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How Building Information Technology is Changing the World of Construction

What is BIM? Understanding the Benefits

BIM provides profound benefits in construction

Today’s discerning clients want cutting-edge, 21st century buildings and homes. If design and construction professionals aim to satisfy their clients’ needs and wishes, they have to expand the boundaries of what can be built and how best to go about it. For successful builders, adapting and integrating promising new technologies is a continual process. One of the most exciting paradigm shifts involves the construction planning software called BIM: Building Information Modeling.

BIM models digitally replicate the completed project

This new building information technology generates 3D models of even the most complicated projects. By digitally replicating the completed geometry and layering in all of the project systems, a BIM model presents a project’s intended physical and functional characteristics. Using BIM technology software, we have the virtual equivalents of a future building’s actual parts and pieces: walls, columns, slabs, roofs, windows, doors, mechanical systems, ducts, piping and so on. Here at Stonemark, we’ve worked on projects where every piece of reinforcing steel, every anchor bolt and structural connection is included in the modeling–all in amazing detail. Only the thumbtacks are missing.

Architects use Building Information Modeling in the early planning phase to create accurate and fully detailed design drawings. Skillful contractors use BIM technology in construction to prevent conflicts between architectural, structural, mechanical and other systems in the field. Engineering professionals access BIM to design building infrastructure, including structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems. The benefits of BIM’s technology translate as multi-dimensional representations that make it possible for structural and other engineers to ensure that everything fits and complex systems will work as planned. For owners, BIM technology changes how they visualize their projects by making it easy for them to imagine how their buildings are going to look and function. From concept to construction, building information technology offers a broad range of benefits since BIM tools capture and communicate design intent and enable team members to coordinate systems long before building even begins.

Benefits of BIM

Owners receive an incredibly detailed electronic as-built model of their building. On one Stonemark project utilizing a sophisticated BIM model, each tradesperson entering one of the structure’s rooms will be able to scan a bar code with their portable tablet, and then move the tablet around the room to “see” all of the systems buried within the walls. Owners can do the same thing–not just during construction, but for the life of the building. Just imagine how this will facilitate maintenance and future renovations!

With a BIM project, one team member is assigned primary responsibility for managing the digital building model: the BIM model coordinator. For the building information technology to work, all team members must actively participate, from the architects and engineers to the contractors. Each discipline accesses the system and inputs their data for incorporation into the model. By identifying potential conflicts, errors or missing requirements, the BIM coordinator facilitates constructability coordination. The submitting party is notified and is able to correct any errors before the design is finalized. BIM enables real-time collaboration and reduces coordination in the field, where it is much more expensive.

The extended architectural and mechanical, electrical and structural consultants’ team can access design models and data directly from the online building models and use the information for their calculations and analyses. A skilled contractor can often generate shop drawings directly from the model.

A word about Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)

Integrated project delivery, or IPD, is another advanced construction technique that is made feasible by BIM. IPD can be described as a collaborative project delivery model in which all members of a building team—from design to construction—work together to guarantee quality, cost-effectiveness and overall efficiency.

The BIM system, with or without integrated project delivery, isn’t suitable for all projects. Big construction projects involve large multidisciplinary teams and generate massive amounts of data over their lifecycle. Concerns range from keeping sensitive data secure to ownership and intellectual property rights. Because BIM is based on collaboration, all parties must buy into using it, and there may be various arguments against doing so. Implementation can be challenging–it entails a learning curve. The use of building information technology for commercial projects has become common, but its use in the residential sector for high-end projects is more recent. When clients are convinced of the value and BIM is wielded properly, it can be a very valuable tool.

BIM models provide important information about coordination and can positively affect project time, costs and management operations. They enable cost estimators to accurately generate and quantify material takeoffs, better evaluate design alternative costs and track costs against budgets. By moving much of the coordination between disciplines to the early planning stage, BIM reduces information loss and time-consuming requests for information and change orders during construction. It’s a model win-win!


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