Posted by Jill Spaeh - 01 April, 2021
By Jill Spaeh, Virtual Design & Construction Specialist for MBCC Group
Have you ever wondered what are the drivers of the topic of BIM in one the world’s largest industries, construction, which is as old as humanity (think Native American adobe, the Pyramids and Greek temples)? In an industry which prides itself on creativity (with architects like, for instance, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright), problems are solved by getting dirty. Architecture and construction touch every aspect of life, regardless of place, race, or economics. So, how will it ever become fully digital? Life evolves, change is inevitable, but does this make it any easier to follow?
Three main drivers
Everyone seeks a better way to deliver their ideas and solutions to the industry. Everyone wants lower costs, faster delivery, and less risk. These are the main themes BIM is said to take care of. The key stakeholders in its development are software developers, digital technologies and regulatory agencies.
Understanding these three drivers and the influences they have on BIM adaptation within the construction industry and clarify their objectives helps to define and develop an active role in this field.
Collaboration is key
The goal of BIM is to save money, reduce risk, and make everyone’s job easier along the design, construction and operation stages of a construction project. All three stages have many different facets and each one of the drivers will work to achieve these results for specific reasons. However, there is a unifying theme which all three have in common: Collaboration. And there can’t be collaboration without communication. But what do
the main drivers want to communicate?
BIM Software Developers
BIM software developers follow many different approaches: Some develop for specific industry players such as architects or engineers, while others focus on functionality, like mapping geographic locations to build site maps. Regardless, they all try to provide tools for seamless collaboration between all the “players” in a project. They want their BIM software to allow architects, engineers, construction managers and all involved in a project to use data to plan, coordinate, visualize and test solutions in a collaborative atmosphere. Developers want their BIM enabled software to make life easier, regardless of how, specifically, the BIM data is being used.
However, ease of use is not everything. Value also comes from addressing both fundamental and specific challenges of a project. A key component of BIM software must be to provide a way for the various software suites to “talk” with one another. This is called interoperability and describes how different software and calculation tools interact and communicate with one another. This is critical for manufacturers as it provides them with the opportunity to create products and services that can be integrated into the BIM work plan methodology.
Digital technologies, on the other hand, are working to infuse themselves in one of the least digitalized industries in the world: When it comes to digital integration, construction runs barely ahead of the fish and game industry. Even so, it has achieved a growing position among disruptive technologies. There are many digital technologies for use in construction and BIM is an indispensable methodology for building design. BIM technologies look to improve the overall track record of construction projects through utilizing applications such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality), and IoT (Internet of Things) by utilizing the data in the intelligent BIM models. The industry will be looking to these disruptors to help reinvent how construction projects are managed and delivered.
AI, VR, AR, and IoT
AI, for example, uses BIM data to explore different aspects of a construction project such as site logistics to help improve safety far quicker than the human mind can. VR can use the data of a BIM model to create a virtual world so that stakeholders can interact with the spaces and the materials which are in the project. In this virtual world customers and investors can test and compare different materials alongside other components in the project. Regarding the Internet of Things, these systems allow information gathered through smart devices to transmit and exchange information to achieve certain results. An example of this would be sensors within a building’s mechanical system which can regulate the amount of energy it is consuming. These technologies in one form or another can use the data from a BIM model to calculate costs, measure sustainability, increase safety and demonstrate product uses. The overall idea is to utilize and simplify the design and construction process, making life easier by doing more with the data you currently have.
Mandates and Legislations
Across the globe governments and legislative bodies are mandating and regulating the planning and construction of publicly funded projects to be delivered using BIM. The main drivers for this are the more efficient use of public funds, a reduced level of risk through more transparent processes and to help drive economic growth in the construction sector. The hope is that by the streamlining of processes using BIM data, there will be a more efficient use of resources and savings in time and money. It has been shown that there is a $265 billion annual profit potential for early disruptors and digitalization is one of the nine main disruptive shifts to take advantage of.
BIM for infrastructure
In many places there is a push to simplify the overall permit process and to establish better communication among the various agencies involved in public works projects. In many countries infrastructure leads the charge with government buildings and schools common topics for improvement. Construction is a clear indicator of a location’s economic stability.
Agencies see BIM as a tool to improve long-term planning and to help drive economic growth.
Moving ahead will pay
What becomes clear when looking at BIM is that the digital transformation of the construction industry is rapidly evolving. The time is ripe for change and with these mandates, firms are forced to move or get left behind. McKinsey research on digital competition shows that companies that take bold first moves, or quickly follow the lead of those that do, gain significant advantages over slower-acting competitors.
But even with the BIM drivers clearly identified and their motives discussed, construction is still no fast adopter of digitalization. Even with software developers, the tech industry and governments taking notice and investing in the BIM methodology, it will probably take an entire generation to agree on how to do it and another for true transformation. Does this mean we shouldn’t try? No, it just means we must work together to move forward and dare to dream the impossible.