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  • David Hessler

What’s in a SIMM?

If you work in the construction industry, you have probably heard the aphorism: “construction is messy”. If you have engaged a developer, builder, and/or architect about your new home project, this may be news -- the scary kind. Constructing a home or any building is a complex, multi-phase, many player operation. Getting from what was originally intended through to what stands in front of a new home owner has many pitfalls, but also many opportunities. At Holzraum System, we are particularly interested in reducing some of this “mess” by using 3D modeling as the information hub for a project and producing high fidelity models which support off-site componentization. Why would this help? Glad you asked ;-)


Consider the series of things that has to happen from the time the owner says “Yes” to a schematic architectural design. Structural drawings, engineering review, energy modeling, mechanicals planning, foundation planning, scheduling of site work, then foundation work, then framing, then trades like HVAC, electrical, and plumbing (“MEP”). Materials have to come on site at the right time with the right people. Weather has to cooperate at least until the closed-in point. There are a lot of failure points. Every failure point means coordinated scheduling breaks, more money, and more delays.


OK, now imagine if less of the time was spent on-site doing all of this. What if the planning phase of the building had enough details to allow prefabrication of much of the structure, so that instead of framing from sticks, we were raising whole sections of the building as panels. The time savings on-site reduces weather and other schedule risks. The prefabrication means material quality is less variable, and all materials are ready to go before anything (or anyone) arrives on site.


In order to achieve this, we need a really good model, because off-site manufacturing needs very specific details to work. And if we are going to create this detailed model, we can also look at additional layers of detail like where MEP fits and is routed, how much insulation for the design and climate, how to properly air-seal for best energy performance. Finally, what if we could make better materials choices for our health and the environment by using more wood products because those products work well in a factory driven by this model?


Holzraum realized that we could give people better buildings if we could solve the modeling problems:

  • How much model do we need to achieve these goals?

  • How can we help encourage better design for health, comfort, and to address climate change through both lower energy consumption but also carbon storage materials?

  • Who would help educate the architects and designers about how to provide the necessary model information?

  • Who would ensure the model meets the design intent and the factory translation needs?

  • Who educates builders on how to leverage the model as the project proceeds?


We decided to take on that challenge. To be clear, it’s a work in progress: we talk to new designers, architects, builders, developers, and potential home owners every day about these things. Some are skeptical, and that’s fair. But when they see the fidelity in our models, how we can combine structural, aesthetic, MEP, energy modeling, and materials choices all for rapid installation after off-site fabrication, they start to believe we are proposing a better way to build.


The title of this post is “What’s in a SIMM”. It stands for Single Integrated Manufacturing Model. With it Holzraum System can be the hub between what an owner and designer want, what a factory can make, and how a builder can assemble it, faster and more accurately. With it we can encourage the use of more wood and wood fiber insulation, and better vapor open air-sealing. With it we help optimize the design using sophisticated energy and hygric modeling, and ensure compatibility of the structure with MEP so there are no surprises during assembly.


But to be honest, a lot of what goes into a SIMM is care. We care about the details: in the structure, in the materials, in the design, in the speed, accuracy, quality, and comfort. We want everyone in the project to be successful, to have lower risk, to feel good about building. Ideally, we want to get rid of the mess.


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