The design and construction industry has been aware for some time of building information modeling. Some have been reluctant to embrace BIM while others have adopted it with open arms and invested in its implementation. This has resulted in a slow migration to adoption across the entire design and construction community.
Some design firms have been slow to accept the new platform because it requires a paradigm shift in the technical production of construction documents and a different skill set for technical staff. It also requires a significant initial financial investment for firms in terms of technology and staff training.
Contractors have also been slow to embrace BIM for a variety of reasons, including a lack of quality BIM models coming from design firms and reluctance by owners to compensate general contractors or construction managers for the expenses necessary to develop BIM databases that sufficiently address a project’s specific requirements.
I have seen a trend over the last year of more owners requesting BIM deliverables in RFQs, RFPs and contracts at a greater frequency. The problem is that not all BIM models are created equally or are clearly defined at the beginning to adequately address the needs of the project and the owner or end-users.
BIM and the New Paradigm
This is an appropriate time to step back and explain what BIM and the new paradigm entails.
BIM is a powerful tool that is just beginning to be tapped as an essential resource by building owners, contractors and designers. Basic BIM benefits include clash detection, material quantity takeoffs and visualization.
Projects in the education market especially benefit from the creation of reusable modules. BIM is not just software; it is a process that goes beyond traditional two-dimensional CAD to create objects and intelligent building systems. The result is a graphic representation with a database of intelligent building data used by various members of the industry to design, construct, furnish and maintain the built environment.
A true BIM deliverable provides a database of building design and system information. From this central database, different views of the information are generated. Because the resulting construction documents are derived from the same database, they are continuously coordinated and updated. This includes not only graphics and drawings but also data such as building materials and building system information.
Data included in the model can be exported to other traditional construction management software to generate and coordinate schedules and cost estimates and to develop phasing information. Construction professionals review the model and visualize complex areas before any activity starts.
BIM requires a higher level of involvement and decision-making at earlier stages of the project compared to traditionally planned capital projects. This, along with the slow development of MEP software development necessary for civil, structural and architectural work, has been part of the reason for the slow adoption of BIM across the project team.
KAI Texas, a regional project management and construction/architectural firm based in Texas that serves several markets, began investing in BIM in earnest in 2006, and we are well beyond the early adoption stage.
Owners and contractors are on board and architects and engineers have trained staff and invested in the system needs. Some states — most notably California — have taken this a step further by adopting integrated project delivery, which pools all parties into a shared contractual agreement.
BIM Trims Costs
BIM can dramatically reduce construction cost overruns. During a recent KAI project, When the MEP and fire-protection drawings were integrated into the BIM model, a potential system clash between the electrical cable raceways and the HVAC duct runs was detected.
Immediately, we met with the owner, engineer, general contractor and subcontractors to review the BIM model, study a visual illustration of the conflict from various viewpoints and devise a plan for resolution. With BIM, any clash created by the solution can be identified during this process.
In this case, clash detection and resolution prevented a potentially costly or time-consuming delay. A three-hour meeting saved thousands of dollars in change orders and several weeks of potential construction delays. That is what makes the BIM process so attractive.
Developing standards through BIM can also offer long-term savings. For example, our firm developed standard housing units and classroom prototypes. Using this information, much of the MEP trade work could be prefabricated off-site under controlled conditions, resulting in higher quality at lower cost.
BIM Collects Metrics
In another case, BIM services were introduced in the design and construction of an 11-story, 540,000-square-foot research center. This provided a unique opportunity to analyze BIM’s value, as a nearly identical building had previously been built on the campus without BIM.
The analysis showed that using BIM resulted in a 50 percent reduction in requests for information, a reduction of more than 50 percent in coordination-related change orders and a shortening of the construction schedule by six months.
The latest uses of BIM include conceptual programming, facility assessment and record documents. BIM can also help a project quantify for LEED points throughout the planning and construction process.
Also, in today’s economy, a significant number of owners are renovating existing facilities as opposed to building new. The use of BIM in documenting existing conditions for use in developing the new functions is growing. BIM provides the designers, owners and construction managers early information that is important to developing a comprehensive approach to efficiently and effectively minimizing unknowns.
As concepts are explored, the benefits of BIM allow quick progression of ideas through the filter of clashes, quantities and schedules, and allow lifecycle analysis to meet sustainability objectives.
Darren L. James, AIA, is president and COO of KAI Texas LC, a corporation headquartered in Dallas with offices in Fort Worth. James can be reached at 214-742-0400 or email@example.com.