Harness BIM’s Top Advantages: Efficiency, Productivity and Savings
Written By Tyler Jones
BIM’s top advantages - efficiency productivity and savings
Making the investment in Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems can transform construction operations from the start of any project, leading to more efficient use of time and materials in all phases of the build, including long after the active construction project is completed.  Through BIM, savings can be realized for the stakeholders in the project--from the building owner to subcontractors--and the operator of the structure benefits far into the future.

BIM provides significant improvements to the organization, the execution and the operation of a construction project, and the structure it creates.  Data created through the modeling process and collected as part of BIM enhances communications among teams, reduces the number of job site problems, and speeds the delivery of key information throughout the lifecycle of the building.

Let’s look at some of the ways BIM improves efficiency, saves money, and speeds project management:

Establishes Organization

From the moment a contract is signed to work on a project, stakeholders can incorporate BIM systems to manage the development of the structure and specify ways in which the team will communicate.  In preconstruction, stakeholders should specify what systems and practices should be used to manage, develop, and track the project.  Introducing the BIM system at this point establishes the foundation for the rest of the job.

Document depository:  Your BIM system provides a single location for all the project specs, elements, and materials needed for the project.  Because changes are made to your model on a regular basis--to reflect “real world” conditions in the field or modifications requested by the client--your document depository becomes the location where all these changes are tracked and logged.

The simplicity of having all your key data in one place is obvious:  it allows your team to find any information they need in one location, saving valuable time and effort from having to search various servers, folders and files.  Whether they’re in an office working on a mainframe or in the field with a tablet, they know where to find the desired information.

A central collection point for data and documents provides your team with the certainty of knowing the designs and details are secure and backed up. In the event one computer or device gets damaged or fails, a disaster that could set the entire project back by days or weeks, the information is not lost.

Procurement:  With all the information on the parts, equipment and materials needed to undertake your construction project specified in the model, compiling the bills of materials (BOM) needed from vendors becomes significantly easier.  A comprehensive BIM system should automatically create your BOM in a format that can be sorted, searched, and segmented as needed.

Having a comprehensive BOM early in the design process provides procurement agents the widest window to put out bids, check availability, and negotiate terms with vendors.  This, in turn, allows them to get the material at the best possible price; establish a delivery schedule; and track the fulfillment of the order.

Additionally, when plan modifications are made that require changes to materials orders, your BIM system can alert the appropriate personnel to what was changed and what orders need to be updated. This helps cut down on waste by adapting previously ordered material or having to return equipment.   Elements can be made to the new spec, meaning the tradesmen at the job site can work faster and safer without having to fabricate the part in the field.

Ease of Collaboration:  With a BIM system, parties can open the model to see changes, notes and discussions about the project.  Instead of having a flurry of emails going back and forth among a group of collaborators, the team can each sign into the model to discuss specific aspects of the plan together, either in real time through a conference call or by writing/reading notes attached to the model.

The model also ensures that when people confer about the model, they’re all accessing the same information with current updates and data.  No longer will meetings have to slow down after someone discovers they’ve been referring to outdated documents; the latest version is available to all authorized parties.

Having notes, specs and changes archived on one system enables and encourages all members of the team to view the model as the final authority on construction orders.

Stays in Tune With the Field

The goal of any BIM project is a structure, building or renovation completed to the spec and satisfaction of the client.  For the architects, engineers and contractors, it’s to reach that goal while making a profit.  BIM facilitates reaching both of those goals on the jobsite by empowering the contractors and tradesmen with pertinent, timely information as well as identifying aspects of the project that can be accomplished in more economical means. Error Detection & Correction:  With comprehensive BIM systems like eVovle MEP, modeling will detect conflicts and clashes in your design or detail prior to those plans leaving the office--in fact, with some systems, those clashes are identified even before the detailer closes the model after making an update.  Identifying and fixing those design inconsistencies means that the plans going to the field or the prefab shop won’t contain issues that contractors or tradesmen will have to resolve at the job site in an expensive and unsafe manner.

Platforms like eVolve provide immediate alerts when clashes are detected, identifying the specific location of the error so that the user can make a correction.  If that specific element is part of a larger preselected group of similar elements, that change can be applied universally to the group or individually to that specific piece.  This prevents the user from having to find, edit and save the data at multiple points, improving efficiency and accuracy.

There’s no doubt that finding incompatible specs and clashes on plans saves time and money in the field.  The earlier these issues are correct--long before the construction phase--the smoother the work on the jobsite goes, and the better the schedule is kept.

Immediate updates:  When a change is made to a model, everything associated with that model gets updates.  The bill of material is updated.  The schedule is modified.  Even the surrounding design features--duct work, wiring, piping, lighting, fire suppression systems--all need to be checked and updated as needed.  Without BIM, those changes would need to be detailed in a change order that would have to be circulated among the stakeholders, detailers and contractors, among others.  If one relevant party misses that change, the error might not be discovered for days or weeks--and it will likely be discovered by some tradesman in the field who realized Tab A won’t fit into Slot B because Slot B is now located two feet from where it was on the original plans.

BIM changes all that.  The alteration in the model is immediately reflected in the rest of the design.  Any additional alterations or modifications that need to be made are highlighted, allowing the detailers to make appropriate changes in other areas.  When the changes are complete, a notice goes to all affected parties, and notes reflect what change was made, by whom and (sometimes) why.

BIM systems can disseminate updates in one of three ways:  automatically whenever a change is made (which may strain bandwidth depending on the number of users); through a “push” function that activates at the command of the user, so the changes go out right away; or through scheduled synchronizations, where shared files are all updated at a predetermined time to distribute updated files across the project team.  However, those updates are shared, they provide the most timely methods to inform the entire workflow about the modification.

Prefabrication:  Identifying what design elements can be manufactured off-site at prefab shops and delivered ready-to-install on the job site cuts the cost of creating those pieces dramatically.  The value of prefabrication materializes in multiple ways.  First, prefab elements are made at a lower cost in shops where the environment is controlled, and quality control practices are in place.  With parts being made to the detailer’s specs, prefab elements are better suited for the job than those fabricated on site, and they can be QC’ed to assure they’re on-spec.

Second, prefab lowers labor costs.  Tradesmen on site won’t have to stop their work to manufacture a part or rework a pre-ordered piece of equipment that no longer fits the design.  Other workers won’t have to stop what they’re doing while the element is fashioned; the prefab part comes ready to install, and if it’s kitted with ancillary material for installation, it can greatly reduce excess material costs.  Prefabbed parts are also made in the controlled environment of a shop, meaning the working conditions are significantly safer than a job site.

In addition, skilled tradesmen at a shop can produce materials to spec at a faster rate, a lower cost and more safely than those in the field because they have the proper equipment at hand.  Instead of people in the field trying to improvise a solution, which can result in an improperly fabricated part, the shop can make the perfect fit.

Keeps Tabs on the Entire Operation

The value of data about the construction project doesn’t disappear at the ribbon cutting.  The wealth of information created plays a major role in the ongoing operation of the structure as well as in any future renovations or modifications the owner may undertake.

Commissioning:  When a building is commissioned , all the stakeholders agree that the project was completed according to the agreed-upon specs set forth by the client.  It’s an important process in finalizing a construction project, and the process can be reinforced through the collection of data--from the first model to all the notes to a final sign off--collect in the model.

BIM allows for the AEC professionals to turn over to the client a complete set of documents, designs and data, allowing the owner or a building management company to find specs for any part of the building.  This is key for everything from warranty claims to renovation planning.  The owner will not have to pester the firms or contractors from the construction for the information; they’ll have it all on hand.

Liability/Accountability:  Using the documentation provided in the model--including specs and notes--a timetable of the project can be created.  Should anything happen--from a catastrophic failure to an HVAC install malfunctioning--the parties responsible can be tracked through the modeling record, providing proper accountability, or exoneration, for the parties involved.

As laid out in the preconstruction planning, the data from BIM can provide a start-to-finish, highly detailed account of the entire project from day one, identifying who approved what changes or equipment usage.  Those records may save your company from paying out thousands--or millions--of dollars for mistakes you were not responsible for.

Operational lifecycle:  Your BIM data is invaluable to whomever will operate that building.  Your BIM package will provide information on the specs of vital systems like HVAC, electrical, structural and environmental controls.  The management company can utilize this data to schedule routine maintenance of the building as well as assist with any emergencies that may occur.  Repairs can be simplified by using BIM information to locate key components like junction boxes and wiring if systems should fail.

As the building ages, owners may decide to update systems or renovate the structure, and they can utilize the models and data in the BIM to incorporate into the process to ensure they know where vital systems are located.

The savings provided by the integration of BIM into your project doesn’t stop when you simply switch to a technological solution to project management.  The information continues to play an important function in the maintenance and operation of the building for years to come.  New technologies--such as those that allow first responders to examine critical building features in the event of an emergency, or even train in a virtual version of your building--are coming closer to reality, and they’ll use available models to facilitate those practices.

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