The do’s and don’ts of working with BIM
BIM is seen by many as the answer to all our prayers, but according to one contractor, a bit of critical sense is needed if BIM is to work successfully for everyone involved.
Take it from someone who knows
Joe Burns, President of Burns Mechanical in Philadelphia has worked in this industry for more than three decades. His company has worked on a number of major projects, mainly large institutional ones involving the pharmaceutical and health care industry.
Mr. Burns, you have experience working with CAD since it came out in the mid 80’s and later on started working with 3D and now you are heavily into BIM. What is today’s trend when it comes to BIM in your opinion?
Joe Burns: Today’s trend is definitely that the building owners want BIM – they are not exactly sure what it is, but they want a BIM model from their designers. And the designers are selling BIM as if there is one and only one model.
Designers think their design models are 100% clash free, but they forget to take into account all the necessary building geometry associated with the steel that holds the pipes up, anchors and guides, hangers, the vibration isolators, etc.
Joe Burns, President, Burns Mechanical
Is there more than one model? The whole idea of BIM is for everyone to work based on one model, right?
Joe Burns: That’s the theory, and maybe someday that’s the way it will work, but for now we have to redraw the designers’ BIM model early on in the building process. For instance, designers think their design models are 100% clash free, but they forget to take into account all the necessary building geometry associated with the steel that holds the pipes up, anchors and guides, hangers, the vibration isolators, etc.
So once all the added geometry is added to the model more often than not we have to move everything around to get everything to fit, and often it doesn’t fit in the space originally allocated.
What does that mean for the process in terms of cost?
Joe Burns: Well, the situation right now is that we download a 500 MB or 1 GB model from the designer and it costs us substantial money to take that model and strip it down to create sheet files and otherwise get it to the point where we can actually use it as a contractor. I’m not seeing any reduced drafting/coordination costs as a result of BIM – in fact, our costs have sky rocketed. Owners want BIM, but they do not want to pay more for a building because it’s BIM built. They want to drive costs down.
And how can you meet that demand from the building owners?
Joe Burns: Well, a good BIM project can be very expensive. The added cost can only be recovered through extensive prefabrication and efficient field erection, elimination of conflict and rework, shortened schedules, more efficient staffing and project control and less costly on-going operation and maintenance.
It’s all about cost-competitive construction and shortening the client value chain. Everyone needs to find a way to add value.
Fortunately, Mr. Burns has also been involved in several successful BIM projects, and according to this experienced contractor, they all share the following characteristics:
• There is a clear set of documented expectations and deliverables from design through to completion
• They have a competent, fully invested team that is engaged early in the design process – this is extremely important
• They have a competent team leader that facilitates the process – good BIM is extremely process dependent
• The appropriate technology is in place – there is a well-structured document management portal, all teammates have adequate hardware and software, and there is a media room for collaboration.
Cost effective BIM
According to Mr. Burns, the advancement of cost effective BIM depends on the following:
• More informed building owners – learn what BIM is and what it isn’t
• Architects and engineers need to realize that they are not contractors and vice versa. We need to figure out how to draw the line between design and construction and then cooperate.
• We need to work with a team-based model that also works commercially.
According to Professor Rasso Steinmann being smart with BIM when designing and constructing buildings can save time, money and trouble. Professor Steinmann from the Institute for Applied Building Informatics at the Munich University of Applied Sciences, tells is about his perspective on Building Information Modelling (BIM).
What will it take to really reap the benefits and value of BIM?
Professor Steinmann: To do this, it is essential to focus on the reengineering of processes before starting to utilise BIM-tools – people say that BIM is 80% methodology and 20% technology. So you need to have the processes sorted out first.
People say that BIM is 80% methodology and 20% technology. So you need to have the processes sorted out first.
Professor Rasso Steinmann, University of Applied Sciences, Munich
Once that is done, how can BIM aid collaboration between engineers, contractors, owners and other stakeholders?
Professor Steinmann: By providing early awareness of conflicts and clashes during the coordination of different design tasks. Every time a clash is avoided, time and money is saved. A properly set-up BIM data-model helps to detect design errors before they cost money. It also keeps track of everything during change and approval processes.
Professor Steinmann points out that a successful BIM process provides a clearer understanding of the actual situation, cost and budget. A BIM-model can also be developed to simulate the construction process itself, aiding and supporting communication and collaboration with the owners and stakeholders.
How is BIM doing at the moment?
Professor Steinmann: Companies that have understood the potential of BIM are forging ahead. Some already have set-ups in place with a clearly defined position for BIM coordinators or managers. The key is to involve BIM right from the beginning of the process and clearly define the data and format. That is the way to exploit its full potential.
However, there are also challenges to overcome. In Professor Steinmann’s experience, these typically involve the following issues:
• Providing a clear understanding of what is in a BIM data model, so all parties can maximize the benefits gained from BIM
• Standardisation of software and interoperability. The ability of systems and software to work together using global standards is vital for leveraging the full benefits of BIM
• Tendering issues. Excessive demands when it comes to BIM can effectively stop companies from tendering.
Paying for BIM
One other challenge is the issue of paying for BIM. According to Professor Steinmann, if BIM is introduced at the very start of the process, it can better pay for itself.
The key is to involve BIM right from the beginning of the process and clearly define the data and format. That is the way to exploit its full potential.
Professor Rasso Steinmann, University of Applied Sciences, Munich
Why is it important to integrate BIM at the start of the process?
Professor Steinmann: The payback for the investment in BIM is found in the early phases. Our research shows that the savings made by avoiding errors can be 20%-30%, especially in the early stages of design and construction. Used properly, BIM is about more than saving money. It is a business model, which is why it is essential to think in value added chains and how to extend them when thinking about BIM.