"Do You Do BIM? Part 1

4 Jun, 2006 By: Brandt R. Karstens

Building information modeling is more than new technology; know the basics and you'll be prepared for your clients' inevitable question.

BIM (building information modeling), a new approach in facility design and construction, is not simply a technology implementation. Rather, as an innovative approach to the entire building process, BIM brings together the major stakeholder groups — architects, mechanical-electrical-plumbing-structural engineers, building contractors and owners — early on in the process. The idea: answering more building-related questions sooner, sharing information, breaking down traditional barriers and thus cutting costs.

Understanding BIM and its benefits are the first step toward making the BIM transition. This two-part article will help you arm yourself with the basics and prepare yourself for the next steps. Today's article will compare BIM to the conventional approach to building and explain its major benefits. In Part 2, we'll look at software as an enabling technology for BIM and the challenges of BIM implementation.

BIM vs. the Old Construction Model
Within these stakeholder groups, we are still wrestling with a common understanding of BIM. Forward-thinking owners are often the first to initiate discussions about it, but even they frequently struggle to describe what BIM entails. Additionally, they are accustomed to thinking in terms of strategies such as design-build. Although such strategies may move in the direction the collaborative BIM approach, they still are not as all-encompassing. Collaboration is achieved only because one firm continues to direct all efforts.

Each interaction among the separate stakeholder groups has its own barriers, including legal, contractual and insurance issues. These can produce adversarial relationships. Thus, bringing the groups together can present a huge challenge. However, the architect's presence at the building cycle's inception presents a clear opportunity: The architect, as the owner's trusted advisor, can lead off the project with exactly the right tone and help develop a common understanding of BIM.

Under BIM, all stakeholder groups come together to input data, make decisions and solve problems much sooner than would be possible under existing models. Agreeing on processes this far in advance can save owners money, not only up front, but also over the building's lifecycle.

BIM Benefits
Improved Decision-Making. BIM enables all stakeholders to make better decisions. Not only are decisions made earlier in the process, but better information exists on which to base those decisions, and the information is better organized. Decision-making is facilitated through accurate visualization and the early, rapid and frequent analysis that BIM-enabled software enables.

Better decision-making allows stakeholders to input superior data. Their information exchange is improved, data redundancy is reduced and data quality is enhanced. BIM-enabled software further provides the ability to use data-based analysis though specialty engineering analysis software. Contractors also can find improvements by performing functions such as quantity take-offs from the model. Most important, BIM-enabled software provides one place to record and store data.

Better information leads to better decisions and better decisions result in better design. Stakeholders find they have more design options, along with "informed design." For example, those involved with building a green facility can take advantage of software-based energy use and sustainability analyses.

This BIM model can hold data relevant to every phase of the project's lifecycle.

Better Collaboration. Another BIM benefit is improved coordination and collaboration within the model, collaboration among disciplines as well as between owners, architects, consultants and contractors. Collaboration can happen early and iteratively. To make the most of this opportunity, owners architects, engineers and contractors can enter into mutually collaborative contracts.

Improved Efficiency. BIM is more efficient. It has clear, in-house drawing-production benefits. Case in point: Fewer staff members produce faster designs with fewer conflicts. Virtual models evolve rather than being redrawn from scratch; they also can integrate specifications and code documentation. The information is higher quality and more intuitive than information gleaned from CAD alone. Moreover, you can gain construction efficiency from 4D (adding time and sequencing to the design), along with mass customization and fabrication for the builder.

Better Bottom Line. BIM makes a project more profitable, not just in initial stages but throughout its lifecycle. It has the potential to reduce change requests and claims; stakeholders who have agreed on the process are less likely to dispute one another's decisions. Stakeholders use deliverables that add value to their process from the proceeding stakeholder. Smaller project teams need only do the project once using automated routine tasks. Finally, the model's lifecycle value to the owner is improved because the information can be used to help manage the facility.

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