Building Information Modeling (BIM) and associated software have been around for a long time. However, the software has only become comprehensive in the past 20 years.
The fact that BIM software has migrated into a comprehensive set of tool options has moved it from being an asset when designing and planning to indispensable.
Here is how BIM software offers greater efficiency in a project’s design and construction phases.
More Complete Input
At its most basic, BIM software streamlines the planning processes by allowing every stakeholder of a building project to see the planning process in action and in real-time. Issues with sustainability, scheduling, logistics planning, labor, and even materials procurement can be anticipated and addressed before they become obstacles.
If a particular part of a design presents an immense challenge to any of the stakeholders, BIM lets all involved undertake the following process:
- Look for design alternatives
- Look for materials alternatives
- Look for labor alternatives
- Reformulate designs to address issues before construction begins
Before architects or planners create a single design or project managers draw up project timelines and plans, a life-like computer model in 3D can help every participant troubleshoot all but truly unforeseen issues. In addition, every participant can provide input into the design of a project. They also can modify their initial input to reflect challenges and issues brought up by others.
This aspect of BIM helps with the planning stages and helps immensely with scheduling once the project is approved. All stakeholders can see what is required and modify their plans accordingly. Project managers can anticipate where bottlenecks in crew allocation or work schedules will occur and modify work orders and schedules to address the conflicts.
Tighter Project Management
Greater input and more transparent plans and processes make project management much easier. For example, BIM allows for multi-contributor data input. That is invaluable when mapping out schedules, work duties, staff, equipment, and resource allocation.
With BIM, project managers have at their fingertips exactly what every other contributor has at their avail. For instance, a project manager can instantly see a design change or a change in the type of materials required versus reading about it in an email that might get overlooked or hearing about it secondhand because they missed a meeting.
BIM also shows project managers’ work status and progress as it happens. If a work challenge appears, the project manager can see where the problem is, what workers get impacted, and alternatives to fix it. Seeing work status also lets project managers shift duties across staff based on specialties, expertise, and availability.
Another efficiency benefit BIM brings to the table is speeding up processes via adequate planning. A materials list, for example, can be drawn up before a project commences, saving time ordering supplies and materials as well as scheduling work that is supplier dependent.
BIM creates opportunities for the pre-fabrication of units and components. As soon as a project is approved, pre-fabrication plants can start work on various components weeks or months before they are needed. By using pre-fabrication, whether formal or informal, project managers can save time and money when assembling the components necessary to start building.
The design stage accelerates as well. Building plans can be shared in real-time with real-time updates, allowing all stakeholders to process a feature or change and formulate a timely response. The days of waiting for someone out in the field to weigh in on a proposed design change are in the past. All that person in the field needs is the technology to access the BIM software.
Being able to see everything at once in a 3D format with associated critical data helps planners and project managers catch errors before they happen. Reducing errors makes any project more efficient, but being able to anticipate an issue or respond to it in real-time and see how it impacts the entire project is invaluable.
For example, if a conflict is looming between two construction project components, that conflict can be seen via 3D modeling.
If, for example, a particular feature will mean delays with other facets of the project, the issue can get fixed before the project starts. The same principle applies to supply chain issues. If planners can see that specific material is scarce, they can modify their plan, and stakeholders can react to it immediately.
Better Crew Planning
Being able to see an entire project and all its components is also an immense gain in efficiency as it pertains to scheduling labor. A project manager can see workflow based on the approved design and can use crews in the most efficient manner possible. Redundancies in staffing are no longer a problem because managers have the entire schedule at their fingertips.
Additionally, BIM allows project managers to see when labor shortages will be an issue. Suppose a work schedule has a crew working on two different parts of a project simultaneously. In that case, the project manager can see the conflict in the planning and modify the planning or find additional labor resources. Schedules can be easily juggled, and the impact on a project is minimized before anyone gets into crisis mode.
One trend that has affected almost every aspect of construction is the push to use sustainable products, materials, and processes. BIM makes that process easy. Planners can now see in 3D how the utilization of different types of materials affects a project and can select the best sustainable materials available.
The utilization of sustainable products is also easily managed by BIM, which can result in lower maintenance costs for the client over the long term. BIM can also narrow options when a sustainable material is not available or will cause a delay in construction. Finally, keeping track of LEEDS or WELL compliance is simple with BIM.
BIM has reinvented design and construction processes. It has done so piecemeal over the last four or five decades, but tying it all together under one software package has taken a good planning and management tool and made it a must for every construction project.
Pook Villegas is an AEC Application Specialist at Microsol Resources. She is responsible for providing the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) clients with BIM health checks, developing and implementing BIM standards, assisting with BIM Execution Plans (BEP), training, technical support, and other BIM-related services. She brings extensive architectural design and technological skills, having worked with BIM technology in various project types, including K-12 facilities, residential, and interior projects.
Pook received her Master of Architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as well as a Bachelor of Architecture and Interior Design from the University of Oklahoma. She is also a LEED Green Associate and WELL AP and has a thorough comprehension of green building principles and practices. In her spare time, she loves to play ice hockey and spend time outdoors. She is fluent in Thai as well as English.