How new electrical system design tools boost construction efficiency

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

Electrical contractors are getting squeezed for margin and time. They are looking for a faster and more consistent building information modeling (BIM) process to reduce project risk. And they seek certainty when it comes to materials and specifications to reduce changes on-site and make staffing plans.

In some ways, the construction industry remains old-fashioned. The adage is “build twice” — once in design and then again in the field, taking into account where walls or beams actually exist and where they do not match the design. Electrical contractors often lack real-time visibility into the BIM and design-build process, which leaves them with unanswered questions about what work can be done before they arrive at the construction site and if the design elements will fit together.

Schneider Electric™ has updated and expanded its LayoutFAST toolset to close the missing gap and allow for the presence of electrical systems in the popular AutoDesk Revit BIM platform. Specifiers, engineers, and contractors can now detail an entire project in a BIM model.

Contractors are armed with accurate documentation for materials and staffing, which increases their value through speed and efficiency. Having more detailed information available from conception to completion multiplies efficiencies and lowers potential risks. It enables BIM throughout the life of a project — plan, design, build, operate, and maintain.

Detailed information makes for smoother transfer from design to construction

The LayoutFAST innovations on the design side include being able to easily insert panelboards, transformers, switches, and other equipment into a plan. One of the most significant innovations is the ability to create accurate busways. Designers create a 3D view, configure a digital model, and then share it with other stakeholders. Specifiers, for the first time, can output a digital model that includes pipes, elbows, and end caps. Designers also can configure control panels and drives — clearing the way for panel builders to create a more accurate BOM.

The software automatically generates a one-line diagram, a riser diagram, and a detailed bill of materials needed for on-site work. This saves time and interruptions, and also reduces the liabilities that come with excess inventory at the worksite or on a truck.

This helps the contractor provide more value through:

  • Speed: The clarity of specs puts the focus on work versus oversight, and gets jobs done faster.
  • Efficiency: A crew can arrive at the worksite with appropriate tools, materials, and staffing.
  • Risk mitigation: Access to specifications, data, drawings, and pricing will reduce the need for work order changes.

Removing guesswork provides efficiencies for prefabrication

An electrical contractor doing prefab work on a project might want to do as much as possible in the shop versus on the job site. Prefabrication allows contractors to reduce staffing and the number of trades on a site at any given time.

But the installation success rate for prefab has often been hit or miss because the prefab teams lack the information they need to execute efficiently. Instead, fabrication shops often need to send a crew to the project site with equipment and then make runs to their warehouse or stores to get more equipment as needed. This is time-consuming, but the alternative of keeping more inventory on a truck comes with a different set of liabilities and issues.

LayoutFAST helps contractors by removing guesswork with a precise plan and an accurate list of materials. The prefab contractor can see the different conduit routing plans from the switchgear to each load. They are able to create build sheets more quickly and accurately. They can put everything they need in one truck.

In one example, a contractor faced logistical issues at a large worksite in the middle of a crowded downtown block. Having prefabrication tied to BIM made the process much more intelligent. They built conduits in 10-foot assemblies and delivered them to the job site on time.

BIM tools help contractors with value engineering

LayoutFAST helps optimize value engineering by providing a real-time window into plans as they change. Value engineering is often associated with architectural design, but it can play a key role with electrical products.

When a contractor makes an adjustment in LayoutFAST, the BIM is automatically updated, and the changes are visible to other project stakeholders, along with any related impacts. It’s a more efficient way to make change orders.

The BIM becomes a single source of truth. It avoids wasteful overlap and helps contractors to engineer better.

LayoutFAST adds value throughout the life of a project

Improvements in the LayoutFAST toolset enhance project workflows in terms of speed, efficiency, accuracy, and risk mitigation. The efficient transfer of detailed information means value, not only for designers and engineers, but also for contractors, electricians, and facility operations throughout the life of a project.

Access LayoutFAST and other resources to design electrical distribution systems faster.