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How to design an electrical distribution system with greater efficiency and precision

New software innovations in electrical system digital design are opening the door for an electrical presence that has been missing in building information modeling (BIM).

Thanks to the new-generation LayoutFAST toolset from Schneider Electric™, specifiers, engineers, and contractors can quickly and easily design, generate, and share BIM objects. The upgraded design tools make more detailed information available from conception to completion, multiplying efficiencies and lowering potential risks. The upgrades provide speed, efficiency, accuracy, and risk mitigation, giving designers peace of mind and the freedom to focus on the facets of design that matter most.

Innovations close the electrical gap in the Revit BIM platform

Electrical distribution systems are critical for an intelligent building management system (iBMS), which goes beyond traditional BMS to take systems out of their disciplinary silos and makes smart buildings possible.

These BMS silos contributed to the gap in the popular Autodesk Revit modeling platform. While mechanical, civil, and HVAC / plumbing disciplines migrated to Revit, the software did not meet the needs of electrical engineers. They opted for other subscription-based design tools. As a result, electrical designers often lacked real-time visibility into a project’s BIM model and design-build process.

Electrical engineers and specifiers are tasked with creating one-line diagrams without knowing if their designs will integrate with mechanical and HVAC in the field. Electrical contractors often lack real-time visibility into the project model. They are not sure what work can be done before they arrive at the construction site or if the design elements for busways and control panels will fit together on the job site.

But BIM is getting easier, thanks to the significant breakthroughs in the LayoutFAST toolset.

Specifiers can include the electrical distribution system and detail an entire building project in a single BIM. This helps specifiers provide more value throughout the life of a project —

plan, design, build, operate, and maintenance.

BIM just got easier while lowering risks

LayoutFAST works as a Revit plug-in or within a web browser and integrates into the BIM workflow. One of its tools allows designers to easily insert switchboards, switchgear, transformers, transfer switches, UPSs, and more into the plan. This saves significant time from the Revit insertion process by eliminating the need to scour catalogs and websites for assets. It also eliminates the guesswork that comes with vendor-agnostic tools that rely on generic dimensions and pricing. By selecting specific products, designers get the clarity they need to optimize electrical designs that integrate with BIM.

Another significant upgrade is the ability to create accurate busways, which clarify work and costs for contractors and reduces work order changes. Designers create a 3D viewing, configure a digital model, and then share it with other stakeholders. Finally, specifiers can output a digital model that accounts for pipes, elbows, and end caps. Designers can also configure control panels, drives, and other electrical components.

LayoutFAST also generates catalogs, and other commercial-ready documentation. This includes a detailed bill of materials (BOM), which provides an electrical contractor with an exact list of materials and prices. This sets contractors up for success in the build phase with clarity on materials and staffing.

Documentation powers the transfer of knowledge to the build phase

Electrical engineers and specifiers are used to drawing their own one-line diagrams. It’s a time-consuming and error-prone endeavor that is usually saved until the end of the documentation process. One of the biggest LayoutFAST time-savers for specifiers and electrical engineers is the automatic one-line diagram generator. It instantly generates one-line and riser diagrams that show how components connect in an electrical distribution system.

A detailed design plan and BOM greatly increases the success rate for prefab installations. With LayoutFAST, a prefab contractor has more control over what can be built in the shop. The contractor can see the conduit routing plans and quickly create accurate build sheets. The BOM saves time and also reduces the liabilities that come with excess inventory at the worksite or on a truck.

Contractors will face fewer but more efficient change orders

The presence of the electrical distribution system in the master BIM plan makes for more efficient change orders and what’s commonly referred to as value engineering.

When a contractor makes an adjustment in LayoutFAST, the BIM is updated more quickly than in Revit, and the changes can be seen by everyone else, along with any related impacts.

LayoutFAST provides a real-time window into plans as they change. The BIM, now complete with the electrical distribution system, avoids wasteful overlap.

LayoutFAST removes electrical barriers from the BIM

The new tool improvements in LayoutFAST removes barriers that have kept electrical distribution systems from maintaining consistency and flexibility while following a project’s master BIM execution plan. Specifiers, modelers, and electrical design engineers can produce more detailed and accurate BIM plans, helping them provide more value to building stakeholders through speed, efficiency, accuracy, and risk mitigation.

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


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