BIM in Construction

BIM in Construction: Part 3 – The Inevitable

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.

In this final post in our three-part BIM in construction series, we’ve compiled expert advice on getting started with BIM and a look at some cutting-edge uses of the technology. Don’t forget to read our breakdown of the pros and cons, along with some real-world success stories, in Part 1—The Good and Part 2—The Bad.

Are You BIM-Ready?

As BIM use continues to increase, it’s becoming less exotic and more expected. So if you aren’t at least somewhat familiar with the process and technology, it’s probably time to get started.

BIM doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing undertaking. In fact, it shouldn’t be—at the industry level, BIM has been a slow evolution with lots of trial and error. Follow that lead and start slow by using it on just one project. Leave room to make mistakes and learn from them, and time for your company’s culture to start shifting.


[bctt tweet=”#BIM doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing undertaking. In fact, it shouldn’t be.” url=””]


Choosing Your First BIM Project

Think carefully about which project you choose, keeping BIM’s strengths in mind. For example:

Consider your partners too—can you work with architects, engineers, general contractors, and/or subcontractors who are experienced in BIM?

Of course, depending on your role, your trade, and any number of other factors, a better question might be, “Does this upcoming project require you to use BIM?”! But even if your first BIM project isn’t the one you’d choose for yourself, you can still set yourself up for success.


Convincing the Powers That Be

Unless you’re a one-person operation, you’ll need to get your partners, investors, managers, etc., on board with BIM.

Your best bet is to show them the money—prove the cost- and time-saving benefits of BIM. Allow us to shamelessly self-promote for a minute and suggest (re)reading the first post in this series, especially the real-world success stories.


Starting Out Right

How many times in life have you wished for a do-over or a fresh start? Don’t add BIM to that list—take the right steps to build a solid foundation before you get started.

1. Do Your Research

Talk to similar companies about their experiences implementing BIM. Always take the opportunity to learn from someone else’s mistakes before you have to learn from your own! Look for a get-started class—if you can’t find something through your local AGC chapter or a community college, there are dozens of online options. And make sure to get as much advice as you can before investing in software or upgraded hardware.


[bctt tweet=”Get advice before starting #BIM…learn from others’ mistakes instead of making your own.” url=””]


2. Be Strategic

Talk about your goals for your first time using BIM. Do you want the core team to learn the software? Do you want to prove the benefits of BIM to your stakeholders? Once you define those goals, make a plan with specific milestones and deadlines to keep yourself on track.

3. Put Your Team Together

First, who is your BIM champion? You need someone to keep the goals and the plan at the forefront. You might be tempted to fold these responsibilities into the project manager role. Don’t. Let your that person stay focused on the success of the entire project, and create a new role to oversee the BIM implementation and prioritize the goals you outlined above. Ideally, this same person will serve as the champion for all of your future BIM projects.


[bctt tweet=”Create a #BIM ‘champion’ role, separate from PM, to work across projects.” url=””]


Next, put together your soon-to-be experts who will work with the model itself and later figure out how to incorporate BIM in future projects. For this first project, don’t try to involve everyone in the company. Start with a small group of employees who can work out the kinks and eventually kick off a “train the trainer” program.

Consider bringing in an outside BIM consultant who can explain the best practices for a company of your type and size and help you set up a realistic plan to reach your goals.

4. Track and Record Everything

You can’t apply the lessons you learn to the next project if you don’t remember what they are. Keep notes from meetings, save drafts, even take screenshots. You can always purge what you don’t need later, but you can’t rely on memory alone to recreate crucial information.


Don’t Get Too Far Behind

Start slow and take the time to do it right, but remember that technology moves fast, and new uses for BIM are being developed every day.


Gilbane BIM Laser Scan

Courtesy of Gilbane Building Company, via Line/Shape/Space.

Laser Scanning

Laser scans of a site’s shape and appearance are being used to create near-perfect 3D BIM models to make prefabrication and systems coordination more accurate and efficient.


Success Story

When Gilbane Building Company was brought on to turn an 85-year-old building into university physics labs and lecture halls, all they had to work with was a hand-drawn set of original plans. In one day, they laser-scanned the 50,000-square-foot building to get measurements for prefabrication, scheduling, and sequencing of the $12 million upgrade.


[bctt tweet=”Why buy an expensive laser to scan to #BIM when you can just use your phone?” url=””]


Facilities Management

The information stored in a BIM model during design and construction can be invaluable even after the project is completed, helping streamline maintenance, increase energy efficiency, and reduce retrofit and renovation costs. Facility managers make use of “6D BIM” models, which store operation manuals, photos, manufacturer information, serial numbers, and even warranty data.


Success Story

An eBay data center in Utah integrated the as-built BIM model it received from Skanska into its maintenance and automation systems. The facility managers can get stats for every piece of equipment, including temperature and power consumption.

Coming Soon

The concept of smart buildings isn’t new, but strides are being made to combine BIM with the Internet of Things to make them even smarter. These smarter buildings will learn from day-to-day operations and interactions with people, and be able to improve their own efficiencies.


[bctt tweet=”6D #BIM + #InternetofThings = Smarter Buildings” url=””]


Augmented Reality

A BIM model of a building can be placed in virtual context of its proposed site. Using a mobile device, the 3D model of the completed structure can be overlaid onto a 2D drawing or image, or even while in front of the actual site.


Success Story

After an earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, city planners and engineers used an augmented reality app to visualize the city’s buildings before they were demolished. The software uses a mobile device’s GPS and compass to overlay 3D models (created for a previous project by a local architecture firm) onto live video, helping to gauge the extent of the earthquake’s damage.

Coming Soon

Sysveo is developing software that will also overlay augmented reality images onto video of existing sites…except this video will be shot by flying drones, and it will all happen in real time.


[bctt tweet=”Real-time #AugmentedReality video + #BIM + drones = whoa!” url=””]


What Do You Think About BIM in Construction?

We’ve talked about The Good and The Bad of BIM in construction, and we’ve looked at what it takes to get started (and why it’s important to do that as soon as possible).

After all that, what’s your opinion on BIM? Tell us what you think in the comments, and let us know what your job is.

Finally, don’t forget to subscribe to our blog, or follow us on Twitter (@isqft), Facebook, or LinkedIn to hear about our newest blog posts!


Additional Sources Consulted

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