We’ve had a lot of questions on BIM (Building Information Modeling) from our clients lately. Brett Stacks, Segment Manager wrote down for us some key on ideas on the BIM process and how BIM works.
How does the BIM process work?
BIM is the process of generating and managing building data during its life cycle. The key to this process lies in the interoperability (ability to share across different software platforms) of the data as there are many stages during building construction that require the use of this information. By supporting interoperability of the data, each stakeholder (engineer, contractor, sub-contractor) has the ability to contribute to the existing data during the construction process. Below is an example of this workflow:
- Engineer provides a basic 3D design file of the MEP system
- Mechanical contractor receives this file and can use this model and contribute more data through these processes:
- Estimating department can run basic cost reports on the engineer’s design.
- Detailing department can apply specifications and construction data to produce the detailed model showing realistic fittings and connections.
- Additional detail is added such equipment, dampers, valves and hangers
- Model is further modified through the coordination process
- Fabrication department receives the file to build and order each component.
- Installation crew receives the components to install, as designed in the model
What are the advantages for plumbing/mechanical contractors to use BIM in projects?
The key advantages are clearly cost and time. When the process is adopted and properly enforced on the project, each contractor involved is guaranteed to eliminate excess material as well as reduce overall labor costs. For example, the general contractor should help enforce 3D modeling by all trades then require coordination and signoff prior to installation. Through these meetings, each contractor has the opportunity to correct their schedule and models prior to fabrication and installation. This does mean a larger investment on the front end of the project, but this is typically the best time to control these costs. If done correctly, the project schedule is more easily adhered to, and deliveries are better managed, thus minimizing issues with staging of the materials and installation crews being able to do their job more efficiently with minimal field adjustments.
What are the current trends in BIM usage among contractors?
Trimble’s efforts in 2009 and 2010 were largely on helping to educate mechanical contractors on BIM. Last year, we saw less of a need to educate and more of an opportunity to provide open forums on the topic. By now, most progressive mechanical contractors have used or are using BIM to some extent. However, some contractors were challenged by their current product solutions because they were using conflicting technologies and the cost to streamline their departments through a tough economy was just too great. Going forward, we expect to see more involvement and investment in BIM technologies and processes from the Mechanical contractor as open standards start to find their way into the collaborative discipline between engineer, general contractor, and MEP trades.
Also, check out this recent article in Plumbing & Mechanical magazine where Brett was interviewed on BIM and increasing productivity.