GSA's BIM Pilot Program Shows Success

18 Jul, 2006 By: Michael Dakan

Nine completed pilot projects prove the cost benefits and effectiveness of BIM

The Office of Chief Architect of the U.S. GSA (General Services Administration) launched an initiative to foster the use of BIM (building information modeling) technologies for GSA projects in summer 2003. GSA began with a series of pilot projects to test and evaluate the potential advantages of BIM.

Based on the nine projects completed to date, the pilot program is considered a rousing success in its objective to test BIM effectiveness toward improving the building projects typically undertaken each year by GSA. These results are bolstering GSA's impending mandate that will require the submission of BIM data for preliminary design documentation of all future GSA building projects. (See AEC Tech News #151.)

GSA is responsible for all governmental facilities, used by more than 100 departments of the federal government and currently consisting of 330 million square feet. GSA typically is responsible for $10 billion annually in new and renovation construction activity.

GSA submitted its pilot program for the American Institute of Architect's first annual TAP (Technology in Architectural Practice) BIM awards competition. The nine projects in the GSA submission each represent different technologies and uses for BIM data, including 3D laser scanning, using the 3D spatial model for coordination and error detection, 4D phasing, energy simulation and so forth.

Because the GSA pilot program strives to maintain neutrality in technology solutions and data standards, specific technology solutions and software developers were not identified and associated with each project. However, the GSA did provide a general list of all the software solutions used projectwide: Autodesk Architectural Desktop, Graphisoft ArchiCAD, CFD from CFX, Cyra Cloudworx, Cyra Cyclone, CIFE Decision Dashboard, auto-des-sys Form Z, CommonPoint 4D Project 4D, Microsoft Project, Olof Ganlund Oy’s RIUSKA and Solibri Model Checker, along with other common office and graphics software applications.

Pilot Projects

The nine GSA projects and the use BIM data were:

1. 26 Federal Plaza, New York: An as-built laser scanned 3D model was compared to the 3D design model based on the architectural, structural and MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) design, which identified a major error in a structural wall placement that was caught early enough in the project to save significant time and money.

2. Office Building, Houston, Texas: BIM enabled early detection of design errors and omissions pertaining to an innovative façade system, avoiding costly change orders during construction.

3. U.S. Courthouse, El Paso, Texas: 3D spatial information model information was used to assess quantitative data about building efficiency, fenestration ration, volume ratio, usable floor area and other factors to ensure compliance with GSA design standards and ANSI-BOMA standards.

4. 300 NLA Federal Building, Los Angeles, California: A fully occupied federal building was guided through a 16-phase seismic upgrade and renovation project by using 4D modeling to reduce the overall schedule by 19% and uncover major errors in cost assumptions and communicating extensive move operations for tenant agencies.

5. Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C.: BIM and a QuickTime movie were created for a historic rehabilitation project involving new glazing to assess daylight and shadow studies and compliance with historic guidelines and building security.

6. GSA Regional Office Building, Washington, D.C.: 4D modeling (3D plus the fourth dimension of time to reflect scheduling, construction sequence or phases) was used to analyze cost/time implications of different alternatives for a two-phase modernization project, which uncovered information discrepancies about existing tenant agency locations and sizes.

7. GSA Central Office Building, Washington, D.C.: BIM and IFC (Industry Foundation Class) data enabled direct model exchange with a consultant for energy analysis of an existing office building using a DOE-2-based program to model energy use based on occupancy activities across a typical work day.

8. Border Station Prototype, U.S.-Canadian Border: Site orientation tradeoffs, structural system alternatives, vehicular flow, prefabrication construction studies and material choices were analyzed from the early programming phase throughout the design process.

9. U.S. Courthouse, Portland, Oregon: 4D modeling integrates design intent, structural engineering and construction scheduling into one model to foster GSA communication to the public, tenants and contractors for a seismic upgrade, including base isolators for a historic landmark courthouse building.

These nine projects represent several uses of BIM today, and they hint at several other uses. The complete GSA TAP and more information are available on the AIA Web site.

GSA estimates that the cost savings on just one of the nine pilot projects offsets the cost of conducting the two-year pilot program so far, with the direct positive benefits of the other eight projects serving as bonus dividends. Based on this success so far, the GSA Office of the Chief Architect will aim to expand and extend its BIM pilot program into more regions, design consultants, contractors and technology partners.

When GSA first announced the BIM pilot project, the organization also stated that it was targeting fiscal year 2006 to implement the mandated requirement that all federal facility projects would have to submit BIM data for preliminary design analysis. Based on GSA's reported success with the pilot program, I'd say architects had better get on the BIM bandwagon if they expect to compete for GSA projects.

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