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Waste” is never good. We are all becoming more conscious of our processes as well as the repercussions on the economy, people, and the environment. The same can be said of the construction industry too. I have been fascinated with the concept of Building Lean for a while and this blog is about that.

‘Building Lean’, means to eliminate and minimize waste over the construction process, thereby enhancing efficiency and conserving resources. This refers to waste generated by every process, from the ordering of excess materials to duplicating tasks within a workflow.

Why should we turn to Lean principles of building? Let me make a comparison, automation has driven a 3.6% spike in global labour productivity in manufacturing over the last 20 years. In contrast, the construction industry has only seen a 1% improvement in the same time frame.

How do we embrace the Lean Building approach? And can Building Information Modeling (BIM) help?

Efficiency is everything

The skillsets and expertise that go into each project are very diverse. Different kinds of professionals come together on each project. This can be an issue, especially when its without clear communication protocols. This can create conflict, delayed outcomes, errors, and miscommunication. This WILL reduce overall efficiency.

The Building Lean model shifts the focus from individual work and ownership to teamwork. Building Lean focuses on the overall efficiency of a project within individual work silos. To achieve this, BIM is a great way to go since your entire project is modeled and planned meticulously. Most issues and conflicts are identified and solved beforehand. Once construction begins, you have an agreed-upon model to follow as a single frame of reference. This eliminates the scope for disagreements or conflict. When everything is planned beforehand, putting it in place is a lot easier, making the entire project more efficient.

Using materials smarter

When it comes to Building Lean, the clear aim is to eliminate waste, and a very big contributor to waste is poor inventory management. Sometimes in construction, you may not require all of the materials for immediate use. Materials that are not needed in the now are considered excess inventory. This chokes the budget, takes up space and even depreciates in value over time. Poor planning results in over-ordering of specific materials or of ordering materials that may not be needed later.

With BIM in place, you can drive much better estimates of what is needed and order only what is needed, when it is needed. This, obviously, reduces waste.

Marked improvements in containing safety hazards

Better planning results in more transparency, better communication, and more accountability for safety. One of the grim sides of the construction business is the lives lost due to accidents or improperly provided safety measures or training. But when you’re Building Lean, all this is tackled at earlier stages.

BIM is a wonderful way to drive this value too since it involves the transparent mapping and planning of the project at every stage. One can foresee possible conflicts or hazards at different stages of the project and eliminate or be prepared for it. By staying one step ahead safety can be maintained.

The hidden costs of waste

An inefficient project will bleed losses in the form of time, resources, materials, and more. Waste inflates cost. In construction, waste is not limited to just the resource itself, but also the chain reaction of waste that takes place as a result.

For example, if you place an order for an incorrect material. You have wasted the human resource’s expertise and time, as they could have been more productive if they were sourcing the right materials. You are wasting the material itself, which comes at a cost. You will be wasting time in the process of returning the materials which will result in a drain of energy, expertise, and money. You will also expend unnecessary labour, which could have been used elsewhere. Wastage is a blackhole that draws money, time, and effort into its vortex.

Building ownership

Like any project in any field, ownership is very important. And the lean method of building strives to uplift the entire project by empowering and enabling independent teams to be more efficient. Collaboration on this scale is impossible without ownership, and that’s a big part of a successful lean building model.

Again, to sound a bit like a broken record but the best way to achieve this is by employing BIM. This will help teams work with synergy to create an accurate representation of the entire project. With this sort of blueprint in place, it makes it easier for teams to identify their roles and responsibilities and carry them out efficiently.

Bringing it all together with BIM

I guess it must be clear by now that I’m interested in Building Lean because of the potential to apply BIM. The sole objective of BIM is to build efficiently. All the software, processes, and expertise that go into formulating and following these models have efficiency at the heart. This means a marked reduction of waste, the safety of the workers, quicker project turnaround, and elimination of errors at early stages. And isn’t that what Building Lean is about too?

According to a survey by McGraw Hill Construction, 84% of construction companies stated that they witnessed better quality projects after making the switch to leaner methods of building. 80% of the surveyed companies said that they improved customer experiences and satisfaction. 77% saw a spike in productivity and improved safety on site. I believe it’s clear that Building Lean is much more than just a passing trend in construction. It is the natural evolution of the industry. This is why I am personally extremely excited to watch these trends unfold, and watch early adopters reap in the rewards!

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