The Future Impact of
Building Information Modeling (BIM) on Construction Projects
July 19, 2022
The future is now, and it’s being shaped by building information modeling (BIM) every day.
What is it about BIM that is having such a direct effect on the future of construction projects? Turns out, it’s not just one thing but a combination of factors that make BIM so powerful and important. This means everything from creating new capital projects to retrofitting existing infrastructures and involves how we design structures, how we build them, how we use and manage project data, and how we maintain those structures post-handover.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
How structures are designed
The best way to validate a project’s design quality and viability — short of going through it in person when it’s already built and too late to make any desired or necessary modifications — is to experience and inspect them virtually. This is where BIM can team up with two related modern technologies such as immersive virtual reality (VR) and superimposed augmented reality (AR) to take project planning and design to a higher level. When BIM is paired with either of these simulated experiences, users can observe projects in a more realistic way than they would viewing traditional 2D plans or squinting into much smaller physical scaled models.
So for example, owners can take a 360 VR “tour” of how their designed project will look and feel before it’s built, or see it as a computer-generated BIM model over a camera view of the planned job site, making it an effective way to verify it meets their expectations or even explore design alternatives. Site crews can view structural or environmental hazards to understand how to navigate around them or implement appropriate safety protocols when working in or near them.
From an operational standpoint, using these advanced technologies in tandem with BIM facilitates faster, better informed decisions on design tweaks, defect repairs and approvals.
How structures are responsibly built
Capital construction projects are notorious for expending immense amounts of resources and energy while they’re being built. But the industry as a whole, including project owners and general contractors, are becoming more environmentally conscious.
There are different ways to pursue green construction, but if approached at the project level, however, simply start at the planning and design phase where it can be built in from the beginning. And this is where BIM has the most potential.
Certainly, using BIM presents opportunities to explore design alternatives. But it can be taken a step further by recreating the environmental surroundings — such as daylight patterns and temperature ranges — to determine the ideal building orientation and building systems that promote energy efficiency.
The materials that make up that structure are just as important. As design decisions are being made, possible materials can be evaluated for their sustainability and viability so there’s less negative impact on the environment and any occupants within the completed structure. Once the designed model and materials are finalized, the data linked to each component within it becomes the source for a precise inventory list for the procurement staff, markedly reducing the chance of over- or under-ordering, which translates into less financial and product waste.
How structural data is used
Despite BIM being building information modeling, the emphasis has been more on the modeling and less on the information and the project intelligence it delivers. This is slowly changing. And it’s coinciding with the industry’s growing understanding and appreciation of data as a valuable asset.
The thing with data is that it doesn’t have to be static numeric values. With BIM, its linked information is housed in a common data environment (CDE), the model’s single source of truth. It’s where everyone can access and act on the same continually evolving information associated with the model and its individual components and leverage it throughout the project life cycle.
How can its inherent interactivity impact future construction projects? By serving as a basis for real-time collaboration, informed decision making, more accurate estimates, more refined procurement lists, exploration of design and material modifications, and a robust maintenance reference after handover.
How structures are maintained
BIM’s value doesn’t end when the last construction worker has gone home. It’s actually key to the operational health of the building after the keys have been handed over to the owner, so to speak. BIM’s linked data contains everything the facilities management team will need: the interactive 3D model itself, manufacturer data, maintenance requirements, system and equipment location, commissioning and testing results, warranties and operation manuals.
And it’s also relevant far beyond preventive, ongoing maintenance and efficient building management. All that BIM data can make it simpler for today’s capital projects to undergo remodeling and improvement work in the future.
Helping answer some of the questions that may arise
What materials were used that we can’t see so we can maintain its structural integrity? What will it look like? How much would it cost? How can construction be done to maintain structural safety?
The value of that information may not be appreciated until it’s needed. There may be no better example of the challenges they might encounter without it than the current retrofitting of older infrastructure in the U.S. It’s with this cautionary eye toward the future of the structure that owners can feel confident that using BIM can reliably head off those challenges.
BIM has certainly come a long way from being regarded as merely a 3D model. Construction companies are catching on and are making it a top technology investment priority. Is your company among those considering it? More than simply a new technology or a new process, it’s a paradigm shift in how construction projects are managed and built. When you’re ready we’re happy to show you how BIM can work for you by walking you through a demo of InEight virtual design and construction.