The most recent Glenigan report on key performance indicators in the UK construction industry shows that 34% of construction projects run over budget and 41% of projects are delayed. Although we have seen advances in these figures in the last decade, the past few years have seen little improvement. In complex construction projects, delays and cost increases can be caused by a range of unforeseen circumstances, but many issues are avoidable. Budget inaccuracies, design errors, scheduling conflicts and miscommunication between stakeholders can all be prevented through greater collaboration via BIM.
Mandated BIM saves £430 million
When the UK Government mandated the use of Level 2 Building Information Modelling (BIM) processes for public sector construction projects in 2016, this prompted more widespread acknowledgement of the importance of collaboration through BIM software. In fact, a report by PwC in 2017 stated that the Government saved between two to three per cent on whole life expenditure for construction that followed BIM processes. This could see the Government making annual savings up to £430 million on infrastructure projects, based on its national infrastructure and construction pipeline.
So, what is BIM, why is it so important within the construction industry and how can it help to ensure that more projects are completed on time and to budget?
What is BIM?
Essentially, BIM is a process and a collaborative way of working that increases efficiencies and decreases costs. By using 3D construction modelling software, integrated with background data, a collaborative culture is realised from the initial design process right through the eventual operation and even decommissioning of a building.
There are several levels of BIM, the lower levels represent the more traditional ways of working, with paper-based designs and some 3D modelling. But these tools rely on disparate, siloed information and allow little communication.
Level 2, the BIM process mandated by the UK Government in 2016, focuses on the collaborative nature of design, construction and operation, with a federated 3D model shared between stakeholders as a single point of truth. The Government is now working towards BIM Level 3, which is being increasingly deployed throughout the public and private construction sector.
This next stage accesses the true power of BIM software by enabling a cloud-based 3D model that can be edited by all stakeholders to provide an accurate picture of a construction project. This model flows from the initial design, through the build stages and into the operational phases and integrates fully with all supporting documentation and auxiliary plans.
Why is BIM important?
The construction industry is already embracing app-based and cloud-based technology to improve communication and collaboration on-site. Many architects use PlanRadar to upload blueprints of a construction project so that stakeholders can access the very latest version of the design anywhere, anytime, from their smartphone. As designs invariably change, the blueprint is updated in real-time so construction teams are always working from the latest design. Similarly, general contractors can update the plan with defects and schedule team members to complete the work. Collaboration is already taking place, but BIM takes it that one step further. Now, tools and tasks that are currently accessed through the 2D plan can be carried through and accessed through the 3D plan, giving a new level of depth to the collaboration that is already taking place on-site.
As developers and general contractors embrace BIM technology and commission their own plans, software solution providers need to ensure that BIM models can be uploaded into existing platforms. By integrating BIM software with current solutions, contractors won’t need to licence separate tools and the industry can avoid further siloed information.
A virtual construction
At the design phase, 3D construction modelling software allows architects to create a virtual creation of the construction and all its parts, specifying every component to the very last door, pipe and utility. The client is guided through the design, visualising each element and making adjustments where needed. This process gives a truer understanding of how the construction might perform in the real world and which operational and facilities management tasks might be needed. Estimation software can also be integrated providing an accurate understanding of the costs for all stakeholders.
If the client requests a change, the information is pulled through to every aspect of the design, showing impacts and adjusting budgets. Once agreed, this 3D model can be translated into construction documents and passed across to contractor teams. Any further changes are updated on this 3D model, providing a single source of truth for the construction project. Not only is the 3D model updated but all affiliated datasheets and dependent documentation, allowing the process to evolve as stakeholders make their own adjustments. Architecture software is constantly evolving and BIM software is evolving too.
A transformational blueprint
In the construction stages, the 3D blueprint allows contractors to visualise each component of the build, room by room and floor by floor. No element of the design is left to chance and all stakeholders are clear on the requirements. Project planning and scheduling become more straightforward and accurate, decreasing delays and the associated costs.
Contractors can mark defects directly to the design and alert other members of the team should unforeseen circumstances impact on the budget or timescale. Detailed documentation, checklists and certification can be directly appended to the 3D model.
As the project progresses, the BIM model evolves, creating an as-built design and compiling construction completion documentation. Commissioning documentation can be attached for each component, developing a master repository. When BIM processes are cloud-based, data siloes are removed and true collaboration is realised.
When BIM becomes AIM
When the construction phases are completed, the BIM file becomes an asset information model (AIM) and is passed to the operation or facility management team with all as-built documentation appended. Service and maintenance plans can be scheduled and updated on the AIM. Any further changes to the landscaping or internal structures can be carefully modelled for cost and infrastructure impact before work is carried out.
In fact, in PwC’s report into the Government construction projects, 73% of the cost savings were seen in the operations phase and the vast majority of this in maintenance. Among other benefits, BIM allowed facilities management teams to realise the cost benefits of aggregating material demands across facilities.
Are you ready?
BIM has come a long way in the last decade. In 2011, according to an NBS report, only 13% of construction businesses were using BIM software and 43% were completely unaware of the technology. In 2019, 69% of businesses were using BIM software and only 2% were unaware of the technology.
That said, we are only scratching the surface of the benefits that BIM can bring to the construction industry and more changes are coming for BIM software in 2020.
As we move towards a future with more automation, greater adoption of Cloud technology and a focus on the Internet of Things, BIM will form a greater role in construction projects.
BIM Level 3 is on its way. Are you ready?
PlanRadar and BIM
BIM is coming soon to PlanRadar. Be one of the first to find out about the new features and how you can use BIM benefits on the go. Register for the beta version here.