What is BIM in construction management? BIM in construction industry.
BIM is the talk of the town in the construction industry nowadays. While the term itself is not exactly new, just a few years ago BIM was somewhat unheard of. People know that BIM stands for Building Information Modelling, but few understand what it means or how broad the scope of this technology is.
The definition of BIM in construction industry
So, what is BIM in construction? Building Information Modelling is a complex procedure that includes interaction with information from different construction stages, along with cooperation and general management of a project. The typical output of BIM is an informational model of a building that includes granular bits of information about how it was built, history of the decisions that were made at what stages, and other critical information. A popular misconception about the definition of BIM in construction is that it’s just an extension of traditional 3D modelling software – but it’s so much more.
Another way to describe what BIM means is to see it as a unified information resource about a specific facility, from the conceptualization, to the regular maintenance, or even demolition. The interaction between BIM and construction management as a process is not as difficult as it seems. Some of the other fields that BIM covers are light analysis, geographical info, building components (quantities, properties, etc.), spatial relationships, and so on.
BIM as a concept appeared as early as the 1960s, but it was more or less nothing but a concept for many years. BIM’s interaction with the construction industry was similar to how some sort of virus spreads, gradually taking over different parts and segments of the construction industry.
Of course, the difference between BIM and the virus is that BIM brought a lot of positive changes to the industry and improved upon many processes – including designing, workflow management, planning, interacting with materials, cost estimating, and so on.
There were also quite a lot of issues that were somewhat exclusive to one branch of the construction industry. For example, the AEC industry struggled with collaboration management, wrong cost estimates, object clashes on site, and project delays, among many other issues. To say that the introduction of BIM was a saving grace for this industry would be an understatement – and it is just one of many industries that were in a very similar situation.
Why BIM is so important for the construction industry
The primary advantage of Building Information Modeling (BIM) lies in its capacity to exert a profound impact on all stages of a project, spanning from initiation to completion. This influential capability enables seamless collaboration among constructors, designers, engineers, and various other specialists, fostering a unified pursuit of shared objectives through the facilitation of digital information exchange and other collaborative enhancements.
Furthermore, it is worthwhile to consider an alternative perspective that underscores the manifold reasons why BIM holds significant importance within the construction industry:
- Costs. One of the many advantages offered by a BIM model is its ability to provide accurate information about every object involved in the construction process, starting from the design phase. This early access to precise information greatly enhances the accuracy of project estimates. In turn, accurate project estimates reduce overall costs, enabling project managers to optimize material purchases and subsequent processes efficiently.
- Efficiency. Efficiency is another noteworthy benefit brought by BIM. The productivity improvements it offers facilitate the execution of large-scale projects with greater speed and fewer issues throughout the entire construction process.
- Facility Management. BIM’s highly detailed models also prove to be exceptionally valuable in facility management. Post-construction, these models can be utilized for various purposes such as renovation, maintenance, and even disassembly, enhancing the management of facilities.
- Communication. Effective communication is greatly facilitated by BIM, as it simplifies project-wide decision-making and provides easy access to comprehensive project data in a centralized location.
- Risk Management. Risk management is significantly enhanced through BIM’s centralized data access and model synchronization. This simplifies tasks such as risk analysis and clash detection, ultimately contributing to safer construction sites.
- Opportunities. BIM’s potential to utilize Virtual Reality technology allows stakeholders and architects to visualize their projects more easily, opening up opportunities for improved construction designs in the future.
- Results. Ultimately, these advantages contribute to achieving better results in terms of project completion. They encompass aspects such as reduced rework and delays, a safer work environment, and overall superior project outcomes, including the construction of high-quality buildings, among other deliverables.
Part of why BIM is so highly regarded by plenty of industry professionals is the deeply-rooted issues that this industry had for many years. For example, a lot of the miscommunication between stakeholders results in some sort of rework during the construction phase – a rework that costs both money and manpower. Plenty of different studies showcase how reworks alone are a massive issue for the industry – with rework costs resulting in up to 5% of the project’s total value, and rework times consuming as much as 30% of the overall work time of a construction team. The exact prices tend to vary quite a lot depending on the project’s scope and plenty of other factors, but there’s enough industry data in this relatively dated American Institute of Architects and Association of General Contractors article that states the average cost of a single design clash to be about $1,500.
In this context, it is easy to see how and why the importance of BIM is basically impossible to overestimate.
BIM technology in details
One particular BIM construction meaning describes it as a combination of various “objects” of different size, value and purpose, with their own geometry, attributes, relations, and so on. One of the prime advantages of using BIM is consistency – all of the participants of the project work within the same system and with the same project format, with no additional time and effort needed to unify all of the results.
Generally speaking, the use of BIM in construction industry provides a plethora of different benefits. We’ll go over those benefits in more detail a bit later, but now we have three main areas that BIM makes the most noticeable difference:
- Development and Simulation;
- Visualization and Cooperation;
- Clash Detection.
The development and simulation make the entire construction process more manageable by helping project managers apply different conditions and events to their model, and thus creating predictions about various topics like energy efficiency or the optimal construction material, and so on.
Visualization and cooperation is also a significant part of BIM application in construction. A correct and realistic model of a project allows different teams within the same construction process to address possible problems collectively, issue updates to the model, and ensure everyone is on the same page. Running alternative scenarios with visualization is also possible with BIM.
Clash detection is another area that heavily benefits from BIM inclusion. By making realistic visuals of the project, contractors can easily detect and solve clashes in construction before the building is built. For example, it’s quite easy to detect the clashing of electrical fittings and plumbing fittings with properly implemented BIM.
You can learn much more about how BIM changed the construction industry by taking one of many online courses on the topic of BIM. This particular course, for example, is free and offers six weeks of education on this topic.
Case study – Improving communication with BIM
The construction industry as a whole didn’t have a proper solution to the problem of communication between departments in construction projects for many years. This single issue created many subsequent ones– delays, miscommunication, budget overruns, etc.
As such, implementing a BIM solution focused on issue tracking was the solution to this problem, streamlining project management, improving communication, and so on. More information about this particular case can be found in this High School Project Case Study.
This case study shows how the company in question made their processes more transparent and streamlined, with the addition of immersive 3D environments, seamless integration with plenty of other software, and a real-time issue tracking system – courtesy of Revizto.
There’s a number of different subsets of BIM, described in terms of dimensions – with both usual 2D and 3D being different levels, as well as more complex levels including 4D, 5D, and so on. There’s still a lot of debate about the right interpretation of different dimensions after 6D that are still subject to a change.
There are 3 usual dimensions representing 3D construction. 4D refers to the dimension of “time” being added to the previous three – evaluating different aspects of the construction project in the temporal aspect, improving schedules, logistic plans, and so on.
5D means adding another dimension of “cost” to the equation, making it easier to generate overall budgets and financial representations of the project. 6D refers to adding facility management to the project, broadly describing building services and elements with geometry and property capabilities, and so on.
Benefits of BIM in construction management
Taking a slightly different approach to BIM advantages during the construction process – here’s ten of the most significant improvements over the BIM-less system:
Better monitoring of the different project parts in general, the ability to roll back everything if the last change displays an error – saving a lot of time for the designers when compared to the previous iterations.
The entire process is automated, allowing you to see the possible clashes between different BIM objects from the get-go, which saves time and money throughout the project lifecycle. This kind of seamless integration of different project elements makes it so that every project participant knows the scope and the limits of the said project from day 1, leaving no room for speculation or miscommunication.
It’s true that BIM can save a lot of money but it also works as a time-reducing tool. Removing various setbacks from the construction process, easy modification and the overall simultaneous documentation allows companies to save plenty of time that they would otherwise spend on the unnecessary changes and nuances.
More time-effective projects
Due to the numerous advantages of BIM, companies can improve their entire project timelines by reducing or removing mistakes, adjustments, reiterations and so on.
Lowered risks and expenses
There are plenty of ways that BIM can reduce both risks and expenses of a project, like better coordination with contractors, improved accuracy of models in general, a single document database, easy coordination and cooperation, and more.
Accurate cost assessments
This is the direct representative of the 5D level of BIM that includes the “cost” dimension in the equation, resulting in an automated cost evaluation of your projects in real-time. It can be used to see the estimated cost of the entire project or the affect a specific object can have on its price. This allows architects to implement a multitude of different ways to reduce construction costs, including:
- Streamlining the entire workflow of construction – less billable hours for the client;
- Buying materials at the lowest possible market price;
- Reduce the number of costly repairs and project delays by drastically decreasing the number of human errors;
- Pick more cost-effective material types;
- Make a decision between building on-site and prefabricating, which is cheaper and which is more effective overall.
All of this can be performed by using a variation of BIM software, offering estimates for materials, shipping fees, labor prices, prefabricated pieces’ delivery time, and so on.
Improvements in teamwork and communication in general
It is possible via several different technologies, like cloud accessibility, better project framework distribution, and seamless interfacing with varying project fields. Since all of the project information is stored in a single place accessible to all of the different parties, miscommunication is as close to zero as possible. For example, contractors don’t have to figure out how to fix a clash on an actual building since all of it can be modulated and resolved beforehand.
Not only that, but the communication as a whole has shown much improvement with the introduction of BIM since every participant can see the project in its entirety from start to finish, making collaboration and other potentially beneficial changes that are much easier to test or even implement.
Various BIM tools can generate diagrams and production processes, significantly increasing overall work productivity by taking advantage of technologies like preconstruction and modular development. For example, BIM software allows architects to have more freedom to design complex architecture pieces and provide various tolerance-related calculations. Additionally, better productivity means faster lifecycles, which leads to fewer expenses and shorter return-of-investment times.
Better build quality
Even though the most apparent benefits of BIM are mostly concentrated in fields like construction and design, it’s also safe to say that clients should be able to notice a consistently better build quality, as well. The main reason for that would be the improved accuracy of both models and calculations, making for a higher quality structure. Additionally, BIM allows for structures to be more aesthetically pleasing since architects have the ability to completely emulate how the project would look in reality, down to artificial and natural light emulation.
Planning stage with project visualization
The ability to see the entire project’s model before the construction process begins lowers the risk of time-consuming and expensive modifications to fix a specific oversight or a simple mistake. This particular benefit is a godsend for architects in this field since before BIM, each rework meant reconstructing the design and the project’s drawings from scratch whenever something was wrong. Now it is completely different, allowing architects to modify projects in a myriad of different ways without the need to start from scratch every time.
Development sites are more secure
BIM can automatically identify problematic zones and potential logistic disasters in advance, saving both time and money for the company and creating a safer place for the team members. Passing on-site evaluations and meeting all of the safety regulations is extremely easy with BIM.
The future of BIM in the industry
BIM as a technology offers great benefits and could offer even more benefits in the future. At the same time, it is rather difficult to predict how much better BIM as technology can become – and there are plenty of areas in which BIM can improve.
For example, location planning can benefit greatly from the introduction of BIM since plenty of parameters have to be calculated to be able to consider location-related factors – wind patterns, sunlight exposure, and so on. Another example is the extent of automation that BIM can bring since plenty of tasks still have to be done manually at the planning stage. Even the horrendous carbon footprint of the construction industry can be improved upon with the help of BIM since buildings themselves could be more energy-efficient, and the lack of reworks decreases the amount of waste produced by the construction process.
How BIM changes the construction industry
The impact of BIM in the construction industry is significant since it allows companies to prevent costly mistakes caused by human error. BIM is another way of bringing cutting-edge technologies to the construction industry, raising the overall quality of projects. This also goes for the overall value of each project, with impressive visualization, simulation capabilities for different data types and the overall connection of different stages into one single process – BIM technology can revolutionize the way companies build.
BIM projects are much less prone to delays and interruptions, and BIM’s collaboration capabilities are outstanding. While it is true that the technology investment as a whole is rather intense, it becomes far more likely every year that companies unwilling to invest in systems such as BIM will soon be left behind.
The UK is a good example of that, adopting strategic plans to facilitate BIM usage as a part of the “Digital Build Britain” initiative – and 3D/4D BIM strategy already exists on a government level. With BIM getting this big in the industry, it puts a lot of pressure on all contractors to perform better and faster projects, and keeping up with that kind of demand without BIM may soon become near impossible. As such, investing in BIM implementation is a great long-term initiative that doubles as participation in the ongoing industry transformation.