Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a pretty hot topic in the construction world right now. While it is steadily creeping its way into the commercial construction industry, quite a few people, especially those who are looking to build, are still a little confused about what it is and if it is something that could benefit them. Nabholz Construction Services started using BIM several years ago and was the first construction firm in Arkansas to do so. We’ve learned quite a bit along the way and thought it would be worth the time to help you understand it. So, let’s clear up some of the confusion and lay out some of the basics about BIM and how it can help on commercial building projects.
As is sometimes the case, it is easier to start by laying out a few things that BIM isn’t. BIM is not a program you can order, it isn’t something you can get down at the contractor supply store and it isn’t a smartphone app.
Let’s get the stuffy technical definition out of the way and then we’ll talk about how it actually affects your construction project.
BIM is defined by the National BIM Standard Council like this: Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.
A basic premise of BIM is collaboration by different stakeholders at different phases of the life cycle of a facility to insert, extract, update or modify information in the BIM to support and reflect the roles of that stakeholder.
Kind of wordy if you ask me. Let’s make it a little clearer.
BIM is a process. That process includes collecting, manipulating and analyzing information, to make sure a construction project has fewer delays, costs less and ensures the end result is as close as possible to what the owner expects from the beginning.
The central piece to successful building information modeling is a three-dimensional representation of the structure to be built. Unlike traditional 2D representations, BIM combines architectural, civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and other critical construction and building necessities, all into one 3D model.
When building a project, communication between Owner, Contractor, Designer and Sub-Contractors is vital to keep a job running smoothly. BIM takes this one step further and provides a more efficient way of constructing a building that can save materials, time, and money.
BIM can be used not only to show the “How” a project is put together but it is also capable of showing the “When” for the project as well. This component of BIM is called 4D modeling.
The idea of 4 Dimensional modeling revolves around using the 3D model and assigning each piece a duration for the projects timeline. This helps the Owner, Contractor, and Sub-Contractor get a better understanding of how the project is fitting together. Progress at specific time periods can be shown to ensure that important milestones can be achieved.
4D Modeling can also show scheduling conflicts due to delays, lead time, and other trades being in the way. By being able to see it before it happens, the project could be saved significant time and money.
Another benefit to BIM is Building Envelope Detailing. That is a way of showing how Internal and External components of a building are put together for optimum performance. In the project, each building detail is built to show exactly how it all comes together. Then the envelopes can be evaluated to see if there can be any changes made that will improve their performance.
There are many applications for the BIM Process, although the most prevalent is the clash detection. The only way this process works is if the clash detection is done before the work is started. Once Sub-Contractors are selected for each of the Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Fire Protection, and Structural Steel/PEMB trades, a BIM Kickoff meeting is held to give an overview of what is expected from each of the contractors. In this meeting timelines are made, the weekly meetings are set up, an intro to the model viewer program is given, and a sample clash detection meeting is run to show how exactly each coordination meeting will be held.
When running the Coordination Meetings, it is very important that all trades are present so each clash can be viewed, discussed, and a solution can be agreed upon. There is no one trade that has precedence over the other, which means it is a TEAM effort to work through the problems. Once all of the clashes are discussed, each trade will then fix any problems that were addressed, and resubmit their updated models. During the clash detection weekly meetings, the following trades are clashed together to find any problems:
-Structural Steel vs. Plumbing
-Structural Steel vs. HVAC
-Structural Steel vs. Electrical
-Structural Steel vs. Fire Protection
-Plumbing vs. HVAC
-Plumbing vs. Electrical
-Plumbing vs. Fire Protection
-HVAC vs. Electrical
-HVAC vs. Fire Protection
-Electrical vs. Fire Protection
-Ceiling vs. All Trades
-Lighting vs. All Trades
And finally, with so many buildings being constructed with sustainability in mind, BIM allows analysis and evaluation of alternative materials with the aim of reducing environmental impact before, during and after construction.
As you can see, all of this planning and collaborative information sharing has real-world outcomes that affect owners. Put simply, BIM saves money, helps keep projects on time and helps guarantee that you are getting what you expected. Hospitals, schools and industrial plants are using BIM on a regular basis. It has shown some outstanding results for higher education projects as well. So, it makes sense to consider the BIM process the next time you are ready to build.
For more information about building information modeling and how we can put it to work for you on your next project, please contact us today!