How BIM Will Impact your
Future Infrastructure Projects
September 10, 2021
Among the top items construction companies plan to invest in within the next five years is building information modeling (BIM) processes and technologies. This is because they acknowledge BIM is helping and will help represent the future of their projects, their companies and even the industry as a whole.
It may seem rather curious to think of it as part of the future of construction when it’s actually been around for quite some time. For nearly 40 years, BIM has been a mainstay in architecture circles within the industry. But it’s only really gained ground in actual construction over the last two decades. If your company is among these near-future BIM adopters, what impact can you anticipate for your projects?
Financial efficiency with better use of capital project data
To appreciate BIM’s potential impact, we can look at aging infrastructure projects throughout the U.S. There’s growing attention on them due to various states of disrepair or lack of safety. It is possible to theorize that at least some of this could’ve been addressed and prevented had building information modeling been around during their creations.
Having to rely on traditional construction practices involving 2D drawings and decentralized project details can be very limiting. Think of all the data that starts rolling in from day one. And it continues to accumulate when the completed project has been handed over to the owner’s operations and facility management team. It can be somewhat of a challenge, not to mention overwhelming, to track and understand everything.
Buy that’s where BIM can help. What often makes it stand out is the BIM model’s ability to link directly to all the details associated with each individual element within it, from the smallest nail to the largest volume of concrete. Those include all usable and actionable data, including size, current cost, replacement value, lifespan, warranty information and more. These specific details — or project intelligence — can be leveraged again and again throughout the project’s construction and beyond from within its own common data environment (CDE).
The key is to enter all that data into the BIM model during the estimate phase so it can serve as an interactive reference going forward. That’s when it becomes the foundation for data-driven decision making. Consider the choices that have to be made early on. Based on the model-linked data, the owner, contractors and other stakeholders can evaluate and agree on the most appropriate material and equipment options to invest in for the project based on cost effectiveness, durability and/or repair record, for example. Those preliminary decisions can help prevent costly later-stage change orders and rework and may contribute to a longer life and optimal function well beyond hand off to the client. Stakeholders from those older infrastructure projects may have made different decisions with ready access to centralized, actionable data about structural integrity and required maintenance.
Once those designs and material choices are locked down, the quantities tallied in the BIM model become the source for a highly accurate inventory order for your procurement team. That alone removes a potential ding to your bottom line right out of the gate. How? Think back to the times you wound up with excess materials you paid for but didn’t need, all because of a miscalculation. Or you had to place a last-minute order for materials that were insufficiently counted in the estimate. The result is less unnecessary spending on unintended overages or rush delivery fees for potentially higher-priced materials for which you found yourself short.
Optimized design phase efficiency
How many times have you heard or said, “If only we knew at the beginning …” or “if only we could see through walls”? With BIM, you actually can.
Building your project through BIM before real construction begins opens up opportunities to experience things you hadn’t been able to with traditional design methods. For instance, designing a structure through BIM modeling frees you up to experiment with variations on materials, exteriors, door and window placement, layout configurations, and more. You’re able to virtually walk through a model for a realistic view of the flow, the aesthetics, the space, and even any design mistakes to fix on the spot. Project team members have the chance to collectively evaluate choices before committing to a final design.
What else does it let you see? The BIM process also acts like a risk mitigation tool enabling you to discover structural and spatial interferences through automated clash detection. Catching these early enables you to correct them at the design stage — before they’ve had a chance to be built into the structure, which would set the stage for change orders for anything from minor alterations to full-on budget-eating rework down the road. You preserve not only the original cost and schedule estimate, but your profit margin.
Maximizing design phase efficiency with BIM is more than just seeing the previously unseen and making decisions before work begins. It’s also being confident that those choices you make for your future capital projects are cost-efficient with regard to the construction estimate and to future maintenance after handoff.
Interactive data to foster interactive teams
For as much as BIM is about data, it’s also about communication and collaboration.
Being able to access and interact with all your projects’ constantly updated details at such a granular level is the kind of transparency that sets the stage for better understanding of the build and more effective communication among project teams, including those disciplines that may not normally have had a seat at the design table.
With all the data linked from the model housed in BIM’s CDE, it serves as a central hub where everyone can interact with the wealth of information it contains. In addition to making design and materials choices as we noted earlier, it’s also where teams can interact with each other — sharing updated models, asking and answering questions, suggesting modification ideas, reviewing solutions to problems. That can make a noticeable difference among back office staff and jobsite crews that may not have had many opportunities to work together at such an impactful, truly collaborative level. BIM helps foster an environment where there’s less chance of miscommunication or obsolete information that could lead to delays caused by errors or unexpected changes.
It’ll take time to get the hang of a new process along with the technology that supports it. The key is to start slow so you can appreciate all BIM can do for your future capital projects. When you begin exploring options, consider InEight Model, a BIM solution connecting your data to your model while helping you better manage and make use of the information and insights it provides. Let us take you through a demo of how it can work for you.