BIM-Driven Collaboration for Better Project Outcomes
May 12, 2022
It’s no secret that capital projects have long endured often less-than-stellar outcomes even with the best of intentions. Completion dates that are a distant memory, budgets that far surpass their original estimates, and a high number of often avoidable change orders are among the prime offenders on otherwise amazing projects.
Much of it can be attributed to less-than-ideal communication and collaboration. This is not surprising since by its very nature, the construction industry has traditionally been rather disconnected. To begin with, the industry is typically built around individual projects, with team members performing their specific tasks then moving on to their next project, yielding documentation so decentralized there’s little confidence in exactly where and what the most current information is.
As capital projects have become more sophisticated and owners have raised the bar on their requirements and expectations, what can be done to turn disconnection around? Construction companies have been turning more and more often to building information modeling (BIM) to help improve communication and ultimately, project outcomes.
Though BIM is most often associated with virtual 3D modeling and the vast amount of data linked to the model’s individual components, it’s also becoming increasingly known as a collaborative tool.
BIM’s value starts at the beginning
With BIM, the value of collaboration begins while designing and building the virtual 3D version of the structure complete with all its linked data. BIM’s virtual environment makes it possible to explore variations on design and materials — and their impact on costs. This exploratory process benefits from the expertise of the construction team and other disciplines who, from their unique perspectives, not only can suggest alternatives to consider but can also identify clash and safety issues to resolve before arriving at the final model. Early detection prevents such issues from being built into the physical structure and winding up in the rework queue.
As the model takes shape, project team members have a chance to assess the scope to understand what they’re working toward, setting the stage for further collaboration as the project gets under way. And also notable, this works just as well with existing structures undergoing renovations as it does with new builds.
A common data environment enables easier access to BIM data
One thing that always moves the collaboration needle in a positive direction is access to information. It sounds so simple, yet the industry has long been plagued by the limitations of inaccessible data that has made it very challenging for project team members to operate from the same page.
BIM overcomes this through a common data environment (CDE). Serving as a single source of truth, a CDE strengthens BIM’s capabilities by centralizing a project’s real-time, evolving data — including non-BIM data and documentation — making it more easily accessible by the broader team.
The range and specificity of data available from BIM through a CDE — from precise structural dimensions to costs of individual building components to material composition — represent the kind of details necessary to make data-informed decisions that keep future change orders and rework items at bay. And without the confusion and slowdowns caused by siloed information of questionable accuracy and recentness, those collective decisions become more rooted in confidence and certainty.
BIM’s platform serves as a collaborative tool
While BIM has a well-known reputation for its virtual 3D modeling capabilities, its use as an effective collaboration and communication tool is catching up. And project outcomes stand to benefit. Those outcomes typically have been at the mercy of two main threats: lack of information and lack of communication.
BIM neutralizes both of these threats. How? For one thing, there’s certainly no shortage of available information with all of the model’s linked data and other project details housed in the CDE. And then there’s the BIM platform serving as a virtual information-sharing channel through which to communicate changes and updates in real time. Its accessibility makes it possible to engage more individual subcontractors and teams in the collaborative process, including disciplines that may not have been as involved in the past. That means more points of view and areas of expertise are represented.
The result of all this? More timely, efficient problem solving. Better-informed decisions made with input from a variety of perspectives. Far less likelihood of errors stemming from miscommunication, misunderstanding, or sharing of outdated information. Each of these contributes to a reduced risk of delays, cost overruns and otherwise avoidable change orders and rework that would normally jeopardize project outcomes.
BIM fosters a shared sense of working toward a common goal
Silo culture has long typified the construction industry — data, software, teams and tasks. No wonder project outcomes have suffered. But with modern capital projects having higher levels of complexity and incorporating more advanced components, they’re prioritizing a collaborative strategy to overcome this. That’s what BIM does.
Fostering a more cohesive team approach to project planning, design and execution helps level the playing field so project team members see each other as collaborators. When everyone has the opportunity to share data and ideas and contribute their firsthand knowledge and experience to the process, they become more vested in the project. The downstream effect? Improved outcomes.
If you’re looking to improve how your capital projects are managed and delivered, explore what InEight virtual design and construction has to offer. Be sure to arrange for a demo to see how 3D modeling, linked data and collaboration can all come together to help your company achieve the project outcomes you and your project owners expect.