Now over two decades into the new millennium, planning construction projects is no longer just done at the drafting table. Digital advancements have shattered the limitations of 2D drawings and blueprints. This includes Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, which is enabling more accurate and flexible project documentation via information-rich 3D models. Its potency has quickly made it the industry’s new essential tool, but not everyone has yet to get on board.
In this post, we showcase why construction professionals should be embracing BIM and what steps they can take for implementation.
Benefits of BIM and its Use in Modern Construction
BIM construction apps have become essential assets in today’s industry. They boast a multitude of functions that give construction teams a significant edge in laying a project’s groundwork and managing the construction process.
Consolidating Single-Discipline Models into One
BIM simplifies the planning process by allowing the work of all project architects, engineers, and contractors to be combined into a composite model. Gone is the need for each collaborator to build their models separately and reference each other without the context of their own.
This permits a more transparent framework in which all collaborators can get the bigger picture, seeing how their work fits into the greater whole and influences the entire construction.
Automatic Updating of All Documentation
The 3D models made in BIM construction apps are built with several individual components, known as BIM objects. You can think of these as unique models of objects such as walls, doors, insulation, tiles, and generators. Each of these items is assigned its own set of data that reflects how it will affect the whole building’s structure and performance.
When any one of these BIM objects is changed, information is automatically updated across the board. There’s no need to update different project models or documentation manually. The same is true when redraws and redesigns are made.
All collaborators can easily stay abreast of project changes and access the information they need to attend to their duties. When given access to the BIM model, project owners and other stakeholders are also able to maintain a comprehensive overview of the latest developments. This dramatically streamlines the entire collaboration process, removing information barriers that used to be the cause of much delay and expense.
Forecasting Performance, Time & Budget
The abundance of information contained in BIM models allows for projections of all types to be made. Referencing the data of each BIM object and the building site, the models can predict everything from the interior’s exposure to natural daylight to the whole building’s energy efficiency.
In the same vein, they are also able to estimate total construction costs, as well as potential monetary savings owed to the building’s reduced energy and resource usage.
Finally, having a wealth of information about the building site and the materials to be installed allows for managers to predict total construction time. The task of evaluating whether or not preferred timelines are realistic is no longer guesswork.
Reducing Errors, Costs & Risks
BIM models minimize construction costs by allowing collaborators to identify critical opportunities for value engineering. Running simulations, while “trying out” different materials, components, and design schemes in the 3D model can help construction workers find the combinations that yield the best balance between performance and cost.
Hunches can be tested quickly, and the wisdom of confident choices can be verified with just a few clicks. The accuracy of performance estimation ensures that projects can follow the path that’s genuinely the most cost-efficient.
BIM construction apps also minimize the likelihood of change orders being necessary. Without the benefit of information-dense models, it’s not uncommon for collaborators to realize that certain elements need to be changed after the initial plans and budget were already set. Expensive revisions must be made, risking overextension of the construction budget or timeline.
But with BIM, project models are made as accurate and thorough as possible. All collaborators have access to the information they need to make sure that their work fits in with the plan. This access to higher-quality information leads to fewer conflicts, reducing the need for change orders altogether.
All of this means that construction managers have an easier time adhering to the project budget, timeline, and design, significantly mitigating project risks.
Accessing Project Plans From Anywhere
Today’s construction sites are more connected than ever, thanks to the cloud-based service of most modern BIM software. Accessible through mobile apps, BIM models can be quickly and easily referenced by collaborators when they’re right there on the building grounds.
So long as they have a mobile device, collaborators and stakeholders can view and interact with the project files no matter where they’re located. This removes the slowdown that is often caused by needing to call out for information, and so too prevents mistakes.
Creating Realistic Previews
BIM’s 3D capabilities facilitate the creation of realistic models that reflect a structure’s dimensions, aesthetics, and atmosphere. The lifelike nature of these models can be magnified with the use of virtual and augmented reality.
VR and AR explorations of BIM models can allow AEC collaborators, project owners, and other stakeholders to simulate the experience of being in and around the structure before it’s even built. Such previews permit collaborators to spot issues not apparent in 2D and even craft more impactful investor presentations.
Empowering Building Owners
BIM isn’t just useful for design and construction; it can also be a great facility management app. Because models can be made to reflect and predict a building’s full performance, BIM allows owners to optimize operations, implement predictive maintenance, and execute more efficient renovations. This makes it an invaluable asset for project hand-over.
Leveraging BIM in Your Own Projects
Given the powerful functionalities covered above, you may be eager to use BIM in your endeavors. But figuring out how to go about it can be quite a hurdle.
Before you can answer what is the best way to implement BIM on your construction site, you’ll need to assess many aspects of your project. Questions should include:
Does the site present unique challenges that may require various design simulations to solve?
Will stakeholders or authorities require multiple design options for consideration?
What are the top goals of the project stakeholders? (Quick takeoff, sustainability accreditation, minimized costs, etc.)
Is the project estimator going to be engaged in early BIM planning?
Will presentations be necessary to gain certain approvals or more investors? Could 3D models enhance these presentations?
What are the owner’s future plans for the structure? Will they use BIM for facility management?
Are all AEC collaborators able and willing to work through BIM?
After answering questions like these, it should be clearer what your project will need to get out of using BIM. This will make implementation far easier, knowing what functionalities you’ll need to focus on, and what targets the project team will be using BIM to hit. It’s this information that your team will use to develop a successful BIM Project Execution Plan (BEP).
As you proceed, you’ll need to stay aware of what you can expect out of your BIM model. Its capabilities are directly related to the quality of input, and whether or not that input aligns with your project goals.
For example, if one of your goals in using BIM is to prevent incompatibilities among the project’s installations, you’ll have to ensure that all collaborators put their complete plans into the BIM model accurately and that all BIM objects they’ve input reflect exact measurements, weights, placements, etc. Without this data accuracy, you may not be able to rely on your BIM model to predict all possible clashes.
Choosing the Best BIM Software
Selecting the right BIM app for your project is an essential step. Like when forming your BIM Project Execution Plan, you’ll need to ask yourself the same questions in order to determine which features are priorities in your ideal software.
Popularity can be a good starting point when narrowing down candidates. Autodesk is one of the AEC industry’s leading developers of BIM software. Its dominance has been earned because its software options are some of the market’s most flexible and robust.
Among their most popular programs are Revit and BIM 360. These two are often used together to maintain a full BIM framework from a project’s start to finish.
Revit is a BIM modeling tool that is typically used more in the design phase of construction projects when architects are planning layouts, detailing specifications, and creating 3D representations of their designs.
BIM 360 is compatible with Revit and can be used with Revit models. The software is more often used in the pre-construction and construction stages of projects when contractors and other collaborators are working to realize the project design. This, along with its live and mobile accessibility, makes BIM 360 one of the best BIM construction takeoff software.
* Note: Both Revit and BIM 360 generate documents that can be used to make cost estimations. Quantity estimating is enabled explicitly by Revit’s material scheduling feature, and BIM360 is compatible with various estimator apps.
When Standard Solutions Don’t Suffice
Of course, even the industry’s most feature-packed apps may not be enough. If you’re looking for extra capabilities, you may have to seek third-party add-ons or your proprietary program. For example, here at Corbis Studio, we develop Revit plugins and other custom applications for projects with requirements that aren’t met by the industry’s general BIM tools.
We invite you to get in touch with our team if you’re seeking assistance with BIM in your next construction project. In addition to software solutions, we also provide BIM and project management services for AEC projects all over the globe.
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