Following the construction industry and related legal topics in the United States.


Monday, October 22, 2007

BIM Forum Discusses Implementation Strategies

The BIM Forum, a remarkable group of construction industry professionals, convened October 11 -12 in Boston to discuss delivery of design and construction services in the digital age – and, in particular, the role of building information modeling (“BIM”) in that process.

Several speakers described their firms’ specific approaches to implementation of BIM and lessons learned in their efforts. While space here prevents a complete description of the individual presentations (which were uniformly excellent and thoughtful), notable among topics raised, or the points made, by the speakers were the following:
  • A phased approach to “Full BIM” is the prevalent BIM implementation strategy among design and construction firms – many of which begin their first BIM projects by establishing goals specific and limited for that project, then elevating and expanding those goals with each subsequent BIM application.
  • Several participants indicated that the anticipated “learning curve” was real – but somewhat overstated, with the costs and inefficiencies attributable to inexperience being sharply reduced with each subsequent use of BIM.
  • Although 100% BIM usage in project delivery is rare, it appears that the ramp up to BIM is typically more rapid than expected. One company reported that it first “discussed” its possible use of BIM in 2005 – but by 2007, it was using varying forms of BIM on no fewer than 22 projects, with a combined construction value approaching $1.4 billion. Ultimately, with governmental agencies like GSA and the Army Corps of Engineers mandating the use of BIM models, the question has become “when” architects and contractors will fully implement BIM – not “if” they will.
  • Design and construction firms reported varying degrees of success when incorporating data from their historic cost and scheduling programs into BIM applications. Once incorporated, however, it was common for those firms to use integrated forms of that information in their future BIM applications – as opposed to their maintaining separately applied cost and scheduling databases independent of BIM applications.
  • Among the benefits of BIM reported by speakers are: (a) readily accessible estimating quantities; (b) earlier and more accurate visualization of the planned structures or projects (by team members and by building owners and customers); and (c) enhanced ability to handle design and specification changes during the pricing and construction process. Some firms also report distributing color printed versions of the models in the field. The additional information conveyed by color is apparently useful to the delivery team on-site.
  • Many “lessons learned” were also presented. For example, firms recommended against allowing individual project participants to manually override data inserted into, or supplied by, BIM software. Others strongly encouraged involving of both architects and structural engineers from the outset of each project – discouraging their staggered entry into the BIM process.
  • One universally accepted principle important to successful implementation of BIM is the involvement of experienced, field-seasoned, constructors in the BIM process. Teams that effectively involve people with decades of field experience side-by-side with technically savvy (typically younger) BIM software experts are more likely produce digital models that are more useful to constructors. This principle applies to all aspects of design and construction delivery.
  • Fundamentally, BIM should be viewed as a “process” and not as simply a software solution.

This entry published by David Roberts, a member of Womble Carlyle's real estate development and construction practice group.

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