BIM for Construction

Editorial Type: Opinion Date: 03-2013 Views: 4,104 Tags: CAD, Collaboration, Excitech
By Bob Garrett, Marketing Director, Excitech Ltd

The interest and development of BIM in the construction phase is probably the area which has shown the fastest change over the last couple of years, and this continues at a rapid pace. The UK Government's strategy has helped highlight the potential benefits and both the public and private sector have embraced the potential advantages.

Construction organisations are in a central position within the project stages from a BIM perspective. If the design teams are not producing information for BIM then the contractor may have to do much of the design work again (as is often done in traditional processes), and if the client is demanding handover information in a particular format then this must also be considered.

When a contractor is implementing BIM, they are looking to drive efficiencies through the supply chain, whilst decreasing overall construction cost and timescales, ultimately improving the value being delivered to the industry's clients.

In general, some of the key advantages of a BIM process include:

??????? Improved communication and collaboration among project participants
??????? Enhanced project execution and decision-making
??????? More accurate planning and scheduling
??????? Higher quality construction results
??????? Greater process standardisation
??????? More consistent performance against projected budgets
??????? Notably reduced change orders and RFIs
??????? Understanding of construction environment through visualisation
??????? Cross-discipline co-ordination / virtual issue resolution
??????? Clash detection
??????? Faster pre-fabrication of materials

We are seeing an increasing trend where BIM is being adopted because the client, or another design organisation or the contractor has mandated it because of the benefits they expect. In an industry which remains extremely competitive, external drivers can be a major factor in helping a project to be won and delivering a better service. To understand the project better, have greater confidence in costs and time scales and be able to deliver the project more efficiently, all play a part in winning projects and ensuring their success.

Some of the most immediate and obvious advantages of the BIM process should be realised during the initial bid stage - where costs need to be limited due to the speculative nature of this endeavour, yet the quality of communication is critical in highlighting the strength of the design response.

Design models can be collated from the consultants and validated so that an initial construction model can be created. Then the information part of the model provides greater confidence and speed in harnessing automated material take-offs from that model. Further savings can be realised through the early use of BIM-enabled planning solutions to compare alternative construction sequences, and as such has the potential to both accelerate the programme and reduce the usual level of waste.

The typical selection process relies heavily on the impact of visual communication, and this can have a profound effect on those tasked with choosing the successful delivery team.

The pre-construction area is where the contractor can make further gains. At this stage we can actually build the building virtually; highlighting areas of concern, component co-ordination, on-site coordination, access routes, lay down areas, and general day-to-day activities, which can all be planned and problems resolved before a site team is even established.

Construction planners have a critical role in ensuring that a project runs to time and budget; although this is more often hampered than helped by traditional methods. Using a more developed version of the model - along with the same solutions that were used to provide the accurate early cost estimates - construction cost planners should be able to drive efficiency into both the construction process and the selection of suppliers. With a complete description of the building's key elements in each of the primary disciplines' design models, full co-ordination management should be achieved to aid a smooth, 'clash-free' construction process.

During the construction phase the use of BIM aids the management of the actual construction process through greater clarity and communication of actual tasks, easier assessment of progress and rapid analysis of the effects of any issues which arise. The reduction in problems which need to be resolved in site such as clashes means a greater focus on quality and a further reduction in waste and errors in materials and labour.

Additional information will be generated during construction that can be invaluable for future reference. Commissioning documentation, maintenance procedures and snagging lists will form part of this data capture. This is the information that is often captured but rarely delivered formally to the client for future building management.

In the traditional handover process, the disparity between the information transferred from the design documentation or construction documentation to the building owner is a major disconnect in what many aspire to see as a fully integrated digital process. With the use of Field-BIM techniques applied during construction, the opportunity exists to capture fully validated 'as-built' information that needs minimal rework to provide a valuable data resource for the operators or owners.

Having acquired a more accurate representation of what was actually built or installed during the construction stage, this can now be provided to owners and facility managers for direct input into their own management and maintenance systems.

So, you have decided - or been persuaded - down the BIM road; what do you need to consider for your first BIM project?

You must recognise that BIM represents a process change, and it is a process which will continue to change as well as being different from project to project. Change requires management of people as much as the technologies that together support that process, so a BIM Execution Plan is essential, and it should include a named team including a senior executive project owner; defined objectives; skills development including training and coaching; BIM standards or protocols to be set; BIM templates development; a BIM project plan; collaboration methodology and procedures; support methods; and finally implementation, process and project reviews. This may all sound like a huge task and very time consuming but it does not need to be so.

BIM can and does deliver benefits to construction at all stages in the construction process. As the recognised boundaries of BIM are pushed closer towards a full integration between design, construction and operation, each participant should be looking to extend their contribution to support the delivery across all stages of the project and allow the client to also benefit from the BIM implementation process.

As in the design stage the BIM process is best implemented in collaboration with other project participants be they subcontractors, the client, architects or engineers.