Because construction projects come with so much risk, preparation and forethought is key to success. Design, safety, and operational issues might crop up without careful attention paid ahead of time. Construction managers can use the tools available to them in the digital age to reduce risks associated with their project.
BIM (or building information modelling), is the act of digitally crafting a buildings’ features using unique software. This generated model and its corresponding data are often used throughout the entirety of the building’s life- from design to construction to exploitation and maintenance. By implementing BIM, managers can drastically reduce their risk for issues, errors, and oversights.
More than just a 3D modeling process, building information modeling (BIM) links data to every element within the model. Its robust visualization capabilities make it possible to “view” everything from proposed design changes to potential clashes to the actual elements that make up the built structure. It’s like seeing all that data in action.
It is often said that seeing is believing; with BIM, seeing is also about discovering potential risks and figuring out how to mitigate them. And that’s what makes it such a valuable tool for risk management in construction projects. Just as construction has a lot of inherent risk, BIM can add significant value to efforts to manage those risks. It’s not just useful at the beginning during the design phase — but throughout the project’s entire life cycle and even after the project is completed.
So how can BIM software benefit different aspects of the job site on construction projects? Below are specific examples of how BIM can reduce risk in construction projects, but first let’s briefly explore what assessing risks entails and what factors need to be considered by construction managers before starting a project.
1. Prevent planning and design mistakes
“What if?” How many design plans started with those words, only to be derailed later on because it was too difficult to gauge the impact on the structure, its surroundings and the project budget?
BIM provides designers with the ability to suggest limitless design options and better understand the impacts of these choices through data-driven decision making. With this level of clarity, design decisions become more straightforward. So, you’re free to experiment with design options before construction begins—reducing chances for defects and errors during buildout, and decreasing change orders submitted during construction administration. The sooner mistakes are caught, the less likely they are to turn into expensive rework projects.
What about modifications that come in later, whether from an owner’s request or because of an unexpected circumstance? You can use BIM to test proposed changes and see if they work structurally and financially. This way you can also find out if these changes might introduce new hazards or clashes. Sometimes, after carefully reviewing all the modification options with virtual 3D modeling, we may find that the possible impact is too significant to consider.
On other occasions, though, a change will be necessary regardless of its implications. In such cases, utilizing BIM’s extensive project data can help us explore how best to address the change while minimizing risk as much as possible, including by reallocating resources efficiently to accommodate it.
2. Detect and prevent site safety hazards
When it comes to safety risk management, building information modeling doesn’t always come to mind. However, as contractors begin to realize its potentialities, this is gradually changing. Out of all the industries with a high chance of risks, construction is one of the most dangerous due to the unseen hazards. With BIM technology though, you can visualize what before was hidden from view. BIM’s 3D walkthroughs can show us potential job site hazards that we wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. By using BIM’s capabilities as a collaboration tool, different groups can manage these safety risks together in real time.
Large projects can be overwhelming for workers, who are often put in compromising positions while installing systems or assembling components. However, by prefabricating these BIM-designed 3D models beforehand, the process becomes much safer. With heavy equipment doing most of the work, there is less risk of injury from lifting and placing large premade units. With the help of visualization, we can better understand which risks require eliminating the hazard or precautionary measures before working in that area.
3. Minimize potential operational liability
Even after a construction project is completed, there’s still more work to be done. Building Information Modeling can help with this by ensuring that the structure will be able to withstand wear and tear long after it’s been handed over to the owner. The design choices made at the beginning of the project using BIM-enabled scenarios will make it easier for the facilities management team to maintain it effectively in terms of cost efficiency and structural integrity.
The BIM model records data from the beginning of the project which can be useful for monitoring and comparing efficiency levels over time. This history can also act as reference points for future projects so that there is no risk of structural damage. Also, all of the paperwork and organizational planning that goes into making a digital twin is available to whomever it’s handed over to. They can use it for future reference on how well the building is performing or repairing inefficiencies.
4. Avoid unnecessary expenditures
And then there are the financial and budget risks construction businesses can face on every project. How can a BIM modeling platform help reduce these risks?
Also, because the accuracy of the cost and quantity data associated with each element from that final design is greater, procurement has more precise details and quantities when sourcing all project resources, from labor to materials to equipment.
BIM doesn’t only improve safety in the workplace – it also prevents time off due to injury and workers’ compensation claims. By identifying design errors, you can make changes before they become part of the final product. This avoids costly reconstruction that would take away from your profits.
How can BIM transform and mitigate future project risk management?
Risk management during construction projects is crucial and should always be a priority. By being vigilant and proactive, project managers and architects can greatly reduce the likelihood of problems occurring that would halted progress or require repairs. Fortunately, with recent advancements in technology, we are now able to mitigate risk more efficiently. Out of all the tools available, BIM is perhaps the most useful one when it comes to assessing and preventing risks.