The construction industry, in dire need to keep pace with innovation and be more productive, must embrace digitalization.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a stepping stone towards digitalization. BIM is a collaborative process where all parties involved in a project use three dimensional design applications, which also includes additional information such as scheduling, costs, sustainability, operations and maintenance of the asset, which is further shared accurately and consistently across a building’s lifecycle.
BIM has been actively performing to be a centerpiece for construction industry’s digital transformation, empowering evolving and emerging technologies like prefabrication, use of automated equipment, and even mobile application for effective team collaboration.
Though BIM has exited in the AEC industry for more than two decades; architects, engineers, consultants and even construction companies have misconceptions about the benefits of BIM. Especially contractors and subcontractors are skeptical about whether BIM has something to offer them or not. One of the prime myths is that BIM is just another technology, and is all about 3D designs. No doubts that 3D models are at the core of BIM; it is actually a process for creating and managing minutest detail of a construction project, resulting in an output which we call a Building Information Model.
BIM as empowered the AEC professionals to build projects virtually before they are constructed physically; which in turn eliminates inefficiencies and challenges that surface during the construction process. BIM is known for mostly being associated with design and preconstruction, but the benefits of BIM for post construction project life-cycle are either underestimated or not known to many.
Enlisted are the top benefits that BIM offers to the construction industry:
BIM enhances communication for improved collaboration
Paper drawings or 2D drafts limit the sharing, collaborating and versioning, which digital BIM models facilitate prominently. Autodesk’s BIM 360, the cloud-based tool, helps with seamless collaboration across architectural, structural and MEP disciplines within the project. Also known as “BIM 360 ecosystem”, it enables teams to share project models and coordinate planning to ensure design stakeholders have any time – anywhere insights into the project. Access to data makes working a lot easier for project teams, as they can take the office to the field. Teams now can review building drawings and 3D models on site and on their mobile devices, and have access to up-to-date project information.
BIM for improved clash detection and resolution
BIM allows better coordination amongst architects, structural engineers and MEP contractors, detecting MEP clashes – internal and external before the construction begins. Do electrical conduits clash with a steel beam? Does the doorway have appropriate clearance? If not – what is the resolution to these clashes and much more? Using software like Navisworks to avoid clashes with automated clash detection is what more and more AEC professionals are opting for. Most contractors prefer going with Navisworks clash detection.
Timely avoiding clashes reduce the amount of rework required on any given project. BIM allows you to plan it right before you build onsite. Contractors can also avoid last minute changes and unforeseen challenges by enabling a convenient review across multiple disciplines.
BIM offers production drawings / databases for manufacturing purposes
BIM data comes in really handy to generate production drawings/databases for manufacturing purposes, with ultimately helps in increasing the productivity and the use of prefabrication and modular construction technology. Designing, detailing and building offsite in a controlled environment – diminishes waste, increases efficiencies, and reduces labor and material cost.
BIM improves scheduling / sequencing
BIM benefits are not always in form of saved money; instead, 4D simulation in Navisworks reduces the time of project cycles and eliminates construction scheduling setbacks. 4D simulation consists in linking construction activities in a planning to 3D objects in a building model in order to simulate the construction process over time. 4D simulations can be used at different stages of a construction project to analyze the design and its constructability, as well as for construction planning and monitoring.
BIM helps structural designers with design and documentation simultaneously, and documentation can be conveniently changed to adapt to new information such as site conditions. Schedules can be planned with accuracy and communicated exactly, and the improvised coordination helps projects to be completed within stipulated deadlines, and at times even early.
BIM for model-based cost estimation
AEC firms can include estimators early in the planning stage for effective construction cost estimation. This has led to an immense growth of model-based cost estimating, which is more famous with the acronym – 5D BIM. Autodesk’s Revit and BIM 360 Docs are the first preference for automating the time-consuming task of quantifying and applying costs. Now, cost estimators have the liberty to focus on higher value factors which include identifying construction assemblies and factoring risks.
BIM sharing tools to build better buildings
Because the coordinated models are becoming more reliable due to BIM, the building quality is getting better. BIM sharing tools help more experienced team members to work together with buildings across the project lifecycle, providing better control over technical decisions for design execution. Testing of optimal ways to construct a building becomes possible and can be chosen at the time of project inception. Structural deficiencies can be identified well in advance. Visualizations help with better design aesthetics, such as modeling the flow of natural light into the buildings. These days, reality capture technology is also leveraged to improve overall accuracy.
BIM supports virtual design and construction
What does VDC stand for? It is virtual design and construction, empowering AEC firms with what is called “Preconstruction Project Visualization”, even before the spades hit the construction ground. 3D visualization and space-use simulations enable clients to experience what the entire space would look like. The main benefit is the ability it offers to make changes before the construction starts. Imagine the benefit of minimizing expensive and time-consuming changes with help of a greater overview from the beginning.
BIM for improved construction site safety
BIM has proved its worth, time and over, in improving construction site safety by pinpointing on-site hazards before they become bigger problems. It helps in avoiding physical risks by visualizing and planning site logistics well in advance. Visual risk analysis and safety evaluations ensure safety over the course of project execution.
BIM for building owners and facility management
Benefits of BIM are not limited to the construction phases. The information from a BIM model empowers operations of the building, providing the ROI well after project completion. Using construction software helps to get an accurate and ongoing digital record of building information, which is more than valuable for facilities management and renovators for a very long time. Sharing the same data into existing building maintenance software for post-occupancy use also helps the inhabitants and facility managers. Contractors have spearheaded the building handover by connecting BIM data generated during design and construction to building operations.
BIM reduces project costs and risks
A lot of surveys and studies have suggested that nearly 75% of the companies claim that BIM adoption has given them positive returns on their investments. But this is not it. BIM has the potential to save money for architects, engineers, contractors and all in a myriad of ways – only if they know how to take advantage of it.
Closer collaboration amongst contractors leads to reduced risk of tender premiums, lower insurance costs, lesser overall variations and minimal opportunities for claims. Also, the better overview that BIM gives before the project starts, makes way for increased use of prefabrication and reduces waste of unused materials. Prefabricated elements are easier to be bolted in place, instead of creating them on-site. It also reduces the amount of dollars spent on documentation work and cost arising out of miscommunications.
The number of team members using project data is increasing consistently due to the complexity of designs in construction projects. Using BIM 360 Docs, the real-time collaboration and single document repository lower the risk of any construction company operating with outdated information. Making sure the right information is available at the right time is essential to completing a successful quality project.
BIM is an invaluable technology offering an abundance of benefits to the construction industry. Projects leveraging BIM capabilities have better chances of success and effectiveness for every stage of the construction project lifecycle and beyond. Construction industry should identify BIM’s potential as a value creator rather, than a cost factor; to be more productive. But it will only happen if all players in the value chain act and collaborate.
Construction companies can act individually, but should team up for industry-wide efforts for new initiatives and other partnerships. BIM consultants are all set to help building construction companies with safer and more predictable project delivery, safer and more predictable project delivery, a more sustainable and resilient built environment, higher-quality service delivery for end users; and ultimately enabling the society to enjoy more affordable housing and infrastructure.