Collaborating with BIM

BIM adoption has increased significantly with the more deeply engaged users enjoying greater benefits.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) can take on many aspects when designing and constructing property, depending on individual roles in a project’s process as well as a point in time for the process itself. But boiled down to the basics, BIM is all about one word: collaboration.

Take for example, the aptly named Collaborative Life Sciences Building, a $295 million, 650,000-square-foot joint project of the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU); Oregon State University and Portland State University. The collaborative name of the facility means the three institutions house their various life sciences programs at one address. The building, located on the OHSU campus, consists of classrooms, lectures halls, research laboratories, and even retail shops and enclosed parking. It is also, collaborative in the way it was designed and constructed, with almost 30 different design teams using an all-BIM process throughout.

Construction began just five months after the design was awarded. Key to the success of the project was the use of an integrated and Collaborative Project Delivery (CPD) process and alignment of the three universities into one unified decision-making owner.

In order to meet the aggressive schedule demands, general contractor, JE Dunn Construction, co-located with CO Architects, the project’s design architect; SERA Architects, the executive architect; Day CPM, project manager and owner rep; and the prime subcontractors from the very beginning of the process. The CPD process included an integrated BIM plan, electronic design and construction administration, a paperless job system and off-site prefabrication for just-in-time delivery.

By doing so, the team said it was able to save some $10 million in printing and document management costs alone while meeting all scheduling and budget demands. Good thing, too, since, everything about the building demands precision. The building houses approximately 26 miles of plumbing systems, 90 million pounds of concrete, 126 miles of conduit, 6,000 light fixtures, 5,100 power outlets and 8,100 data outlets. During peak construction, more than 410 workers were onsite at the same time.

Mainstream practice

With even a “Building Information Modeling For Dummies,” published a year ago, BIM is clearly gone well past its initial early adoption and firmly entered the mainstream, according to a McGraw Hill Construction report issued in 2012. According to a Smart Market Report, McGraw Hill said 71 percent of the AEC community and owners use BIM on their projects; up from 28 percent in 2008.

“BIM has emerging standards and best practices, growing attention from professional organizations and an increasingly skilled user base incorporating its functionality into daily workflows,” the report stated. “BIM also helps drive innovation by expanding its use to new tasks and integrating its rich data with many other vital technology tools.”

What’s more, contractors – at 74 percent of the total – topped architects (70 percent) and engineers (67 percent). Engineers showed the lowest adoption rate in 2009, but that 67 percent is the greatest increase over the 2009-2012 time frame of the report.

While the numbers in the study are a few years old, much of the data may bear a another look. Contractors were leading the industry in overall BIM adoption. A closer look at the usage rates, showed a deep appreciation for BIM, with the ranks of “very heavy users” tripling.

Progress on the job site is the bellwether for contractors. As a result, contractors judged the following to be the most valuable BIM factors:

  • Reduced rework.
  • Reduced overall project duration.
  • Reduced errors and omissions in documents.

Business development: BIM capability is becoming a make-or-break decision for evaluating who’s on the team. Eight in 10 members of the AEC community that took part in the McGraw Hill study indicated they took into account at some level BIM capabilities when selecting project members. A majority of BIM users, for example, encourage BIM capabilities from the companies they consider teammates. About a quarter require other companies to be BIM-capable.

With the jobsite being so important to contractors, many are looking at bringing “digital construction” tools with them:

  • Contractors use model-guided tools to precisely locate penetration, hangers, embeds and other site elements.
  • Validation of as-built conditions against the model using laser scans and digital photogrammetry.
  • Some leading firms use BIM to create highly detailed daily work packages for the key trades.
  • Integration of BIM with RFID to enable sophisticated materials delivery and inventory management.
  • Integration of multiple teamates with model data for additional delivery management to minimize storage and exposure of materials to weather.

Mandatory BIM

Internationally, the U.K. will make BIM mandatory next year for all public work contractors. These contractors are expected to comply with the technical requirement of Level 2 BIM. U.K. regulators hope the new requirement will be make all phases of construction much more efficient.

In the U.S., more and more government agencies are making BIM a requirement. For example, the General Services Administration, Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Veterans Affairs have already begun to require BIM at some level. While there is no one mandate across the country, that may change as the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) is in the early stages of developing a new guideline for the AEC community and building owners to use BIM in all phases, from design to operations process.

The National BIM Guideline for Owners, will be developed by NIBS, the American Institute of Architects, Building Owners and Managers Association International, International Facility Management Association, and ASHRAE. It will provide uniformity in the delivery of BIM projects to government, institutional and commercial building owners

The guideline is intended to provide a documented process and procedure for the owner’s design team to follow in order to produce a standard set of BIM documents that will be used for maintenance and operations of the facility. The new guideline will be based on currently existing foreign, federal, state and local BIM guides, but geared to a generic facility with uniform requirements.

The development committee consists of about a dozen BIM experts representing important stakeholder groups, including building owners, architects, engineers, constructors and facility managers. The first task of the committee is to review the relevant and applicable BIM guides currently available. An advisory committee composed of federal, state and local government representatives who developed existing BIM guides will review the committee's efforts and provide input on an ongoing basis.

The goal is for federal, state, and local governments and other institutional and commercial building owners to adopt the National BIM Guideline for Owners as the standard procedure for their design and BIM teams to follow, with the intent of helping building owners unlock the value of utilizing BIM across the life cycle of a building. 

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