BIM in the US: overview of a game changing technology

The utilization of BIM software has been growing in US architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms for many years. Today, the use of BIM software is close to being the norm. According to a 2020 survey by the American Institute of Architects, 100% of large architecture firms are using Building Information Modeling for billable work (and over a third of small firms use it too).

Architect using a tablet to view a BIM model

However, despite the popularity of this software in the industry, obstacles to its adoption remain. To get an idea of how the technology might evolve, it’s useful to understand the history of Building Information Modeling adoption in the US. We will also examine how it has been used by the AEC industry.

History of BIM in the US

Building Information Modelling technology arguably began in the US. The underlying principles of modern BIM software can be based on a description of a 1975 working prototype by Carnegie-Mellon professor Charles Eastman. Over the following decades, a variety of software companies began developing software in the US and abroad.

As early as 2003, the General Services Administration (responsible for the federal government’s procurement) established its National 3D-4D-BIM Program, which mandated that BIM be used on many kinds of public buildings.

Since then, several states, federal departments, cities, and organizations have mandated or encouraged BIM adoption in the US:

  • 2006: US Army Corps of Engineers mandates the use of BIM with contractors
  • 2007: National BIM Standard-United States is first released, setting standards for the use of BIM in public and private sector projects
  • 2009: Wisconsin requires all public works projects worth over $5 million to use Building Information Modeling
  • 2009: Texas Facilities Commission requires the software on public projects
  • 2018: Los Angeles Community College Districts (LACCD) requires the software to be used on major projects

 

Primer: Introduction to BIM software

Software adoption in the US – no mandate, no problem?

Unlike other countries with widespread BIM adoption, the US does not have a federal mandate requiring public sector projects to use the technology. This is one potential reason for the relatively slow take-up of BIM technology.

In the UK, for instance, which is seen as a global leader in BIM adoption, the government required all construction companies bidding for government work to use the software. Since 2012, this requirement has led to a big rise in the use of this technology in the country.

While some have argued that the US should follow this path, others argue that it might not be necessary:

  • The US, unlike the UK, doesn’t have a central government department responsible for procuring all civil engineering and infrastructure projects. Instead, states and a wide variety of independent departments – so a federal mandate might not work as effectively.
  • The US is a large, complex country, so it is difficult to apply a centrally-mandated set of standards nationwide.
  • Despite the lack of a federal mandate, BIM use has grown organically. Countless AEC businesses have chosen to use the technology of their own volition, which means a centrally mandated adoption drive might not now be necessary.

 

After construction: BIM and Facilities Management

Benefits of BIM software in the US AEC industry

So, how has BIM adoption in the US benefited the AEC industry? According to the research by Dodge Data & Analytics, US contractors have reported some serious benefits from deploying the technology. These include:

  • 25% improvement in labor productivity
  • 25% reduction in labor costs
  • 5% reduction in final construction costs
  • 5% increase in speed to complete

 

These figures alone go some way to explaining the enthusiasm for BIM seen among the US AEC industry. By saving businesses time and money, tech investments soon pay for themselves.

Read more: Further benefits of BIM

Examples: 3 unique projects

Because BIM adoption in the US is so widespread, there are countless projects out there that demonstrate the power of the technology. Here we have chosen three major projects that are particularly striking:

  • St Louis Aquarium, St Louis, MO

This impressive project used BIM to design an aquarium inside the iconic St Louis Union Station without disturbing the building’s historical structure. The software modeled how visitors would view fish tanks, as well as the layout of complex piping and life support systems throughout the building.

  • Good Samaritan Hospital, Puyallup, WA

This inpatient hospital facility received LEED Gold Certification for its green credentials. The nine-story hospital tower used 3D modeling software to reduce the design-to-construction transition period while cutting errors associated with this kind of project.

  • Southwest School of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Los Angeles, CA

This LACCD project (see above) saw the sustainable redesign of a three-story building in the school’s social science department. Using Building Information Modeling helped to save both time and money by reducing the need for redesigns and rework.

As these three examples of major projects show, companies across the US are using the software in a wide variety of buildings.

Making BIM software the norm in AEC

With BIM adoption in the US already high, we can only expect the technology to keep becoming more popular. And with tools like PlanRadar’s BIM viewer – which lets construction workers view and interact with models directly on their smartphones – it will be even easier to bring the benefits of BIM software to construction sites in the future.

About PlanRadar

PlanRadar was founded in 2013 and provides innovative mobile-first software solutions to the construction and real estate industries. Our app is available on all iOS, Android, and Windows devices and has helped more than 10,000 customers around the world to digitize their workflow.

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