The design and construction industry is always looking for ways to increase efficiency while decreasing project time and costs. With Building Information Modeling (BIM) gradually shifting the industry, the potential to achieve these outcomes has become more of a reality. BIM is a process involving the generation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of places.1 BIM is often mistakenly thought of as a specific software, but as the definition states, it is a process.
The “I” in BIM is what’s most important. It stands for information; without the information there is only the “building model,” a 3D visualization of the facility. The information behind the pretty pictures produced using BIM is what is creating an open collaborative process for the construction industry. The current nature of industry practices lack standardization, consistent technologies and rely on continued paper-based processes that provide inadequate interoperability for facilities. However, with BIM, industry standards and contract documents are creating an enhanced workflow for all sectors in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry and are promoting maximum interoperability. The increasing level of integration and sharing of project objectives creates the need for clearly defined BIM deliverables. Industry organizations are taking advantage of open standards to provide a structured procedure for planning and communication between all participants.
BIM usage in the industry is increasing in all sectors of the AEC market. Architects have been the long-standing users and beneficiaries of BIM; however, engineers have begun to adopt BIM across all disciplines as well and are using BIM technologies to improve their workflow. The value of BIM in the design process cannot be measured because the value varies depending on the user. BIM offers new services and technologies to the design process including 3D imaging and laser scanning. Energy Modeling or Energy Performance using BIM leverages the “information” or data to eliminate time modeling energy performance and improve accuracy. Using the “information” in BIM to increase the level of automation in analysis will ultimately improve the building’s performance and sustainability.
The true value of BIM technology does not stop at the end of the design process, as it directly relates to the construction process as well. Contractors are using BIM more than ever before due to the improved project coordination and project delivery opportunties. Today, too much time is wasted due to outdated information or a lack of information while out in the field. Mobile technology and tablet-computing allows users to share coordinated models for all disciplines, all while reviewing and verifying project information in the field and linking external project systems for field-generated Requests for Information (RFIs). This type of technology is a highly beneficial and allows organizations to stay efficient in their operations.
When the project is all said and done, who is the ultimate beneficiary when using BIM? The answer is the Owner/operator of the building. More money is spent on operating, maintaining and managing a constructed facility over the lifecycle of the facility than spent designing or building. One common thread that comes with BIM is the positive impact on the buisness aspects of designing, building and operating projects. Owner organizations are experiencing fewer claims and reduced errors in documentation, while cutting down the time and money spent on re-work in the field. BIM capabilities enable AE firms, contractors and owners to coordinate amongst all disciplines to create a better workflow in the design process. Engineers are designing better performing and more complete infrastructures through the use of BIM technologies. In addition, the information transferred throughout the design and construction process is leveraged in post-construction to manage daily operations, gather data to prepare maintenance schedules, and plan for future purchases.
So what are the key factors Owners need to know about BIM?
- Ask architects and engineers about the potential use of BIM on your project
- Partner with BIM-savvy design and construction professionals to help navigate the world of BIM for facility management and operations
- Be descriptive about what data will be turned over at the end of the project
- Make sure design professionals uniquely format BIM standards to meet your needs
Each user experiences the benefits of BIM differently, and even with the growing support of documents that follow these projects, there are still factors that hinder the AEC industry. It is worth mentioning that users are sometimes faced with the file-exchange issue when applying BIM technologies to existing softwares. Likewise, BIM software functionality has struggled to keep all players (especially engineers) technologically advanced in terms of content, tools and processes. As with all newer technologies, as the popularity increased, improvements in application programming interfaces (API) for authoring tools is helping to address these interoperability concerns.
Overall, BIM provides better solutions, reduced waste in both time and materials, faster project delivery, and more efficient performance. The information gathered and stored throughout the BIM process provides today’s facility Owner with impressive detail regarding all aspects of their project. Furthermore, the information can continue to serve its purpose throughout the lifecycle of the building as further savings and efficiencies can be expected.
For further information on BIM technologies and how you can integrate them into your next project, please contact Louis DeAlba.
- “Building Information Modeling.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Building_information_modeling
- “Cost Analysis of Inadequate Interoperability in the U.S. Capital Facilities Industry”; U.S. Department of Commerce Technology Administration National Institute of Standards and Technology; Michael P. Gallaher, Alan C. O’Connor, John L. Dettbarn, Jr., and Linda T. Gilday