Basler & Hofmann explores possibilities of BIM by going paper free for office extension


MagiCAD Group

MEP Design

Image: (c) Basler & Hofmann AG

Client: Basler & Hofmann AG
Project: Three-storey office building extension
Location: Esslingen, Canton of Zurich, Switzerland
Completion: 2019
Overall project management: Basler & Hofmann AG
Architecture: Stücheli Architekten AG
Building contractor: Marti AG
BIM coordination: Basler & Hofmann AG
Specialist planner: Basler & Hofmann AG
Data collection for modelling of the existing building: Basler & Hofmann AG
Facade planning: Feroplan Engineering AG
MagiCAD software: MagiCAD Ventilation and Piping for Revit, MagiCAD Cloud


When the Swiss engineering, planning and consulting company Basler & Hofmann decided to expand their own offices in Esslingen near Zurich, they also saw an opportunity to test out a systematically digitalised planning and construction process and to thereby take integral planning to a whole new level. The pilot project was completed entirely without printed plans with the BIM model serving as the sole source of information throughout from planning to construction to management.

A fully digital twin for the entire life cycle

At first glance, the project seems quite standard: a three-storey extension for an office complex that was constructed in 1996. And yet its planning and construction placed greater demands on the persons involved than most major projects.

“We have three office buildings in Esslingen and we have always used them as a research and development laboratory for new technologies and approaches. Everytime we build something for ourselves we try something new and different in order to develop ourselves. The building can then be a showcase for new projects as well,” says Gianluca Genova, BIM Integrator at Basler & Hofmann.

This time, the company committed itself to the the idea of that all of the persons involved and all of the different disciplines need to plan the construction project simultaneously with a single BIM model – with the additional challenge of going paper-free and using the model for construction and operation as well.

“At the beginning, it was hard for people who were used to working within their own “silos” to operate in the same model without interrupting each other. We sometimes had twenty engineers working at the same time with the worksets and with the worksharing interface of the Revit, so maintaining design discipline and modeling accuracy while monitoring all the changes was a huge challenge,” explains Gianluca.

Drawing on technology during construction

Basler & Hofmann used three different technologies during construction in order to enable the installation to take place from the basis of the digital model. The first one was simply viewing the model with a tablet on-site and performing the installation accordingly. The second technology was using a laser pointer and Autodesk Point Layout, which allowed them to call up specific points from the model. This was particularly useful with fixtures and electric systems. Third, in a pilot they used Microsoft Hololens AR technology for parts of the ventilation installation.

“We prepared the model so that each discipline could call up any step of the installation process with the viewer, the laser pointer or even Hololens. The installation companies were free to use all this technology in whatever way made the most sense for them,” says Gianluca.

Watch a video of the project:

Better design processes with MagiCAD

MagiCAD also played a role in the success of the digital pilot project – from ventilation and piping functionalities to accurate product families.

“When we started with Revit, MagiCAD was the first extension that we purchased. The main purpose in the beginning was to be able to insert the product families that were required for construction. MagiCAD Cloud was a big help for us and if there were missing items we recreated them with MagiCAD Create or integrated them from elsewhere,” says Gianluca.

Gianluca also found that MagiCAD made a big difference in the design work:

“As for the design work, the Ventilation and Piping modules were a huge help. They gave us a clear view of the ventilation system, supported us in redimensioning it and in making the proper links and connections,” continues Gianluca.

Gianluca also describes the provision for builderswork openings tool as having been very useful for the project. The tool allowed the designers to be in even better contact with engineers.

“The best part was that engineers could check the provisions, we could adjust them and the first suggestion from the software was usually 95% accurate,” recounts Gianluca.

Benefits of a fully digital approach

Looking back, Gianluca is able to point out distinct benefits to a fully digital approach, as well as identify distinct issues that are still slowing down the wider adoption of the methodology.

“You do not spend as much time on creating plans, but instead focus on creating a proper data structure. Once you have a structured model, extracting data for production and installation is easier than with conventional plans. You can also save time in construction, not just with material orders, but also in logistics and management. If you link the model with a time-schedule you can quickly reorder things and easily keep track of quality. We would like to use the same method for future projects, because we now know the process, the requirements, and the benefits. It is still a bit tricky to adopt a fully digital approach for external projects though, as conventional documentation is commonly needed for permits and for tendering. However, it will be more common once clients become more aware of the benefits,” concludes Gianluca.

Image: (c) Basler & Hofmann AG

Basler & Hofmann

Basler & Hofmann is a Swiss company developing pioneering solutions in the areas of construction, mobility, energy, safety and environment, consulting, planning and engineering. More than 700 employees work within the Basler & Hofmann Group for Swiss and international clients and the company has offices in five countries: Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Slovakia and Singapore.

The project was awarded as the ‘Small project’ winner in the Building design category at the AEC Excellence Awards in 2018. For further information about the project, you can read the company’s project report.

Gianluca Genova is BIM Integrator at Basler & Hofmann. He oversaw the modeling work and managed the adoption of BIM methods in the project.