Zoom for daily collaboration. The drafter is constantly updated, for example, on how the fire system is to be laid out.”
Autodesk is the main provider of the software programs DS BIM uses for BIM coordination. The software suite includes Revit, AutoCAD and Navisworks Manage, according to intern Carlos Reyes. “We use several tools to model and coordinate specific systems for multiple-floor plans, including telecom and electric room panels, low voltage and power conduits. Linking all of these plans provides the client with a comprehensive understanding of the project,” he says.
DS BIM’s six team members are all trained in architecture and bring an inherent knowledge of space and design requirements to the process. They sometimes work out of a client’s office as an extension of the client’s staff to assist with planning and completion of a project. The firm is usually involved in a project until its completion, often for eight to 12 months.
Throughout a project, everyone on the team has access to the BIM technology. The living, working model is a collaboration tool, continually updated by team members who can access the software on their iPads, adding notes and seeing, virtually, the changes that are happening in the field.
At the conclusion of a project, DS BIM provides the required as-built model to the contractor. “We provide information and data that confirm systems were installed according to the BIM model. The system also indicates whether or not the systems were installed according to plan,” Camilo says.
Virtual Meetings Inside 3D Renderings
With technology advancements, Camilo quickly grasped the potential of linking increasingly popular virtual reality (VR) technology with BIM models. Today, instead of viewing BIM models on a computer screen, clients can virtually walk through 3D, life-size renderings of construction projects. “VR allows clients to immerse themselves in a 3D environment that is proportional to human scale,” Camilo says.
VR technology also allows for better collaboration. Individuals don VR headsets at multiple locations and then “meet” at the virtual construction site. Team members and clients can then analyze models for building systems, before and during construction. “The client and team members are all seeing what I’m seeing. It’s a very cool experience,” Camilo adds.
An added benefit of VR meetings is the absence of distractions. “When we’re wearing headsets and are immersed in our 3D model, the project team is fully engaged in discussion. We aren’t being distracted by our phones,” he notes.
To the Moon and Back
DS BIM increasingly provides consulting and services for high-profile structures, such as a new rocket manufacturing building for Blue Origin, a space exploration company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
This project was especially meaningful to Camilo as his wife’s grandparents were involved with the Apollo program and worked for NASA for 50 years. “Because of our family ties, it’s very gratifying to work on this project located on NASA grounds, and to be involved in designing the manufacturing facilities for vehicles that will transform space travel into tourism,” Camilo adds.
The firm coordinated mechanical and plumbing systems for the project in 2018. Blue Origin has since expanded its campus, and DS BIM is now involved in the third phase of the project—construction of a warehouse that will facilitate the completed rocket manufacturing complex. “Our job is to model the mechanical and plumbing systems, manage their coordination and provide proper installation drawings to the contractor,” Camilo says.
Keeping Cool for Game, Set, Match
In addition to space travel, the company recently had a hand in keeping professional tennis players cool in the Big Apple. In 2018, the world’s top tennis players and their fans were greeted with a heat wave when they arrived in New York City for the US Open. The new Louis Armstrong Stadium in Flushing, New York, a new venue for the tournament, was completed just before the games began. Its building systems were immediately put to the test to keep sold-out crowds comfortable during record temperatures.
The DS BIM team was tasked with coordinating mechanical piping and ventilation for the stadium. The project was running behind schedule when the company was brought in. “We made sure the project met deadlines to open in time for the US Open,” Camilo says. “The building performed very well. It was extremely gratifying to know the systems we coordinated were installed correctly and kept the building cool during the tournament.”
Helping Contractors Stay on Track
E Electrical Contracting, LLC has used an array of DS BIM’s services for projects including the ongoing infrastructure upgrade at Morris Park Yard in Queens, where the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) maintains and overhauls its diesel locomotive fleet.
“DS BIM coordinates with the other trades and establishes the conduit racks and shop drawings in 3D for low voltage, high voltage, access controls, telephone data and CCTV, as well as switchgear and lighting,” explains Lou Grady, Senior Project Manager at E Electrical Contracting. “The drawings show us exactly where we can go and make it easier for the guys doing the installation in the field.”
Lou continues, “We’re able to visualize an entire project in VR. When we finish the work, these documents show the actual installation and the entire model is given to the owner.” He adds, “[DS BIM is] always responsive and cooperative, checking in to see how the project is going. Camilo is a very hands-on owner.”
A Tool for Facility Maintenance
The BIM model is also a valuable post-construction tool and is used to improve ongoing maintenance by building owners and facilities management personnel.
“After construction, our building model and data remain,” Camilo says. “We can extract data from the model and provide it to the client.”
For example, the electrical system data may include the amount (in linear feet) of pipe within the electrical room, the number and locations of all electrical panels and light fixtures, and the specifications and product numbers for each. “If a component fails, facilities staff members don’t have to attempt to read a blueprint or climb 40 feet up a ladder to check the part number; instead, they have that information available at their fingertips from an iPad,” Camilo explains.
A Heart for Military Veterans
DS BIM is active in serving the community, particularly those in the U.S. military. The company participates in the DoD SkillBridge program by training and provide hands-on experience in BIM to active-duty service members who are transitioning to civilian roles.
The company is currently sponsoring Aviation Electronics Technician Carlos Reyes, who is stationed in Virginia Beach, Florida. “Working closely with Camilo and other employees gives me the opportunity to learn more about this career path,” says Carlos, who studied architecture and engineering before enlisting. “I go to job sites, meet with project leads and see firsthand how using BIM benefits every project.” Camilo says that it’s a pleasure to work with Carlos.
The firm is embedded in the architectural community and is actively involved in the American Institute of Architects. For three years, the company has participated in the New York Architects’ Regatta Challenge, an annual sailing regatta held on the Hudson River. “We race other AEC teams to raise money for charity. Carlos and I raced on ‘Team Mixalot’ this year,” Camilo says.
DS BIM is also connected with the BIM community and is involved in the New York City Revit User Group to stay abreast of current trends.
The Future of BIM
Camilo foresees that BIM will be increasingly data driven. “In the future, we’ll also see data from previous construction projects being used to make better decisions on new construction projects,” he says.
In the end, it all comes down to the customer. “What we do helps our clients succeed, and it is definitely a team effort—from our staff in the field to project managers and administration. Everyone has an important role here and we take pride in our work,” he concludes.