Award „IQ“ 2016
BIM and RFID in Buildings
Manfred Helmus

The 2016 Award „IQ“ for innovation and quality in process and final product: In recognition and appreciation of outstanding creativity as well as extraordinary efforts and risk taking this award is presented to Professor Manfred Helmus for the project BIM and RFID in Buildings, Research Joint Venture “ARGE RFID im Bau”, University of Wuppertal, Technical University Dresden –
Peter Jehle, Technical University Darmstadt –
Uwe Rueppel

Wilhelm Reismann, Arnd Wittchen,
Rainer Schofer


“ARGE RFID im Bau” has been studying the use of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology as a means of collecting actual data in connection with BIM Building Information Modelling as part of the German “ZukunftBau” research initiative since 2006. RFID facilitates the distinct identification of the parts and elements of buildings via different levels of digital labelling.

Based on the concept of the Multi Model Container (MMC), this approach creates a unique, open-system connection between the world of BIM data – with its distinctly identifiable virtual objects – and the real, physical data about objects (building parts or elements). RFID tags given to these objects makes them attributable in a similar way to BIM elements in the design process. It is openly assumed that participants in the building process will bring a range of existing standards and alternative constellations which have to be integrated. The ISO standard 18000-6-C numbering system is enhanced with numbers specific to the building project which are stored on the RFID tags.

The decisive innovation is the uninterrupted information sequence between BIM (planning) and implementation
(production, logistics, execution and operation). The complete logistics chain from dispatch and issuing control, transport, site delivery and storage to the release for and control of installation is transparent and efficient thanks to the RFID tag and the linked databases.

This makes it possible to create uniform systems for access, localisation, security, theft avoidance and quality assurance on site. One can, for example, transparently document exactly who executed which element and when as well as who approved it – without or with (digitally recorded) defects.

In practice, the use of this system stretches from digital inventories and maintenance and repair schedules to localisation and orientation systems for maintenance visits as well as security personnel and the emergency services. Each interface involving operators and owners is greatly simplified due to the fact that all data is always up-to-date.

Finally, all relevant information about, for examples, building materials and potentially hazardous substances as well as the building structure and technical plant can be accessed in order to enable the building to be continuously economically and ecologically optimised.

A number of trials have been carried out in recent years aimed at ensuring both the legibility and the durability of the tags in building elements. Requirements – between, for example, concrete or asphalt elements – differ widely. Tags can now be reliably built into elements and retain their function well. Initial trials have also been successfully carried out into the attachment of RFID tags to building machinery. This has the double advantage that it can be ensured that machinery is both working optimally and used more efficiently – which brings obvious benefits for the managers of machinery fleets, for example.

These examples underline that the introduction of RFID has been successful. At the same time, however, several years of development work, trials and, in particular, the resolution of interfaces lie ahead of us. In order to guarantee the long-term success of such a system, extensive public relations work will also be required together with intensive research, practical demonstration projects and international networking.

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