Ten years ago, if you had asked a construction firm what its virtual design and construction (VDC) strategy looked like, you would likely have been met with mostly blank stares. Now, nearly 80 percent of firms report using VDC workflows on projects to some degree, as JBKnowledge found in its 2016 construction technology report.
Building information modeling (BIM) is the reason for this massive industry shift. BIM is a process for creating a digital model of a construction project, comprised of layers of metadata describing the physical and functional aspects of the initiative.
BIM software creates a collaborative, open environment for teams to connect and optimize their time and efforts across the project life cycle. The positive returns and cost savings are numerous, so much so that McKinsey reports a number of governments are requiring BIM be used for all public infrastructure projects.
Whether you're investing in BIM software for the first time or looking to upgrade your current system, this guide can help you make a more informed purchase decision.
Here's what we'll cover:
BIM is an intelligent model-based process (3D, 4D, 5D) that helps architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals collaboratively plan, design, build and manage projects. It is a digital representation that conveys the physical and functional aspects of a project, e.g., geometry, spatial requirements and other metrics.
|3D, design||4D, schedule||5D, cost|
|An informed and realistic model of a project initiative. Used to more accurately take customer requirements into design consideration and determine project scope.
Information that can be included in the 3D model includes geometric measurements, spatial data, design aesthetics, as well as thermal and acoustic properties.
|Adds the element of time to the 3D model.
Allows general contractors to determine if the project scope can be completed on the given timeline, and once approved, schedule resources, set milestones and communicate plans to clients.
|Adds the element of cost, together with scheduling, to the 3D model.
Allows estimators to determine the costs for the project and if they are in line with the approved budget. Any changes in the design or schedule are reflected in the budget.
The most commonly used format for BIM is the industry foundation classes (IFC) data model. The IFC specification, developed and maintained by buildingSMART, is the accepted ISO standard and is an open and neutral file format.
This means that IFC allows AEC professionals to share BIM data, regardless of what software application they use. For example, BIM data can easily be transferred between Revit, an Autocad product, to ArchiCAD, a Graphisoft product.
This also means it is accepted and used by the various disciplines involved with the project life cycle, including:
IFC files representing different layers of metadata for each stage in the project. Source: Areo
As Engineering.com states, "In BIM, every project is built twice—once in a virtual environment to make sure that everything is just right and once in a real environment to bring the project to life."
BIM tools support this collaborative process between design and construction. They enable greater accuracy and consistency when planning and executing projects, helping to improve quality and safety, as well as reduce costs incurred from schedule and budget overruns.
Specific features will vary across BIM software, depending on the stage in the project life cycle they are designed for, e.g., design, scheduling or estimating. However, there are some standard capabilities you should look for as you evaluate BIM solutions. These include:
|Process/workflow management||Set workflows surrounding the processes within set stages of the project life cycle, so users stay on the same page. For example: Design, visualization/modeling, model review, model simulation and analysis, model-based takeoff and costing etc.|
|Collaboration||A single BIM model houses the metadata for all processes and connects teams across each stage of the project life cycle, from architects to general contractors to estimators. Changes to the design impact the cost and schedule. Each team can track and stay up-to-date with changes as they are made.|
|Change management||Track known issues and allow users to flag new issues as they arise. Require approvals for model changes. This helps with version control and creates an audit trail, so everyone is on the same page and can understand model progressions, what changes were made and why.|
|Content/document storage and data management||Store project data, e.g., drawings, customer requirements, requests for information (RFIs), phasing plans and more alongside the BIM model. Some systems may allow you to store models and information for multiple projects.|
|Reporting and analysis||Gain actionable insights on the data provided by BIM models. Run reports during design and find problem areas or inconsistencies, run reports during planning to see if the project will finish in the time allotted and/or run reports during estimating to ensure the project costs don't exceed the budget.|
BIM use is on the rise. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of builders who do not use BIM software dropped by 30 percent, according to JBKnowledge in their annual construction tech reports. Of those investing in BIM in 2016, 33 percent use BIM tools internally while 10 percent outsource.
Outsourcing may be a great stepping stone into this technology for small firms who lack the IT budget to invest in these tools for themselves. However, outsourcing doesn't negate the need for training on the data provided by BIM, so be sure someone is up to speed on what these models have to offer.
Open BIM. Open BIM is an initiative to maintain a collaborative and open environment for design, building and maintaining projects using the open buildingSMART data model, IFC. This initiative is backed and led by several prominent vendors in the AEC industry, including:
AEC software vendors can become Open BIM certified, showing that their products are IFC compliant and that their data works seamlessly with other Open BIM solutions.
This initiative is important for several reasons (read about them here), but one specific benefit is that it helps small and large software vendors compete in the space. Meaning, construction firms can take a chance on a lesser known, less expensive product. So long as it is IFC compliant, they can benefit in the same way as they would from using an industry giant.
Our service is simple and 100% free to customers like you because software vendors pay us when we connect them with quality leads. You save time and get great advice. Vendors get great referrals. It's a win for everyone!