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BIM Tools Provide Construction Advantages

Integrating 3D modeling tools into a project help with flexibility and budget

by Lauren Collier
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When all the stakeholders are working together with full transparency into the process, it empowers everyone to look for opportunities to drive value-add design and construction decisions that naturally mitigate the capital challenges. 

Deloitte’s 2020 Engineering and Construction Industry Outlook identifies several key trends impacting the built environment market, including rising construction costs for key building components (such as steel) and an ongoing labor shortage. The combination of these constraints makes it important for stakeholders to be proactive in managing processes and operations that contribute to minimizing costs and optimizing efficiencies to balance labor shortages. Productivity is another key performance indicator to consider. New technologies are enhancing project monitoring capabilities beyond past performance documentation to support real time analysis and future state recommendations. All these trends illustrate the importance of being proactive in managing processes and operations that contribute to margins and profitability.

A key strategy that requires minimal financial investment and increases both productivity and process optimization is to change the way stakeholders develop their projects by employing collaborative processes that integrate 3D modeling tools. Such tools are especially useful on smaller projects where there is less flexibility in the budget and teams are understandably, and automatically expected to stretch their resources thinner. The right tools significantly impact the speed and accuracy with which stakeholders and the team can develop a project. 

Virtual transparency

A major benefit of 3D modeling is the collaboration and transparency that is possible when everyone is making decisions as well as working from the model. In reviewing a 2D drawing, many stakeholders struggle to make the mental shift to visualize the 3D outcome. With BIM 360, the rendering creates a powerful visual that conveys a legible message of the design intent. A clear representation of the design allows the data which informs that design to become evident. From the very beginning, stakeholders have the opportunity to provide input as they see how the project unfolds and substantially contribute to the design in real time. 

In the traditional project structure, the nexus was a handoff where one party or group shared files with another at 30/60/90 stage gates with long periods of time in between these points of accountability. 

In many cases, by the time the decisions are communicated, their influence has already started to assert itself and there are ripple effects. With everyone—stakeholders and all team members—involved at the onset, they can see changes that happen in real time and raise a flag on the things that may negatively impact later stages, thus avoiding the costly delays that come with the iterative approach of waiting for a handoff to find out what steps others have taken. With a transparent approach, all team members have insight into the decision-making process throughout the project, which means there is more buy in and few surprises later on. 

Facilitates stakeholder consensus

A major benefit of 3D modeling is the collaboration and transparency that is possible when everyone is making decisions as well as working from the model.
BIM 360

Broad, multi-department buy-in can also be a significant advantage, depending on the type of project. Full visibility to all stakeholders is important because there are so many different groups who influence the planning and decision making. In this way, the transparency also drives wider collaboration among all the groups involved. Like the project team members, the more information these stakeholders have, the more they will feel compelled to bring their ideas to the table and voice their view. When everyone is fully informed, all stakeholders are part of the process. With the right software solutions—such as BIM 360—collaboration is a seamless part of the user experience and naturally drives a successful project execution strategy.

BIM 360 offers special advantages for projects in the industrial sector where often schedules can be aggressive. With BIM 360, the team can achieve consensus faster with fewer decision points, onboard a vendor, and both specify and purchase equipment in a relatively short period of time. Likewise, the planning, installation, and commissioning goes much more quickly. With the digital capabilities of BIM 360, there is no waiting around on files. Teams receive the latest updates immediately and can begin working on the next phase. The biggest upfront effort for teams, in fact, is making key software decisions early in the project to support later phases. In most of these projects, this approach works best with REVIT. The general building industry is exploding with BIM 360 and, thanks to the capabilities of REVIT as a primary design practice, it is becoming standard practice. 

Visualizing future state scenarios

Another type of example application might be a mechanical or electrical room, or data center, where unusual considerations surround the space and its coordination. Compounding the unusual considerations, the unique conditions of a no-fly zone, maintenance space, and adequate clearance required to perform large-scale tasks also add layers of complexity. For these types of activities, coordination is especially key—not only for basic operations, but also for installation, servicing, maintenance, and replacement of equipment when necessary. With a collaborative BIM 360 platform, it is possible to test and assess those future-state scenarios to ensure the design is not only constructible but can be adapted and maintained over the life cycle of the facility. In fact, with the ability to simulate and test the design in a virtual environment, stakeholders and project teams can take full advantage of tight spaces that can be very difficult to specify without the aid of a virtual design tool. 

Collaboration is key 

When budget conditions are challenging in a capital project, stakeholders and project team leaders seek to drive more innovative thinking through enhanced collaboration using tools such as BIM 360, while decision makers and team members experience a learning curve early in the project if they haven’t worked in this way before, as they become more comfortable, development is seamless. 

When all the stakeholders are working together with full transparency into the process, it empowers everyone to look for opportunities to drive value-add design and construction decisions that naturally mitigate the capital challenges. When everyone is in alignment with the same strategy, working toward the same goals, each step in the process is calibrated toward carrying out those shared initiatives.

As the design solidifies, the goals around material decisions and savings potential are clarified for all the parties involved. The streamlined approach makes it possible for project teams as a whole to do more work, faster and with less cost through real-time collaboration, allowing design teams to do more work faster and for a lower cost. For experienced project teams and savvy stakeholders, it is no surprise that the future is rapidly marching toward BIM 360 as a universal approach.

Game-changing technology

A 2018 study conducted by construction productivity software company PlanGrid and management consulting firm FMI Corporation of nearly 600 construction leaders indicates that time spent on fixing mistakes, looking for project data, and managing conflict resolution accounts for $177.5 billion in labor costs per year in the US alone. The study also found that rework caused by miscommunication and inaccurate and inaccessible information would cost the U.S. construction industry more than $31 billion. 

Implementing BIM 360 technology transforms how firms manage, design, and develop a project, by providing more accuracy to the building process and facilitating the exchange of important project information between the multiple stakeholders. BIM 360 is a game-changer for the AEC industry by providing a tool that offers a detailed depiction of the project development in an open and highly collaborative environment.

Lauren Collier, Associate AIA, is the department manager, VDC Global Initiatives, and senior associate at SSOE Group, a global project delivery firm for architecture, engineering, and construction management. Her creative passion lies in Lean, continuous improvements, and innovative model/data use solutions for design and construction operations. Lauren leads a group of VDC technical leaders and model managers whose focus is implementing new innovative technologies and best practices in design and construction.