Opinion

How BIM helps structural engineers collaborate better with other disciplines?

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For any randomly picked building construction project, it is the structural engineers who face challenges in multiple forms and different aspects as the stability of the entire building structure depends on them. This responsibility is what makes the job of structural engineering discipline more critical in every possible way that can threaten the structural integrity. But if myths are to be believed, MEP engineers face more challenges as they board the construction project in the later stages when all other disciplines are about to finish their work. This is an effort to debunk the myth, and highlight some of the major and crucial challenges structural engineers face.

As mentioned earlier, the success of entire construction depends on structural engineers; one wrong calculation could bring the entire building stumbling down. But leading players in the building construction industry claim that with advent of BIM, structural engineers are now equipped to move their roles up in the delivery chain.

BIM coordination for structural engineers

BIM service offerings are for all and BIM coordination is one amongst several others. With design coordination using BIM tools, structural engineers can brainstorm and work out their differences in designs at early stage. It will no longer allow them to keep stalling it until the time when there is a dire need.

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BIM provides stronger opportunities to structural engineers to enhance their work and coordinate their designs with other disciplines. They get this chance to improve, amend and make flexible changes to their designs well in advance. A common data environment allows them to partner virtually with architects and engineers from other disciplines and makes their design decisions to make the construction project progress with leaps and bounds.

BIM to manage inherent set of risks

Structural engineers shoulder the responsibility of working towards the stability of the structure and not only provide strength to the entire building structure. One good thing about bringing BIM onboard is that as-built BIM models can be exported and used in collaboration with other software such as ANSYS Mechanical for hazard assessment, structural sturdiness, and analysis.

Such collaborations are amongst most efficient risk management activities. It eliminates lot of request for conflict resolution and flaws in drawings. Such cases can be tested and corrected well in advance; ultimately improving the quality of building designs. BIM thus helps structural engineers for risk mitigation and design enhancement.

Collaborate at BIM interface

Working with BIM is like being at the center of a wheel, taking you far off distances in terms of success; but proves useless if there are spokes. It means that in order to drive the wheel, all disciplines which are analogs to spokes should collaborate at the center along with structural engineers in order to achieve success. Even when the roads are rough and rocky, construction projects design bottlenecks; disciplines should coordinate at BIM interface to achieve success.

What are other reasons to adopt BIM?

BIM ensures successful building construction projects and hence should be adopted is one aspect. But there are EPC/construction firms who pay more to the designers and charge less from owners, who have adopted BIM. They see BIM as a perfectly unified system. It saves their time and ultimately money, which can be passed on as a reward to building designers.

Project owners and investors also complain about the mismanagement of documents and construction methodology and compromised construction practices. But upon adopting BIM, entire construction process gets completely digitized so there are lesser challenges for contractors & construction firms. For structural engineers, the most critical documentation is steel detailing and rebar detailing. If these drawings are digitized, their QTOs and strength concern is resolved to a great extent.

BIM even brings them the convenience to derive steel fabrication drawings and coordinate with suppliers, steel fabricators, and installers as well. It goes without saying that finances start getting in place when every discipline is connected at the BIM center.

To sum it up all, BIM is the greatest ally to structural engineers when there are internal conflicts between disciplines of the same project. Structural engineers can gain more profits, only if they are through with their project work and emerge confidently to contractors. 

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Hiral Patel

Hiral Patel is a news editor and has been contributing to the AEC industry since last 7 years. She mainly writes about the application of BIM across Architecture, MEP and Structural sectors. Her focus is towards encouraging construction companies, sub-contractors and architects to adopt right technologies to improve efficiency and profitability. Learn more

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