What are they action points that will help us seize the BIM opportunity?
In some countries BIM compliance is now mandatory for all large projects. The UK is an example: if a company is not BIM-compliant, it will not get any state-funded construction work.
London’s Crossrail project is the largest construction project in Europe, with 10,000 workers on 40 different sites building 42km of new tunnels. All contractors on the project had to gain BIM certification from the UK’s BIM Academy. And it’s not just the UK. Last week I got calls from businesses in France, South Africa, Sweden and Norway, all wanting to know more about BIM. The issue of compliance should be “when” not “if” for all large-scale construction companies.
With BIM, contractors can add a timeline to the digital 3D model of their asset using a 4D Scheduling tool. With 4D Scheduling they can map every stage of construction and watch it happen, sequence by sequence, before them. 4D Scheduling is becoming an ever more common tool in bidding. In many large projects these days the architect will give contractors a BIM model as a Request for Tender (RFT) and ask them to bid against that. 4D Scheduling is a powerful competitive advantage when bidding. And who knows, maybe it too could soon be mandatory for entering certain projects.
Traditional estimating for construction projects has been based on lists of specifications, and something of a ‘black art’. And we all know how costing by spec can end up - within months suppliers realise that the costs they committed to on paper are, in reality, unachievable. With today’s tight margins nobody can afford that kind of slippage. A BIM model includes all currently available component costs. Eventually, the model itself will be able to generate an estimate. Of course it will be more complicated in practise than it sounds, but for most businesses the gains in efficiency will be irresistible. BIM means more accurate costing, complete with a feedback loop so that companies can see where they got it right, where they got it wrong, and how they can estimate smarter next time.
With growing regulatory demand for sustainable buildings, constructing low-maintenance assets with low whole-life costs is essential. The digital master data in a BIM model can be handed over after construction and then kept for maintenance and constantly updated throughout the life of the asset. In a project driven by 2D drawings and competing Excel sheets, a truly finalised drawing of the finished building may never emerge. The 3D BIM data needs to drive the business process, evolving with the asset over time, growing with the building, and acting as a constant blueprint to be handed over to each generation of the asset’s life.
As societies become more complex and networked, all industries are striving to build assets smarter and faster, with a lower cost of ownership. Groups like the UK’s BIM Academy and BIM Task Group recognise the essential similarities between industries, and the common reward that will come with universal best practices. In today’s digital, visual society, tomorrow’s engineers are already building multi-dimensional worlds on their PlayStations and consoles. The gaps between industries are bound to close. Maybe the last great change BIM will affect in the construction industry will be ending the idea of a separate, specialised ‘construction industry’ itself.