Demystifying BIM in Construction

May 22, 2019 John Sanner

Few technologies have revolutionized the construction industry quite so quietly and thoroughly as BIM. Used for decades in engineering and architecture, BIM in construction is finally hitting the mainstream, and it’s changing the way GCs do business–for the better.

But many construction companies are slow to get on the bandwagon. Implementing BIM in construction can feel like something reserved only for the “big guys” or “cutting-edge” firms who can afford to invest and take risks.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Even small and mid-sized GC firms can use BIM to improve their ability to compete and deliver. We’re here to de-mystify BIM in construction so you can start enjoying its benefits.


What is BIM in Construction?


BIM in construction is using digital 3D models during the construction process


According to one official definition, “Building Information Modeling (BIM) is an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.”

Put more directly, BIM in construction is using digital 3D models during the construction process.

Quite simply, BIM in construction puts more and better information in the hands of the folks actually building the building:

1. Information that enables site workers to see how 2D plans fit into 3D space by comparing plans to models side-by-side.

2. Information that enables contractors to plan site work and material deliveries in 3D and across time as the build proceeds.

3. Information that enables you to better estimate costs across time.

4. Information that enables field workers and office workers to communicate quickly and effectively when there are issues, RFIs, and change orders.

5. Information that improves safety by providing 3- and 4-dimensional site information in the palms of workers’ hands.

6. Information that lets folks in the office, as well as owners and other stakeholders, see what’s going on at the site without excessive or disruptive walk-throughs.

7. Information that enables you to deliver a higher quality, faster, more satisfying project to the owner at lower cost and with less rework.

8. Information that improves customer satisfaction by ensuring the owners and operators have the information they need to operate the building efficiently across its life cycle.

When you invest in BIM, you invest in better quality, lower costs, greater safety, and higher customer satisfaction.


Best Practices to Implement BIM in Construction


BIM puts the information you need right in the palm of your hand


Implementing BIM in construction doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive or disruptive, but it won’t happen simply by wishing for it, either.

A successful implementation requires a few best practices:

Stakeholder buy-in and engagement. Start by ensuring your company’s leadership is behind the initiative. BIM will change the way you work (for the better, but change is change), and this will require every stakeholder to be involved. Without support from company leadership, you’re unlikely to get the engagement you need to be successful.

A champion. Someone on the team should be excited and willing to take up the challenge of leading and championing the implementation. Without guidance and some degree of passion, the project is likely to fizzle.

An appropriate pilot project. It’s a good idea to start small with one or two projects, rather than trying to implement BIM across the board. This allows you to fine tune how BIM integrates with your existing processes, and to earn buy-in and grow champions among your team and partners. A good pilot project is one that can use BIM models from the architecture team, that involves some complexity but not too much, and on which you can win buy-in from all stakeholders.

Collaborate. BIM is most effective when everyone involved has their hands on the information that BIM provides. This means that you’ll need to collaborate with designers, engineers, architects, owners, subcontractors, trades, and others to get everyone on board and using the technology in the way that is most beneficial to each stakeholder.

Train. Expect to invest in training for your workers and subcontractors, especially at first. Some may balk at a new way of doing business, but usually a few workshops demonstrating the value of BIM will win over even the die-hardest of traditionalists.

Measure. One of the benefits of BIM is that it can help you measure improvements and identify best practices to repeat, so that every job gets better than the one before. Plus, establishing KPIs and measuring results can help you understand the ROI on your investment.

New technologies can seem like impractical luxuries or even obstacles to just getting the job done, but it doesn’t have to be that way. BIM puts the information you need right in the palm of your hand, so you can spend more time building and less time searching for information.

We hope this article has helped to de-mystify the concept of BIM for construction, and inspired you to give it a shot.

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