We see lots of different professionals talking about BIM nowadays, but in practical terms why should you care about it and how does it affect you?
When it comes to BIM, if you ask a thousand different professionals to define what BIM is you’ll get a thousand different answers – and chances are, at some extent, they’ll all be correct. According to Autodesk:
“Building Information Modeling (BIM) is an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.” – https://www.autodesk.com/solutions/bim
In other words – BIM is a design related process, not a software, and it gives you the tools to be more efficient to plan, design, coordinate, execute, maintain, and operate projects. As any other tool, however, it doesn’t make anything by itself. One must learn how to use it, and learning how to use it is probably less than 30% of what it takes to successfully implement it. Moreover, you don’t have to be an Engineer or Architect to learn how to use BIM. There are thousands of videos on YouTube teaching people how to use implement BIM, and it is not rocket science.
Now if that’s the case, how come so many people know about BIM, but so few actually know how to use it both efficiently and effectively throughout the project life-cycle? Well, just because I have a hammer in my tool-box it doesn’t mean that I know how to use it, and even if I did, just because I know how to use it it doesn’t mean that I know how to build a house – and that’s precisely why some people end-up nailing the wrong things in the process.
(Figure 1 – PUC-MG, 2019. Sebastiao Lima Neto. Lecture about BIM)
BIM, however, is much more than just a hammer, and certainly serves a much higher purpose than a toolbox. But why does it matter to you, and why should you care about it? The answer is simple – because you’re losing quality, and if you’re losing quality you’re certainly losing money.
To better illustrate that, a few years ago we analyzed one of our projects and we were able to verify that a standard medium-size project in LOD 400 (level of development) can have up to 2,500.000.00 different parameters (data points) considering all disciplines, and more than 133,000.00 objects (including pipes, ducts, fittings, tiles, appliances, receptacles, and all the other parts that are typically overlooked in any given project). Now you’re probably thinking that we must have used bad data in our analysis, and we could certainly go through all levels of redundancies we used, but here’s what all those 133,000.00 objects can easily look like:
That’s the amount of information that is, more often than not, overlooked (if not completely ignored) during the design phase and invariably dealt with during construction, and that’s not even the full picture because that image isn’t showing the architectural nor the structural disciplines.
From a practical standpoint, try to imagine fitting in a fan coil unit in a super tight space above the bathroom dropped ceiling in all 156 units of a building that wasn’t originally designed to accommodate it. As result, the ceiling will have drop a few more inches (hopefully not enough to impact any of the original design intent), a 36×48″ access panel will have to be installed, and possibly another one for a fire/smoke damper. Parallel to that, the supply and exhaust air ducts are clashing with absolutely everything above the ceiling (junction boxes, conduits, pipes for the condensate and ventilation system, and possibly water supply), which will result in countless other transitions and hundreds of additional hours (considering all units) to install.
At this point we’re not even considering performance levels (which will have yet to be determined during the commissioning phase later on) or aesthetics (that can now drastically affect the design intent and ultimately impact your customer’s satisfaction), let alone procurement that may not be able to get any of those additional parts in a timely manner without impacting the construction schedule, which would more than likely incur in countless additional RFIs, change orders, and a massive overhead cost that could’ve easily avoided during design coordination.
So now that we’ve stablished the importance of BIM, you’re probably asking yourself why is it not being implemented across the board? Most importantly, why should you spend any money implementing it?
The truth is that companies want to use BIM, but they don’t know where to start, and the problem with that is intrinsically associated with the cost. BIM isn’t cheap, and it shouldn’t be, especially when you’re managing 133,000.00 different objects and over 2,500,000.00 parameters per project, and trust me, it is much more than just creating a 3D model that looks nice but serves no purpose during construction, and especially during maintenance & operations.
Now because most of the companies don’t understand the benefits associated with BIM, they often overlook it by settling for the cheapest services they can get, which ends up compromising quality towards deliverables and driving down satisfaction.
In the end, it is all about money, and BIM is much more than just another overhead cost. I always encourage people to think of BIM as a design related process associated with total quality principles, or for all the developers reading this article – BIM is an investment, and this case, your ROI is directly associated with the level of expertise of your BIM team or BIM consultant.
I’ve had the opportunity to see lots of companies thrive while implementing BIM, but I’ve also seen countless others fail miserably. Their number one frustration? Quality, followed by communication.
Unfortunately, if cost is your priority number one you will have to sacrifice either time or quality. Either way, if there’s anything you should take from everything I said is this: you do not want to have to deal with 133,000.00 issues on site.
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