BIM in Construction

BIM in Construction: Part 1 – The Good

Whether you’ve embraced BIM (Building Information Modeling) or still have your doubts, it’s here to stay. And it’s already changing the construction process in some pretty fundamental ways.

This post is the first in a three-part series about the use of BIM in construction. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for Part 2—The Bad (now posted!) and Part 3—The Inevitable (now posted!).

What is BIM?

Definitions of BIM range greatly, but they all have one thing in common—big words. So I merged the explanations from various sources, stripped out the fancy jargon, and came up with this:

BIM is blueprints on steroids.

…but those are some powerful steroids!


[bctt tweet=”#BIM is blueprints on steroids…but those are some powerful steroids! #construction #tech” url=””]


To expand a little, BIM is a virtual 3D model that represents the facility to be built, with all of its systems and functional and physical characteristics displayed in relation to each other, as well as data about every aspect of the project.

BIM for Contractors

If you’re an owner, architect, or designer, you probably already understand the value of BIM: find conflicts earlier, visualize the finished facility, automate repetitive tasks, and make sure all parties are on the same page from the start of the project.

But as the project moves into construction, what benefits does BIM have if you’re a GC or a subcontractor?

Avoid Rework

Detect and resolve conflicts between systems before construction begins.


Success Story

Using BIM saved SERA ARCHITECTS and JE DUNN CONSTRUCTION $10 million on a 650,000-square-foot life sciences building for the Oregon Health & Science University. For example, BIM helped them identify a pipe intersecting with a vent so they could make changes before construction began.

“While architects are early adopters of 3-D technology, to demand that all of our contributing consultants use it, and for the contractor to demand that all of their subcontractors use it is rare.”

JE Dunn Construction SERA Architects BIM model

BIM software detected the intersecting pipe (highlighted in red). Image courtesy of Co.Design.


Communicate More Efficiently

Because everyone is working from the latest version of the plans, you’ll never miss an update and your questions can be answered faster.


Success Story

TURNER CONSTRUCTION found BIM to be invaluable when building a high school in California, because it nearly eliminated the time needed for RFIs.

“In the old days, it would have taken us a week to generate an RFI, reference the appropriate documents for the architects, and wait for the response. [BIM] helps speed up our coordination process by having the most current model available all the time, reducing the amount of time it takes to get questions answered from the design team.”

Turner Construction BIM model

Image courtesy of Turner Construction, via Autodesk.


Test New Procedures

Visualize untested or complex processes to predict problems before they happen.


Success Story

SUNDT CONSTRUCTION did its own concrete work for a water processing facility project. They used BIM to plan the sequencing of the individual pours.

“Our crews had a better understanding of what each concrete pour entailed and how it related to the work of other trades. We compared [this project] to a similar project that was done without BIM…there was 67 percent less concrete rework.”


Improve Safety

Reduce risks created by inadequate perimeter protection and unsafe site layouts.


Success Story

Subcontractor SOUTHLAND INDUSTRIES uses BIM to block off areas that require regular maintenance and make service aisles safer.

“On a recent project, I told our team that I would like to be able to walk freely down the service aisle with a 32-inch-wide cart, and have key service areas within an arm’s reach of the main aisle.”


[bctt tweet=”Use #BIM to plan safer #construction sites and reduce risk.” url=””]


Prefabricate Offsite

Save cost by prefabricating some items in the shop instead of on the spot.


Success Story

DPR CONSTRUCTION and its subcontractors saved 18.75% on mechanical systems and 50% on the fabrication and installation of drywall by using BIM data to prefabricate steel-framed drywall panels and have them shipped to the site in sequence.

“People say ‘modular and prefabrication means it has to constrain the design.’ The message we’re trying to say here is really ‘BIM allows prefabrication to be flexible’ because no matter how unique and one-off the design is, as long as we know it is constructible in the model, we can prefabricate it and install it.”

DPR Construction BIM model

Image courtesy of DPR Construction, via Line/Shape/Space.


Save on Materials

Know upfront what materials you’ll need to take advantage of economies of scale and just-in-time ordering, resulting in lower costs and less waste.


Success Story

On the expansion of a children’s hospital in Alabama, HOAR CONSTRUCTION invited all subcontractors to use the BIM model before construction even began.

“The plumbing subcontractor, SUPERIOR MECHANICAL, used their models to really plan installation steps, and they actually ordered pipe to length from their supplier, rather than having to make stock lengths fit the design. It made a huge impact. On a large healthcare project, you might expect a plumbing subcontractor to generate as much as 10 percent material waste. Superior Mechanical generated only 1 percent material waste on this project.”

Hoar Construction BIM model

Image courtesy of Hoar Construction, via Autodesk.

Manage Logistics

Avoid project delays by making sure everybody has the equipment, materials, plans, and instructions they need, when they need them.


Success Story

TOCCI BUILDING COMPANIES uses BIM to pinpoint a temporary site exposure, identify the window of time it will be a safety risk, and quantify the materials needed to protect the area.

“People are prepared on a specific day with 30 sheets of 3/4-inch plywood to cover 15 floor penetrations. There’s no arguing about who is responsible for executing the work. It just gets done.”


[bctt tweet=”With #BIM, there’s no arguing about who’s responsible for the work. It just gets done. #construction” url=””]


Give Input on Designs

Collaborate with designers to ensure constructability and potentially cut costs.


Success Story

As construction manager at risk for a residence hall at Framingham State University, CONSIGLI CONSTRUCTION needed to save time and money wherever possible. With BIM, they could find opportunities to reduce materials costs and streamline the construction process without making significant changes to the design.

“Ultimately, the designers and the owners make design decisions. As a construction firm, we use models to drive conversations around choices that could enhance the project. [BIM] models make it easier for designers and owners to visualize how our insights could make their process more efficient.”


[bctt tweet=”#BIM makes it easier for contractors to advise designers about constructability and cost.” url=””]


BIM for Manufacturers

As an integral part of the construction process, manufacturers can also benefit by using BIM.

Develop BIM Objects for Your Products

BIM models are more accurate when they include representations of actual products instead of generic placeholders. If you have a BIM object for your product and your competitor doesn’t, who’s going to get spec’d?


[bctt tweet=”If you have a #BIM object and your competitor doesn’t, who’s going to get spec’d? #construction #mfg” url=””]


Success Story

CELOTEX was the first insulation manufacturer to create BIM objects for its entire product line. Having that edge has directly led to sales inquiries from architects during the design phase.

“BIM has enabled us to improve lead times and increase productivity, so it was a no-brainer really.”

Celotex BIM object

Image courtesy of RIBA Insight.


Use BIM to Fabricate Custom Products

With the information from a BIM model, you can build more accurate products and develop more efficient schedules. And creating a BIM object for the custom product before you begin fabrication will let you (and your customer) see how it will fit into the space and integrate with the systems.


Success Story

CUBICLE CENTRE estimates that it saves five working weeks by making 3D product data available to design teams, who output fabrication drawings faster and more accurately.

“We decided to engage early with BIM as we understood the crucial role that manufacturer data plays in its success. We shared the view that BIM is ‘the future of specification.'”


What Do You Think About BIM in Construction?

Are you convinced about the benefits of BIM for contractors and manufacturers? Or are you looking forward to reading about the cons next week? Tell us what you think in the comments, and let us know what your job is.

Don’t forget to check back for Part 2—The Bad (now posted!) and Part 3—The Inevitable (now posted!) in the coming weeks! Subscribe to our blog, or follow us on Twitter (@isqft), Facebook, or LinkedIn and we’ll let you know as soon as it’s posted.


Additional Sources Consulted