To quote one of the construction managers we do work for, ‘we now have the time and inclination to do things right.’ What he was referring to is the use of BIM (Building Information Models) in all phases of construction. What is this stuff? It’s a way of not only looking at building in 3D but designing, building and managing in it in 3D.
Previously, everyone worked on paper with pencil. This was better than a stick on dirt as it communicated what people needed and what their intentions were. With the advent of CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) designers, builders, developers used digital documentation methods but it was essentially still drawing albeit with a much faster and more collaborative tool. When the world of 3D came many people had the reaction…well to sum it up I’ll use what a designer said to me at one of our presentations or dog and pony shows, ‘we don’t want any z-axis information.’ It was a new way of doing things, and in the era of free money or easy credit no had the time or inclination to do things differently as you always have to take productivity hit when learning how to do new things. However, now with the most recent implosion of the real estate and financial markets professionals are looking deeper on how to repair margins, work faster, and work better, hence…BIM.
BIM tools and platforms allow users to communicate and desgin visually. So that’s cool but why should we spend a lot of money for it? I’ll give you an example, at an association meeting sponsored by MGH they said they found over 30,000 collisions digitally. That’s when a proposed pipe, or plumbing stack ‘collides’ with an HVAC vent or similar type of interference. There are estimates of $3,000 to $5,000 per collision. These are real world problems have construction people figuring out and addressing problems on site is tremendously expensive. Figuring these problems out digitally, not so much.
To view the McGraw HIll 2008 BIM report go here ( http://construction.ecnext.com/mcgraw_hill/includes/BIM2008.pdf )
So this BIM stuff sounds great, now what. Where there are competing technologies out there of course. Companies like Autodesk, Bentley, and Nemetschek have their own platforms and engines to work with, but there is more than lip service being paid to an emerging open standard called IFC-XML, that stands for Industry Foundation Classes. The dream is to have a transportable model across platforms so it should not matter which you are using. Think of the BIM model as a web page, and it should not matter what browser you are using, or better the BIM is the operating system.