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3 Powerful Strategies for a Successful BIM Project

How to Make the Most of Your Investment in BIM

A BIM project is no longer the future; it’s the new standard. Today, the majority of modern construction companies are utilizing BIM in some capacity. Nonetheless, many companies are shying away from full implementation because they feel like they aren’t getting enough value for the massive spend they are making. So, why exactly isn’t BIM providing the full benefits it promises to some companies?

BIM, or building information modeling, while a hot topic in today’s construction landscape, is a concept that’s been around for quite some time. Even since the early days of computing in the 1960’s, Douglas Engelbart wrote about a similar concept to BIM in his paper, Augmenting Human Reality. The actual term, “building model,” was first used in the 1980’s, and the full term BIM only started being used in the 1990’s. While BIM in construction was first embraced by architects, GCs are expected to be the major users within the next five years, further evolving the reach and meaning of the term.

When executed correctly, BIM offers enormous promise to projects to improve the efficiency of schedules and logistics, all while enhancing project delivery. The technology is so powerful that according to a survey from the National Building Specification (NBS), 78% see BIM as the future of project information. Furthermore, the technology has been cited to provide more accurate estimations and designs, including “a 5% increase in the speed of completion, [and] a 25% improvement in labor productivity.”

Despite the promise of these benefits, for many companies, there is a disconnect in delivering a BIM model and utilizing the full value of the technology. Today, 59% of companies state that their workforce doesn’t have the skills needed to work with BIM. Nonetheless, at PlanGrid, we recently surveyed over 150 companies to learn more about the pain points in their BIM workflows. From these conversations, the following roadblocks were mentioned time-after-time again: lack of standardization, insufficient planning and failure to integrate.

For any construction company, a BIM project is a significant investment of both time and money. To make the most out of the investment, you need a focused strategy. To guide you on the best approaches to implement BIM on your next project, we’ve highlighted three significant projects that have successfully used technology to enable powerful results. Below, we’ll walk you through the specifics of BIM implementation on these projects and highlight key learnings you can hopefully adopt for your next job.

Standardizing a BIM Execution Plan: London Crossrail Project

Project Background

The London Crossrail Project is Europe’s largest civil construction endeavor, a $21 billion public transport project to build high frequency, high capacity rails in London and the South East. The megaproject is expected to be fully completed late in 2018, and in total, approximately 15,000 people have worked on the project to date. To meet KPIs, the project had to operate with close to 0% margin of error, putting a great deal of pressure on project stakeholders to plan and execute as efficiently as possible.

How BIM Was Executed on the Project

In order to execute the BIM project, approximately 250,000 different models needed to be pieced together. On top of that, they were all linked to another database containing all of the data about assets (e.g., lightbulbs, fans, etc.) as well as detailed descriptions of all the work needed. To successfully implement, the project team created a well-defined BIM Execution Plan (BEP), or in other words, a construction project’s BIM rulebook.

BEP is a central planning document to keep all parties and teams standardized and on the same page. In general, a successful BEP includes the following elements:

  • Setting clear goals: identifying and committing to goals with BIM
  • Collaboration: involve others in the process of identifying the rules
  • Transparency: make this available to all stakeholders
  • Benchmarks and iteration: provide benchmarks and look for improvements

Why BEP Works

While not all projects require piecing together 250,000 models, BEP is a highly effective implementation strategy regardless of the project’s scale. Primarily, the plan ensures that BIM is standardized and measured across the project in one highly visible and central document for the whole team to work on to stay on course.

Specifically, BEP enforces project teams to create clear benchmarks and KPIs, naturally helping to keep the project on track. Here’s an example of a benchmark assessment on the Crossrail project:

BIM exchange Map - London Crossrail

Source

Viewing this assessment, it’s obvious that the project had clear owners and joint owners for KPIs, helping to hold teams accountable for performance. Even better, the project’s metrics are kept transparent and visible to the entire team. In general, good metrics are ones that will actually be measured. This means that they can be affordably measured without a significant investment just to evaluate them. When KPIs are meaningful, attaining them means that the project will be on a better track.

If you’re looking to adopt a BEP for your project, MIT released a solid template. The document outlines everything from goals, staff roles, model structure, delivery strategy and more.

Planning for the Full Project Lifecycle: Stanford University Neuroscience Health Center

Project Background

The Stanford University Neuroscience Health Center is a 92,000 square foot facility that provides centralized care of neuroscience patients. The $80 million project was successful for including BIM in the entire project lifecycle.

How BIM Was Executed on the Project

As mentioned, Stanford managed to use BIM throughout the construction process and into facilities management. As a result, they were able to reduce on-site repair time by 60-70%. This is because staff could see the asset’s location, materials affected, ceiling height, etc. Having all of this critical information readily available throughout the project’s lifecycle meant a drastic reduction in round trips to and from the worksite. Furthermore, this enabled far more seamless and efficient communication between systems engineers and field staff.

Why Planning for the Full Lifecycle Works

So, what does it mean to actually plan with BIM in construction for the full project lifecycle? First, it’s helpful to build a BIM Model Exchange diagram in the BEP, like so:

 BIM Model Exchange diagram

Source

As you can see, the map helps outline how different people will interact with the model throughout the lifecycle. Basically, it’s a rough guideline on how the model will specifically evolve and be used starting in conceptual design, throughout construction and into facilities management. This includes all project stakeholders from contractors, MEP, structural, architectural and so forth.

In addition to the Model Exchange, Model Structure requirements are also useful to include in the BEP. This dictates what information the model should encapsulate including anything from file naming to which items should be included (or excluded) from the model. To determine the Model Structure requirements, industry standards, like COBie, are particularly helpful to leverage. For instance, COBie helps specify the requirements on what should be entered for the asset.

As you know, BIM models have an incredible, and sometimes a scary amount of information baked into them. Therefore, it’s important to set attainable goals and identify key pieces of information that are most valuable. Even more so, it’s critical to ensure those key pieces of information get updated throughout the project’s lifecycle.

Finally, for owners, it’s essential to understand, as well as accept, that this is a continuous process and an ongoing commitment to keep information fresh. The process does not simply end once facility management starts. If the model is not kept up to date, the ROI will be low. On the other hand, if key data is prioritized, tracked and regularly updated, a BIM project will continue to pay off well into the building’s lifecycle.

Integrating and Streamlining Tools and Data: WeWork

Background on WeWork

WeWork builds and operates co-working spaces around the world. In total, their spaces have over 40,000 members in over 40 locations around the world. Normally, they take buildings and work with their existing structure to build co-working spaces.

How BIM Is Executed on Projects

In order to increase optimization of conceptualization, WeWork embeds its cost and sales data from its business intelligence system directly into the Revit model. Doing so allows the company to write a script that takes changes they are considering in their model and automatically maps them to associated costs and expected revenues. This provides them with immediate and precise cost and revenue predictions when they do anything as simple as changing the size of a room.

Next, WeWork also significantly invests in integrating reality capture data since it’s essential for the organization to work with the structure that is already there. Using a 3D laser scanner, they are able to capture existing conditions and the layout of a space. The point cloud (the result of the laser capture) is then integrated and overlaid onto Revit to find any mismatches. As a result, WeWork will know if a design they are planning for will actually work well with the space and all of its conditions. This high level of detail and integration allows the company to increase space efficiency by an astonishing 15-20%.

Why Integration Works

For WeWork, integrations with their BIM project model worked well because it aligned with their goals of increasing space efficiency. From this example, we can take away some general strategies that lead to valuable BIM integrations.

First, it’s worth identifying workflows that often happen in tandem but where there is disconnection or significant information loss. Once the workflows have been identified, you can start to dig into what tools were used for these workflows and what information could be connected between them. Likely, the most valuable integrations between platforms are where a lot of manual time or resources are being invested to regenerate the information.

After finding out what information you’d like to connect, it’s worth digging into existing integrations and plugins that already exist between your tools. If there are certain integrations that you would like, but existing integrations do not already exist, certain teams use APIs to build custom integrations.

A valuable integration with BIM can provide ROI in one of many ways, including, saving time in manual data porting, increasing information consistency, and providing new insights that were previously not available.

How to Better Integrate a BIM Project Today

As an example of a ready-to-go integration that could save time and improve the cohesiveness of project data, PlanGrid now has a plugin that allows you to seamlessly publish 2D sheets from Revit directly to PlanGrid. The plugin allows you to skip the entire publish flow, ensures 100% accuracy on all title sheets and numbers, and still performs the automatic callout detection and linking.

As of now, the plugin is out in Beta. If you’re interested in using the plugin on your BIM project,  please contact your PlanGrid representative or email bim@plangrid.com.

Harness the Power of BIM Construction

While BIM is a powerful technology, it’s an investment that needs the right implementation strategy to maximize ROI. By standardizing an execution plan, planning for the full project lifecycle and integrating tools and data whenever possible, your projects and team will be able to gain the most value and benefits from the tech.

Rahul Shah

Rahul Shah is a Product Manager at PlanGrid on the Smart Recordset team, which focuses on intelligently ingesting construction data and making that information easy to access and use. His primary focus area is PlanGrid's BIM product strategy.

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