How to Effectively Leverage BIM in Support of Your Project Strategy

In the world of construction planning and strategy, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a resource that can assist with the process of supporting accurate and effective cost estimating. BIM is an intelligent software modeling process that architects, engineers, and contractors can use to collaborate dynamically on the design and development of a project.

Digital project design has been steadily evolving — from 2D designs in traditional CAD software to 3D designs in solid modeling applications. BIM takes this to the next level by combining 3D design with additional data layers that present the actual architectural components, mechanical systems and construction materials. It combines these elements to create a truly comprehensive visual and data rendering of the project, which can then be adjusted and updated over time without the risk of one change not being transmitted effectively for all of the related impacts.

At the same time, BIM is not a cost estimation solution. It enhances the depth and comprehensiveness of the data available for estimating, but it does not in and of itself provide a cost estimating solution.

Relying exclusively on technology without the benefit of analysis and insight by industry experts can lead to a host of oversights, missed opportunities, and difficulties in translating data to real-world applications.

For this reason, while BIM is a strong asset for any complex construction project, owners and developers should always use it in conjunction with on-the-ground experts who both understand the BIM methodology and have the requisite trade experience within the construction industry.

As a result, when you combine expert guidance with BIM, you’re getting the best of both worlds. Here are some efficient ways to leverage BIM advantages, from construction cost estimation to 3D building models and beyond.

Support for the Cost Estimation Process

First, let’s consider one of the foremost benefits of BIM: support for the construction cost estimation process.

Regardless of the design method, there is an outside mechanism that produces estimates. In the traditional method, an estimator uses either manual tools to count and quantify elements, or the estimator may have digital tools that assist in the quantification. But something has to happen in addition to the design process in order for all the project elements to get quantified and organized into an estimate. In the 3D or BIM world, the data is collected in the modeling software, but either another software tool or a human estimator still has to extract this information, organize it and apply costs.

With the far more advanced and data-rich content in the BIM environment, it may appear that this will provide meaningful cost estimation in and of itself, but that is not the case. Rather, BIM can provide more detailed information to support the cost estimating process. Furthermore, when coupled with the insight of experienced building trades specialists, the technology can be informed with more realistic data that will produce far more accurate results.

This is the primary goal of BIM: to give it enough information to perform at peak efficiency, which requires expert
guidance, troubleshooting, and analysis.

Considering Building Material and Process Alternatives

BIM technology provides the ability to track and manage project layers including suggested materials and a variety of construction techniques. However, the software can only render results based on the data available to it. In other words, BIM can’t predict market fluctuations that might make a traditionally inexpensive material suddenly far more costly, or anticipate the potential difficulties of putting two types of materials side by side or using a more advanced or intricate construction process.

Consultation with a construction cost estimating expert can help pinpoint potential problems with the more common materials used in the algorithm or even highlight alternatives that may reduce costs or provide other benefits.

Once you have this information from an expert, you can use BIM to play out various design and construction scenarios. At this point, developers can make the most informed choices using all the tools at their disposal.

Dynamically Applying Real-World Data

Some estimating models rely on paper blueprints without real-world data influencing the overall design. This leads to inaccurate measurements, outdated design elements, and potentially larger problems when the construction phase begins.

When using BIM technology, real-world data is absolutely critical. While it may be tempting to skip this step, gathering reliable data helps prevent costly, inefficient errors down the road. This is especially important for bigger, more complex projects such as a sports complex or theme park.

If you work with a construction expert, they can use a combination of the latest technologies and practical knowledge to gather data and inform the BIM software. With that information, BIM can create the most accurate 3D model possible, which helps streamline the project and makes each step of the process that much simpler.

Resolving Issues Before They Start

One of the greatest strengths of BIM is its ability to map out various scenarios before work begins at the actual construction site.

When changes occur — which is unavoidable in any project — an updated BIM can help predict potential problems. One small shift can lead to major issues with the installation of electrical or plumbing systems. And a minor error could lead to much larger problems down the road.
At the Jobsite, these issues can quickly stall progress and even require major rework, which could cost significant time and resources for owners and project developers.

If, however, you regularly update your BIM with data supplied via expert insight, you are much more likely to catch these issues before they become significant problems. If caught early enough, it often takes only a small shift to prevent a costly mistake.

Improving Energy Savings and Environmental Benefits

More and more organizations are pivoting towards an energy-efficient building model for both environmental impact and cost-efficiency.

When used along with expert advice, BIM can help you create a variety of scenarios that reduce a structure’s overall energy consumption. Because the technology also shows data about the expected lifespan of key construction elements, BIM can also help you make a maintenance schedule that will keep a building working at maximum efficiency for years to come.

The benefits of this can’t be overstated. Energy consumption is a key consideration for most owners and land developers, and when experts work in concert with BIM, they can analyze the possibilities and select the design that provides the most long-term benefits.

Defining and Managing Project Scope

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, BIM technology provides a highly accurate view of the entire project. The software is comprehensive and provides intricate details so you can visualize the full scope, including a timeline or roadmap from ideation and detailed design through active construction.

During your construction consultation, an expert can guide you through the roadmap and help pinpoint factors that may affect your timeline, mitigating risks and capitalizing on opportunities to streamline processes without compromising quality.

Final Thoughts

While there are certain limitations to Building Information Modeling as a stand-alone piece of technology, the advantages of this construction tool are many. However, project managers must note these limitations and work with a construction cost estimating expert to ensure that their use of BIM is comprehensive, efficient, and accurate.

Partnering with experts who have on-the-ground experience can help avert disastrous scenarios that halt construction and exponentially increase your timeline and/or costs. These experts will collect, organize and analyze the data that’s taken from either 2D plans and specs, or from a 3D model and apply current and relevant pricing to that data, and fill in any gaps that may exist in the design documents and data sets, whether they be 2D or 3D.

Willis Construction Consulting has a team of industry professionals who offer keen insights, expert opinions, and ongoing feedback throughout the construction process. Contact us for more information about our construction consulting services.


Image Credit: Piqsels @ Creative Commons

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