I recently completed the AGC’s Building Information Modeling Education Program taught by Cindy Baldwin at ACAI Associates, Inc. This course is the first and only professional certification in Building Information Modeling (BIM). The class was comprised of Architects, Engineers, Owners and General Contractors. Although we have competed in many RFPs that mention BIM, we have not completed a project entirely designed in BIM or that required the General Contractor to provide BIM services. That being said, with the development of BIM in our industry, I was able to gain an appreciation of the benefits of BIM as well as the challenges you may face if using BIM on a project. The class covered a review of what Building Information Modeling is, how it differs from 3-D design, the technology choices there are in using BIM, the insurance and contract implications on a project with BIM, and the process of BIM implementation on a project and within your company.
I left the class with enthusiasm and am completing a BIM Action plan for implementation of the tool at ANF Group. I see real benefits to using BIM in preconstruction for schedule coordination, visual presentations to Owners in making design alternative selection and in studying “what if” cost scenarios. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, the benefits of the tool increase when you have a larger more complicated project with repetitive design parameters, so that when one component changes in a model, the impact is duplicated automatically throughout the model.
As a contractor, if we issued a project design using BIM that we are expected to use for coordination drawings, it is critical that we review the BIM execution plan for the project and have input with respect to the file formats being used to insure interoperability for the team, the tolerances and units, the level of completion of the model being given to us and the content that will be included. Without this information the “BIM Process” could be subject to productivity and coordination challenges that include over modeling, idle time due to large file size, review time spent on files not needed for coordination, or modeling bad information that makes it to fabrication in the field.
In addition to the parameters used for modeling, it is important as a team, to establish a plan that maximizes the benefits of BIM by involving subcontractors early in the modeling process, knowing when the Owner decisions are nailed down and it is appropriate to proceed with modeling and making sure that the “meeting protocol” of how frequently the team meets, and if it is most productive to meet as a group in one physical location or to review in small groups in a virtual meeting environment. As any new process gets implemented, it is important to be cognizant of tools potential but also of the time that may be lost in using a new tool to the industry inefficiently.
BIM at a minimum improves the overall quality of the design documents as the process inherently improves the identification of coordinate conflicts between disciplines. When structural, architectural, mechanical and electrical systems are modeled, and a federated model is produced, the conflicts that are typically found between these disciplines are identified and corrected prior to construction documents being issued. As a contractor your work is not impacted by a BIM design, as you are still receiving 2-D construction drawings, with the exceptions that some details may be provided in a different way as the design process in BIM is different than conventional 2-D design. However, beware in responding to RFPs that mention BIM, know what is expected and what is being provided by the design professionals on the team contractually before you state the “cost impact” it may have to your services as a contractor.
Overall, I found the class to be a great opportunity to better understand BIM and if you would like to take the class you can contact Cindy Baldwin at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.buildingsmartusa.com for course information and schedules.