Building Information Modeling

BldgBluprnt.gifIndustrialization of the construction industry is happening everywhere. Building information modeling (BIM), simulation, computer-aided design, and many other product and process modeling technologies are becoming daily requirements in the construction industry. Managing complex and fast-paced jobs and prefabrication have increased higher demands on modeling. BIM has revolutionized the industry as a solution for product modeling, allowing for better integration between the parts and pieces that come together for building. However, the new wave of technology will focus more on process and information modeling beyond the building components and toward the builders and their work requirements. To stay competitive plus take advantage of the cost savings afforded by use of this technology, they need to be able to build a strategy to use BIM, product lifecycle management (PLM), and three-dimensional (3-D) experience within a virtual construction environment. The product models require input from engineers and designers to lay out the building. The new process models must include the input of the worker to be effective.

Up until now BIM has been primarily used and advocated by architects and engineers. The input from subcontractors has been limited to As-Builts and replacement of the paper blueprints. At best, the clash detection and coordination are now done in a virtual environment where previously it had been done physically in the field (e.g. “your pipes are in my way” and “the structural layout doesn’t match my drawings; now I have to do rework”). But it is not always successful. For example, in a BIM project in Seattle, WA, (Figure 1) the electrical contractor had to bend eight 4-inch feeder conduits three times each because the concrete slab openings did not line up between floors, and this went on for four floors. Or in another BIM project in Virginia Beach, VA, the sprinkler pipe clashed into the cable tray, leaving no space for the wires to be laid down, adding a few extra hours to cut the tray for the sprinkler pipe to clear it (Figure 2).

Without the productivity tools available to these contractors, these two projects would never know what hit them. Even these examples are still related to the product-related clashes that are not caught if the model does not include input from the tradesmen. The new wave of modeling will require even more input as the models start to include additional dimensions related to time, cost, and quality of installation.

The question still is what is in it for the subcontractor in applying BIM? As it stands now, nothing. But if we look at it from an internal usage perspective, much can be done with 3-D modeling, which can use any of the products out there. The new entrance of Dassault Systems in the construction industry early this year has given additional capabilities for sub- contractors to use the modeling tools to their advantage.

Few electrical and mechanical contractors have taken the opportunity of electronic modeling one step further by using it internally for prefabrication and Externalizing Work®. The very high-level and, most of the time, incomplete drawings will be used to create two- and three-dimensional fabrication drawings, enabling the contractor to externalize as much work as possible. Some electrical and mechanical contractors have been able to Externalize Work® up to 90 percent. Using point measuring equipment and transferring the data to the existing BIM model assures higher accuracy of prefabricated material for installation. The recent entry of Dassault Systems shows the importance of the usage of these tools to improve productivity in the construction market and a shift toward industrialization that other industries underwent decades ago. Electronic modeling and application will within a few years entirely change the landscape of the contracting work environment.

For example, Figure 3 shows a 3-D model prepared with jobsite information using some of the labor scanning equi