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Building Better with BIM


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It’s been a long road for Building Information Modeling (BIM) to reach its current state. But, if supporters, surveys, and reports are accurate, BIM is now moving to widespread adoption, even as it continues to evolve. Interestingly, it turns out that contractors are adopting BIM faster than architects!

On one project, the Collaborative Life Sciences Building in Portland, Oregon, a joint project of Oregon State University and Portland State University, BIM is credited with saving $10 million on a $295 million budget. The project had complex geometric designs and using 3D models helped to communicate the way things fit together for the subcontractors. But, it was the three-dimensional, all-digital documentation process used by the 28 different design teams that received credit for the savings.

BIM Internationally

Across the globe, BIM gets a lot of press and attention. A Dodge Data & Analytics survey found dramatic growth in BIM used by architects and contractors in China. 89% percent of architects and 108% of contractors said that over the next two years they will use BIM on at least 30% of their projects. For Chinese firms, and others globally, BIM is a way to show industry leadership. BIM is also helping Chinese firms speed up client approval cycles as well as reducing errors in documents, improving collaboration, and reducing re-work. 

BIM users experience a 5% reduction in the final construction costs, a 5% increase in the speed of completion, a 25% improvement in labor productivity, and a 25% reduction in site labor.

Adoption of BIM extends beyond firms in the AEC industry. Governments in Norway, Singapore, and Hong Kong are now requiring its use in public projects.

But in the UK, recent reports showed BIM use declining. However, rather being viewed as an indication of BIM fading, observers say this is just an inflection point in the widespread adoption of BIM. That’s because, once adoption reaches a halfway point it typically slows as the remaining population of potential users improve their understanding of the technology before adopting it.

BIM America

Within North America, surveys and reports in recent years show BIM adoption rapidly rising, and contractors are on the leading edge of adoption. A McGraw-Hill Construction survey in 2012 reported for the first time that contractors were using BIM more than architects. Even though it’s the large firms undertaking complex projects that represent the biggest users, the results of leveraging BIM are generally considered valuable to any size firm. 

For example, Dodge Data & Analytics found that many were using construction modeling to boost efficiencies in both scheduling and logistics. Construction modeling uses the BIM design to help contractors improve project delivery. 

Surveyed firms also reported getting the most value from the models by using them for work packaging and sequencing, site logistics, and equipment logistics. Respondents also said emerging uses for construction models include locating crews, workforce planning, enforcing safety, and handling temporary works.

Benefits of BIM

As far as the overall value of BIM, survey respondents reported a 5% reduction in the final construction costs, a 5% increase in the speed of completion, a 25% improvement in labor productivity, and a 25% reduction in site labor because BIM made it feasible to use more off-site fabrication.

The BIM Company, an international startup based in Chicago, claims to reinvent BIM so it lives up to its original promise. The company uses BIM for far more than just clash detection and visualization. “We’re not just drawing with BIM now; we’re managing with it,” said founder Paul Doherty, AIA. The firm is tying BIM to the virtual design and construction process, and is focusing on the urban environment. BIM Company has work under contract in the U.S., Australia, the UAE, and India. The company is also pursuing projects in Ireland, the U.K., China, and Hong Kong. 

Construction companies are even creating partnerships that exploit BIM in new ways. Turner Construction Company used a predictive visual data analytics tool developed by a team from the University of Illinois to improve responses to performance issues at the Sacramento Kings Golden 1 Center construction site. 

The pilot project goal was to use color-coded 3D visual production models to easily inform project stakeholders about at-risk locations on a project site. The system helped managers sort problems by seriousness, and then correct them more reliably and efficiently. The long term impact was better project performance and greater connectedness among teams. Because the system called attention to problems grouped by their location in 3D, it also streamlined weekly work planning.

Today, BIM is working at all levels of construction projects, and with all participants. Meanwhile, new BIM tools are simplifying how people interact with models. Other technologies like geographic information systems and augmented reality are working with BIM to open up whole new ways of imagining, viewing, constructing, and managing the built world.