Although many construction companies use BIM to ensure efficient building planning, design and construction, it can be difficult to make sure you're taking full advantage of everything BIM offers. BIM obviously is an intelligent, 3D model-based process, but it fulfills other purposes too. Over time, additional features have been added to create options such as full-scale project management.
At its most basic level, BIM allows you to develop digital workflows through the use of consistent data. This supports project programming, project coordination and construction — and results in a deliverable at project handover.
For some construction companies, BIM is simply used to coordinate model data from various authoring tools or platforms. In other cases — especially with big companies that choose to make large technology and productivity investments — BIM is used to replace all project drawings and support job site work with mobile devices.
For most contractors, however, BIM use likely falls somewhere in between these two scenarios. Even when large contractors have specific BIM protocols they need to follow to meet project requirements, they may break away from those protocols in certain situations and expect 2D drawings as deliverables (even if they're expected to maintain a specific BIM level in the project at handover).
Because of how they're used to working with BIM, it's also not unusual for contractors to overlook — or forget about — the complete opportunities BIM offers. Open, cloud-based BIM solutions offer a world of connectivity not available to construction companies before. This world tends to be crowded with BIM databases or CDEs (common data environments), which can become overwhelming.
Contractors also often have very specific demands that change project by project. Sometimes basic management of 2D drawings from authoring tools is all you need. Because it's used so often for situations like these, it may be easy to forget that you can rely on BIM for clash detection, logistical requirements and/or project planning as well.
Data organization and presentation are key to BIM's success. Taking time to understand how to connect different hubs of data is important — as is ensuring that you don't rely on processes using closed BIM solutions just because it seems faster or easier. While it may make things simpler in the short term, this can create obstacles in the long run.
How can you make the most of BIM? By following these tips:
If you use BIM for coordination, then it's important to put workflows in place to notify project members of activities, changes, issues, due dates, etc.
If your goal is to use a BIM model for scheduling and project programming, then access to the data required to make this happen should be in place. Managing model components within the BIM environment is critical; the site-based model will likely be created from various authoring tools that lack consistency.
Visibility and accessibility of data are also key. Strive to make BIM models the single source of truth; deviation should be discouraged.
A connected BIM approach is the most beneficial outcome from various systems used on a project. Operations performed in one specific domain should affect managed change in another. If BIM implementation on a project doesn't break the traditional data silos we've seen all too often in the past, then implementation needs to change.
When your approach to BIM is well thought out, the data it provides should deliver many project improvements, including:
A more accurate digital representation of physical assets.
A rich data source that makes project handover easier.
Complete project visibility.
We're constantly impressed by how contractors around the world adopt and integrate BIM into their workflows. A recent train station project in Switzerland, for example, adopted BIM from start to finish — from model creation to on-site construction — and everything was delivered in a digital platform.
Because the station had to operate throughout the project, the team used the BIM model to integrate all planners for each aspect of development and renovation, which kept everyone updated and on the same page.
A contractor in the Netherlands used BIM to minimize errors and reduce the chance of rework, especially among a global team. Because BIM enabled remote work with live streaming of processes, no one had to wait to receive critical information.
The days of manually bringing information together should be a thing of the past in BIM projects. Having all project data and information in one place allows all disciplines to contribute to discussions and sign off on relevant areas with confidence.