Too busy to BIM?


November 13, 2014 by Alex Ferguson, Senior Project Manager at Beca

I'm going to depart from my typical Aerotropolis centric topic to talk about BIM. If you haven't heard about Building Information Modelling (BIM) before, you might have had your head in the sand or perhaps just too busy to pay attention to it, but it's here to stay and has a long way to go, so definitely worth talking about.

If you're interested a Google search on BIM will quickly turn up a wiki definition identifying BIM as 'a process involving the generation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of places'. At first glance, you might be mistaken to believe that BIM is just a 3D design, but after some investigation, you will come to realise the potential for BIM extends beyond planning and design, to the support of construction, operation and even decommissioning of an infrastructure asset. By looking at predominant examples demonstrating the implementation of BIM, you might also be led to believe that BIM is only relevant for buildings. Indeed there are a lot of examples of the use of BIM within the building industry where its implementation has led to;

  • model driven schedules for quantities, cost, programme and construction staging,
  • greater coordination among consultants and contractors,
  • planning of difficult and typically risk filled activities,
  • increased safety in the construction, operation, maintenance, upgrades and decommissioning of a facility, and
  • integration with existing facilities maintenance management systems and processes to allow asset owners fully plan for future projects.

BIM is a tool which is growing in traction as organisations come to appreciate the benefits that it brings. I believe BIM is the future for the engineering and construction industry across all market sectors, and our role as project managers and engineers is to strengthen and add value to the processes. In many ways BIM is still in it's infancy, with engineering firms having dabbled with it's implementation on a number of projects, and typically only where a client has acknowledged the value of BIM in their commission. openBIM and buildingSMART clearly demonstrate we have started down a long road (see Image 01).

Slowing the collective uptake of BIM isn't our clients' awareness of its functionality and future usefulness, but rather BIM's immediate usefulness and demonstrable gains in efficiency. We all (our Clients included) understand the rule of thumb that 80% of project costs are determined within the first 20% of the project, and better design coordination leads to better construction outcomes, but surely its not enough to tell a client they will save money some time down the road. In my mind the message should be this;

  • If we implement BIM on your project, the design will be cheaper, the outcomes including performance characteristics of the asset will be better defined, the construction risks and construction costs will be decreased, the quality will increase, and at the end of the project you will have a complete representation of your asset and all relevant information handed over to you in a single integrated model.
  • With this model, you will be able to plan for future projects, understand the potential impact of changes to your current facility and even integrate this model with your facilities management system. You will be able to interrogate the database to identify that relay, valve or other trivially small piece of equipment and plan for it's testing, repair, and replacement.
  • You will gain efficiencies in your operations and maintenance. You will be able to use this model when communicating with new designers or contractors when you want to tender for upgrades, retrofits, or other projects and this communication will be clearer, reducing risk to the contractor, and resulting in lower fees due to the reduced risk profile.
  • So why not ask us to implement BIM?

Perhaps its because Clients don't yet see the value, but really I think it's because we have yet to truly demonstrate its value. So lets start demonstrating it, lets start integrating it into every process, lets move to integrated 3D modelling and information management, lets implement fit for purpose project implementation plans that incorporate BIM and manage its use on large scale infrastructure projects. Lets look at how design managers become BIM experts, and how engineering organisations manage their BIM libraries to deliver efficient designs. Lets Geotag our models so they reside in a 3D world which is truly representative of the real world and adds value to that world. I'm not saying that we have all the answers, but a roadmap exists, and a vision for the future, and if you are interested to know more, click Like and feel free to leave a Comment.

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