Your ductwork is in my peanut butter!

You may always have conflicts in your building projects but I had a chance to sit down today with a construction manager and we got talking about building information modeling or BIM, for short.  Even though I have heard about BIM for along time it still is a construction technique that is not gaining much traction.  These construction managers went on to say that they have used BIM on multiple other projects and regardless of the initial first cost they had reaped a ton of benefit from using it on those projects.  The site superintendent described it as a great tool that he could take out in the field and resolve disputes with.  With nothing more than the BIM data and a laser measuring device he could sort out which contractor was in the right and which one had some reconfiguring to do. Okay, hold on, let me take a step back and give some background, in case you don't know.  BIM is a three dimesional computer modeling (drawing) platform that does an amazing job (assuming the inputs are correct) at identifying colisions between the trades (as well as many other things).  What was once religated to 2-D coordination drawings are now a virtual construct of the project. 

For more information go to Wikipedia.

So if it is such a great tool why isn't everyone using it?  Aside from the cost and learning curve (two hurdles that, in their own right, are significant), such a platform it doesn't work unless everyone buys in.  First there is Architect and the Construction Manager or General Contractor, if either of these people are not on board with it, BIM won't happen.  Then you need the engineers to pony up their portions of the modeling, but if you don't have really great input the models that they build may have to be scraped rather than spending the time correcting their designs.  And lastly you have the contractor.  Now contractors, outside of the larger outfits with the right kind of overhead, do not typically have the resources to have expertise in BIM, it's only on projects where the client has mandated that BIM be performed that these contractors would even have the money to include it.   And that means that the clients would pay a premium for their construction project.

So the short answer is, only if a client knows they will save you on the back end of a project would they ever be willing to risk the up front costs. But as most companies (engineers and contractors) are still having a heck of time gaining the experience they need to make the most out of this powerful tool and so I can definately see why owners would be a little shy about BIM.

Enough of the chatter!  Bring on the tips for some of the great things that you can do with BIM:

1. Create a more accurate resource loaded schedule. 

2. Compare progress of actual construction to schedule coordinated model.

3. Resolve disputes with contractors quickly.

4. Identify colision conflicts between the trades before materials are ordered or installed.

5. Improve maintenance access because you can identify 'no fly zones' around the equipment.

Clearly BIM is the way construction is going to be designed, drawn, and coordianted in the future, but how close are we to that future?  Is there anything we can do to push the envelope?  Will BIM only exist for only the highest profile cases?

Until next time Know what you build, and share what you know.