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BIM – An accelerating game changer

May 15, 2012 - “Building Information Modelling (BIM) will change everything,” said Dennis Neeley (SmartBIM), noting that “the change is becoming very evident [and] is happening at unprecedented speed.”


May 16, 2012
By Anthony Capkun

During his presentation at the Western Region 2012 Spring Meeting (April 10-11) of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), Neeley shared his analysis of the rapidly evolving acceptance and use of BIM: “When you can design and document in exacting detail and accuracy… when you can test and simulate without constructing… when construction costs can be reduced 20% and more… when construction time can be reduced significantly, and when you can efficiently maintain and operate completed projects, it changes everything”.

Advantages and characteristics of BIM
Terming BIM “a new way to build”, Neeley cited its characteristics and its many advantages:

• One model-many views: A change in any view is reflected in all other views and the associated schedules.
• BIM is objects/assemblies and data: Objects and assemblies in BIM are intelligent, can have data attached and they can link to the Internet to access additional data. The BIM model is the index to data, and BIM provides the foundation for the organization and linking of graphics and data. Databases and the Internet provide the locations and the links to integrate all the external parts and pieces.
• BIM objects catalogues are growing in availability, providing sources for building product drawings and data.
• BIM populates analysis programs. Data associated with objects and assemblies can be used to analyze:

– structural parameters and performance
– shading and shadows
– wind and air flow
– radiance
– massing
– acoustic performance
– energy performance
– artificial lighting requirements
– quantity take-offs
– costing

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Whereas it took about 25 years for computer aided drafting (CAD) to become fully integrated in the building industry, Neeley projected it will take BIM only eight or nine years. “However, CAD was not a transformational change; it fundamentally mimicked hand drawing and had little effect upon responsibilities or process,” Neeley said. “If architects and engineers adopt BIM as predicted, this will be more than amazing but, in this case, there is much more at stake than just using the tool. There will be transformational changes to responsibilities and process because BIM is the foundation of integrated project delivery (IPD) that involves all project stakeholders.”

The future
The future and the path to full acceptance of BIM and IPD are quite clear. Neeley noted that architects and engineers will use BIM for all design and contract documents. More specifically, BIM changes the design process, enabling design decisions to be made earlier in the project when opportunity to influence positive outcomes is maximized and the cost of changes minimized.

BIM is ushering in a new way to think about data, enabling integration of graphics and data about objects (components) and assemblies, spaces, the overall building and the building site across the lifecycle of the project.

Additionally, all manufactured building products will be available as BIM objects with all the data attached and associated. Manufacturers that have created BIM objects are being selected for projects in which they would not have been included without them.

Models will populate analysis programs that will take in the fundamental data and give back guidance and even automated modelling. Construction costs, energy usage and maintenance schedules will be calculated from the model as the project is designed, and facility management and operations will be based upon the model.

The success
BIM is about the graphical models but it is even more about the data. BIM means new relationships among customers: suppliers, architects, contractors and building owners.
The success stories are already beginning to pile up: construction projects with no change orders and no construction conflicts, construction costs coming in 20% below the traditional costs and contract documents being completed 30% faster.

The obstacles
Despite the advantages, BIM is fragmented as different stakeholders look to it to solve different problems and, for most projects, the BIM models are neither shared nor integrated.

Architects and designers look to BIM to generate documents and presentations. On small projects, they do not see a reason for consistency, as the output is the drawings. On massive projects, techniques and standards are critical as the models are subdivided, spread around the world and brought back together every day for error checking, which results in constant and tremendous pressures, but often each project has its own standards and guidelines.

Firms also have collections of over 50,000 objects in their filing systems and finding what they need when they need it can be impossible. Analysis programs are available but are not always well integrated into BIM, and there is good debate going on about their accuracy.

Manufacturers look to BIM as a sales and marketing tool. Manufactures are realizing that they must provide BIM models, but only a handful of the more than 10,000 manufacturers in North America offer BIM objects. For architects and engineers to be productive they need the objects (e.g. windows, doors, furniture, equipment) that will be included in the design.

Contractors look to BIM for conflict discovery and estimation. Contractors are starting to use BIM models for costing, but the costs are only as good as the model, and most architects’ and engineers’ models are not yet created with costing in mind. Contractors are therefore creating their own BIM models, as the ones they are getting from the designers are not good enough.

Owners see BIM as having the potential for downstream value for the operation and maintenance of completed structures. They are just beginning to realize that they must set up guidelines for their designers or they will end up with a mess of different BIM models making their use for facilities management, maintenance and operations very difficult.

Eventual acceptance
Architects are currently at the head of the acceptance curve, but manufacturers and contractors will not be far behind. Owners have the most to gain but are currently the least knowledgeable about BIM. However, as soon as they realize the power of the data and graphics from the BIM models, they will demand consistency and standards.

Manufacturers have been conservative in their movement to BIM because it is new, it can be expensive and it can be confusing. But their interest is rapidly growing as represented by how busy firms, like SmartBIM, are creating objects. They will move faster and faster into BIM as they see how this technology gives them a competitive edge.

Neeley’s short message to manufacturers: “You need a BIM plan!”

“2010 to 2020 will be the most exciting and transitional decade in the history of [the] building industry,” Neeley projected. “By the start of 2014 there will be many documented success stories on IPD projects: alliances of architects, engineers, contractors and manufacturers making integrated presentations to owners on the savings in money and time they can offer; and owners expecting their building teams to be using the BIM/IPD approach on all their projects.”

With files from the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, a source of performance standards, product certification and educational programs for the fenestration industry. AAMA’s membership comprises window, door, skylight, curtain wall and storefront manufacturers, suppliers and test labs. These large and small companies supply products for both residential and commercial buildings.