How BIM can be used on the Construction Site
Like many industries today, construction is undergoing a significant technological transformation. While tech adoption in the sector lagged behind other industries for years, that’s no longer the case in many worksites. At the heart of this transformation is building information modelling (BIM).
In 2015, just 20% of construction firms used BIM in at least half of their projects. Now, more than 52% do, and 87% of BIM users report seeing positive results stemming from it. Still, many users may not be getting everything they can out of their BIM solutions.
While BIM is primarily a design tool, it’s more than a digital alternative to blueprints. Here are eight different ways you can use these systems.
1. Designing Better Buildings
The most familiar use case for BIM arises in the planning phases of construction. BIM-based design goes beyond simply creating digital models of a building, though. Most of these software solutions come with tools to optimize design, helping you create more realistic, efficient buildings from the start.
In BIM, you can see things from all angles, even those that would be impossible in a physical space. This visibility makes it easier to create an optimal layout within a given area. Data-based modelling tools can reveal when there may be a better solution, too, showing options you might not have realized otherwise.
As you start construction, BIM models can update to match project changes in real-time. These digital twins can help you predict if you’ll need to make any changes on the fly. You can then modify the design before it’s too late.
2. Improving Communication
Worksite communication is traditionally a struggling point for the construction industry. It’s a massive, highly collaborative sector, employing 11.2 million people in the U.S. alone. Ensuring all of these different stakeholders are on the same page can be a challenge, but BIM makes it easier.
Since BIM models are entirely digital, they can provide a single source of truth. With cloud filesharing services, all stakeholders will look at the same file when they view a model. That means that whenever anyone makes any changes, everyone can see them, preventing confusion and miscommunication.
As digital files, BIM models can contain more information than traditional blueprints. They can store far more data about goals, intentions, schedules and more. You can then access this information on the worksite, providing a clear path forward whenever there’s any confusion.
3. Reducing Rework
Rework is one of the most pressing issues facing construction companies today. These scenarios are a key contributor to the industry’s tendency to run behind schedule and over budget. Rework typically results from poor design, a lack of visibility and unclear communication, all of which are issues BIM addresses.
The first way BIM reduces rework is through clash detection features. These tools highlight parts of the design that may cause conflicts, like a lack of clearance for ventilation or intersecting pipes. Bringing these to your attention helps you edit the building’s design before construction begins, avoiding rework.
BIM’s transparency also helps prevent rework. Since it provides a single source of truth, there’s a smaller chance that miscommunication will lead to mistakes in construction. Fewer mistakes then translate into less rework.
4. Ensuring Safety
You can also use BIM to improve safety on the worksite. Many injuries arise out of disregard for safety policies, which workers are more likely to ignore if they feel rushed. Since BIM prevents rework and streamlines planning, it helps teams stay on schedule, so employees won’t rush through safety protocols.
Clash detection features can highlight design choices that may be functional but hazardous. With this information, you can redesign buildings to make them safer. Similarly, you can refer to BIM models on the worksite to see which areas may be the most hazardous, prompting more attention.
BIM tools can also provide a more comprehensive picture of a worksite’s hazards. For example, a program could alert you when it recognizes that a workstation is too close to another area’s blind spots. Some BIM solutions today can even track other BIM users in real-time, showing you where other workers are.
5. Optimizing Schedules
Scheduling is another paint point for much of the construction industry. With so many different stakeholders, workers and deliveries involved, scheduling conflicts are common, leading to further delays. You can prevent many of these conflicts by using BIM to inform everyone’s schedules.
BIM software can model more than just a building. With many of these programs, you can also create project schedules, deciding who should arrive at what time. Clash detection features also highlight potential issues in workflows, so they can notify you when there’s a conflict.
Using workflow, or 4D clash detection, you can ensure you create a conflict-free schedule. As you prevent scheduling issues, you’ll improve project completion times.
6. Estimating Costs
One of the most persistent issues construction projects face is staying within budget. Studies show that nine out of ten projects experience cost overruns, with mega projects exceeding their budgets by 88% on average. This trend is a multifaceted issue, but poor cost estimation is one of the leading causes.
If you don’t have an accurate budget estimate, it’ll be challenging to stay within it. Thankfully, you can use BIM to help inform your estimates. When you lay out your entire project in BIM, its analytics tools can generate accurate figures to guide your budget.
Since BIM has access to such rich, varied data, it accounts for more than other methods might. As models update in real-time, they can modify these projections, guiding further work.
7. Enabling Prefabrication
One of the newer and less publicized ways to use BIM is to enable prefabrication. Prefab, or modular construction, is a relatively new concept, but it’s already shown remarkable results. Modular projects rely on constructing parts of a building off-site beforehand, and BIM can reveal the best way to do so.
BIM models can show which parts of a project would be most profitable to construct through prefabrication. You can then use this BIM data to guide the manufacturing processes involved in prefab. Many robots can work off of BIM models, so this approach helps you capitalize on automation.
Modular construction can deliver 20 to 50% timeline acceleration since it reduces on-site time and improves productivity. BIM can guide you to these benefits, showing where and how to capitalize on prefabrication.
8. Streamlining Building Handover
Projects can still have headaches in store even after construction. Handing the building and all of its related documents to owners can be a confusing and time-consuming process. If both parties use BIM, it can be quick and painless.
BIM models contain all the information a building owner or operator needs in one file. Maintenance information, costs, materials and 3D utility maps provide a wealth of data for owners to use. No matter what they want from their building, an in-depth BIM model can provide it, eliminating the need to ask for further documentation.
Building owners can use BIM to optimize all of their operations, too. When they see the benefits of these tools, you can improve your client relationships by using them.
BIM Is a Versatile Tool
BIM is more than just a singular resource. It’s a suite of digital tools, providing benefits in a vast array of different construction processes. When you learn to apply BIM to these various areas, you can become safer, more productive and profitable.