Use BIM to increase lighting planning and design success (MAGAZINE)

March 9, 2017
DIALux product manager Daniel Witzel defines BIM, the opportunities it offers for lighting designers, and its impact on lighting design.  

DIALux product manager DANIEL WITZEL defines BIM, the opportunities it offers for lighting designers, and its impact on lighting design.

The term "BIM" (building information modeling) is used quite frequently and it isn't a new concept. Yet not everyone knows exactly what it is nor do we know what it will mean for planners and their work in the future.

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BIM is not a software nor a data format. BIM does not work only in buildings and it isn't the solution to all problems in the building sector. Yes, it is possible to construct buildings successfully without BIM. So what, then, is the point of BIM? It provides a method for networked planning, execution, operation, and implementation of building projects. It is precisely the last two points that are frequently neglected in discussions about BIM, but these provide the operator with many benefits.

For lighting design, this means that the costs for acquisition, operation, and maintenance of different lighting concepts, their benefits and quality can be taken into consideration and assessed at an early stage in the planning process. The most important element in BIM is the collection of all the data required for the building project. All the disciplines involved can access these data at any time.

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Using BIM, the building project is first constructed visually and then continually updated before the physical execution of the plans. Now there is an opportunity for lighting designers and their lighting concepts to be a part of the overall planning from the very beginning. Light will become a much more important aspect of architecture than it is already in classical planning, well beyond the purely technical requirements placed on lighting.

The benefits are clear. Mistakes are not automatically avoided but can be detected at an early stage. A common database makes modifications and corrections easy to understand and clear for all involved. In turn, the results are reflected immediately in the number of parts and the delivery dates. Before construction begins, the client and the planner see the results in front of them and can simulate certain situations and processes.

Daniel Witzel

In addition, 3D visualization and presentations may well increase acceptance and understanding of the building project. The standardized data format Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) enables exchange between the specialized programs of different technical disciplines so that during planning, in the building phase and in operation, they are able to communicate with each other or at least exchange data.

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For more than 10 years, DIAL has been a member of buildingSmart, an international organization for the improvement of data exchange between different software applications. At an early stage, DIAL became involved in the model description in BIM for the topics "Luminaires" and "Lighting." Since the beginning, the DIALux evo light calculation software has been aligned to the IFC format.

In the new version, DIALux evo 7 (to be released this spring), it will be possible for the first time to import IFC files. This will make it easier for the lighting designer to work with BIM. It is no longer necessary to make a 3D reconstruction of the planned project.

Photometric data regarding products that are available on the market can be added to the imported project. In turn, the software supplies the required normative evidence and provides a clear, graphical simulation of different solutions with regard to energy consumption and the lighting effect. There are already plans for exporting the products and the data via IFC, which will complete the integration of lighting calculation software within the BIM process. DIALux is available free of charge to all planners and designers via DIAL's website (

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Building with BIM does not mean that more time is needed for planning; it means that the time schedule for individual steps is adjusted. In return there is an increase in quality as well as adherence to schedules and costs. Planning with BIM does not guarantee the success of a lighting project but it increases the chances of success. This presupposes careful handling of data, open dialog between all parties involved, the willingness to give BIM a chance as a new method, and the right tools for professional planning.