Need Help with Your Modeling? Essential Steps You Can Take
April 25, 2023
Modeling has gone full-force, high-tech. This is why more and more capital project contractors have begun turning to building information modeling (BIM) to gain efficiencies in time and effort that have long eluded them — and cost them in less-than-optimal project outcomes.
Yet while having BIM is one thing, knowing how to use it to its fullest extent is another.
Why? Because it’s more than just a 3D-modeling technology; it’s a process. And that may be where some of the initial challenges in how to best use BIM may be coming from.
If you’ve implemented BIM, or are about to, and you’re looking for a bit of guidance on how the technology and process work together, there are some essential steps to take. Keep in mind, these steps may depend on where you are in your implementation or current use of BIM.
Understand what makes BIM work as a process
Let’s address a couple of things about BIM that can help remove the questions swirling around it.
Common data environment (CDE). The CDE is what makes BIM’s unique capabilities possible. It acts as a digital hub for all the dimensions (up to the 7th dimension, though most projects only make use of up to 3D) of evolving project data, including all the details linked to every component within the BIM model. This single source of truth puts an end to the manhunt for siloed snippets of project information.
But the CDE is responsible for one other key benefit: facilitating collaboration. Centralizing all the data enables project team members to view, interact with and share it in real time. Decision making and problem solving become easier, more informed and even better represented when more construction disciplines are able to access the CDE.
These two capabilities combined effectively offset a couple of key challenges that capital projects have endured for far too long: shortage of information and absence of communication. The upshot? With these effectively wiped from the table thanks to the CDE, BIM helps you amp-up project efficiency at a foundational level, making achieving those elusive project outcomes more likely.
Documentation versus similar non-BIM projects. When you’re starting anything new, you want to make sure you’re noting the progress, the improvements, the results, the unexpected, the shortcomings versus what you’ve experienced with pre-BIM projects. Pro tip: if possible, choose a project similar to a prior one so you can do a direct comparison and note the deltas between project outcomes, workflow efficiencies, change orders, performance metrics and ROI.
This isn’t a solo exercise, however. Ping other project team members for their input. What feedback do they have on the same things you noted? Ultimately, this helps you see how it functions and improves outcomes so you can inform future BIM strategy.
Keep it small and manageable in the beginning
If you’re in the implementation stage, start small before you go big. Applying BIM to a relatively minor-scale project as your pilot affords your team a chance to test the BIM software and note any issues or challenges that may require troubleshooting or refining, which may help to avoid bigger problems during larger projects.It also helps familiarize the project team with the BIM software and processes. This helps to build confidence and competence in using the software and enables team members to identify areas where additional training or support may be needed. All this helps to ensure a smoother transition to BIM for larger projects.
Ensure the data linked to each element within the model is accurate
As an information-rich process, BIM is only as good as the data that goes into it. So to get the most out of your modeling, the data must be spot-on.
Each component, from the largest volume of poured concrete all the way down to the tiniest screw, is linked to its respective information about dimensions, warranty, cost, maintenance, etc. Naturally, this will affect design as that data ensures the BIM model represents the building’s physical and functional aspects correctly. Architects and engineers are then able to make informed design decisions and virtually try out different options and materials before they’re built into the structure, reducing errors, change orders and rework.
But the impact of that accuracy goes far beyond design. Estimating the cost of materials becomes more refined in terms of dollars and quantity, making your material ordering less wasteful financially and environmentally. Identifying potential safety hazards during construction and operation phases means proactive measures can be taken to mitigate risks.
Make sure the key individuals and teams are familiar with the value BIM brings
The more everyone knows about BIM’s broader value, the better they’ll understand how to use and apply BIM to their respective areas. For example, better visualization and simulation of the construction process enables stakeholders to spot likely issues and make necessary changes before they become costly rework. For those who are sustainability-minded, BIM provides data and insights that support better choices related to building materials, energy usage and other sustainability-related factors. And, it bears mentioning again that BIM’s ability to facilitate communication and collaboration by providing a wealth of project data at everyone’s fingertips means better planning, risk mitigation and execution against project requirements — all in real time.
Designate or hire a BIM specialist
Whether you’re in the implementation stage or already have a few BIM projects under your belt, you might consider hiring or contracting with an expert. Though not a must-have, as many people in your company will be able to easily adopt BIM for their needs, you might want to think the option of adding a pro, especially since some project owners are requiring it now.
These specialists can help steer the transition from traditional methods of construction to BIM even faster, quickly bringing everyone up to speed on how to use the software as well as help develop a BIM strategy. Because BIM is so multifaceted and requires a shift in how projects are managed, such an expert is in a unique position to provide experience-based insights on how to apply all the CDE-based information throughout the project life cycle, from estimating to commissioning and through to operations.
Whatever stage you’re in along your BIM journey, these steps can help you get the most from your effort and investment. Interested in learning more? We’re happy to chat with you. Just schedule a brief consultation.
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