The construction industry has seen a phenomenal change with the wholesome adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) in the public as well as the private sector. It’s fair to say that BIM has transformed the execution of construction projects by helping in decreasing the time and cost involved in the building process.
The governments across the globe took notice of the benefits of BIM technology and are mandating its use for public projects. Countries like the UK and Germany have passed the mandate while the USA, China, South Korea, Brazil, and Singapore are considering their own BIM adoption standards. To further drive up adoption, the European Union (EU) has issued a directive to its 28 members for adopting BIM on public projects.
The governments' stand on BIM is based upon the proven ability of the technology to enable seamless integration and collaboration between the project participants across the different project phases. This collaboration results in reducing the time involved in resolving conflicts. It lowers the operating costs while improving construction quality.
The private players are also gung-ho about the adoption and implementation of BIM technology for large-scale projects. Contractors are realising the advantages and demanding the use of BIM, even in countries where there are no government mandates issued. The impact is being seen in huge projects worldwide. The Qatar Rail is one such example. Autodesk is responsible for the design, construction, commissioning, operating, and maintaining the massive rail project.
Application of BIM in a Construction Project
BIM provides a holistic approach to the construction process by providing insights and inputs at various stages from design, cost and raw material estimations, schedule planning, the build process, and allocation of resources to post-handing operation and maintenance of the building.
Let's look at the 5 facets of a construction project where BIM applies:
1. The conceptualisation of the project
A building is only as good as its design, and design is as good as the concept or the idea. The 3D BIM model aids in building the intelligent concepts that provide a preview of the building. The 3D model helps in identifying design clashes. The contractors, builders, architects, engineers, electricians – all have access to the complete information at a centralised source in BIM. The seamless integration of data for the involved parties’ aids in better planning and avoiding delays in the construction timeline due to redesigning.
2. Drawing estimations for raw materials
The seamless collaboration brings together all the essential parameters of the project. The detailed model helps in determining the exact quantities of all the materials required for the construction. On an ongoing basis, the parametric modeling helps in identifying the impact of every small little change made in the design of the overall project. For example: Changing one wall will change all the elements involved with it – quantities for cement, steel, sand, paint; everything will change accordingly. Any change in any of the design specifications will reflect in the amount of the raw materials required.
3. Construction Scheduling
Adhering to the schedule plays a significant role in any construction project. The BIM model offers a single window of truth for all the different teams involved in the construction. This promotes better collaboration and seamless interfaces between them that allow better construction scheduling. That apart, delays due to clash-detections, wrong estimation of raw materials, inefficient logistics are hard to control in the absence of BIM. The powerful visualisation of the building design, clash-detection, and the extraction of the estimated time required for completing each phase drive better adherence to the stipulated timeline.
4. Project Planning and Financial Strategy
The fifth dimension of BIM provides information on the material requirements at specific points in time in the project. This information, in turn, helps in enabling just-in-time (JIT) delivery of raw materials to the site; which in turn helps in cash flows, as well as in saving effort and cost in transportation, storage on site, and prevents wastage of raw materials due to problems on-site making it easier to execute the plan.
As mentioned earlier, the detailed analysis helps in accurate estimations, thereby extracting the approximations for the overall budget of the building project. You will know precisely how much outflow must be projected for at each stage. Better planning of finances can help drive project profitability since financing costs form such a significant part of any project’s cost.
5. Project Handing and Operations Management
A key dimension of BIM is the as-built picture of the construction project. This is an essential part of the handing over process post the completion of the project. The reality of construction is that, however comprehensive the design, the final site will always look different in small and big specific ways. The as-built design of BIM provides access to the most accurate information of the facility, which forms the basis for efficient operations and maintenance of the facility.
Phillip G. Bernstein of Yale University said, “Evolution of BIM implementation came in parallel with willingness to collaborate and share project information, the move toward an integrated practice that is much talked about in the industry.” It is this a willingness to collaborate across all the stages of the construction cycle that will drive the most efficient construction projects forward. And BIM will lead that charge.