If you can consistently deliver quality-built structures on time and within budget, you have mastered construction project management. In theory, this is an easy thing to do. However, construction projects are notoriously fraught with schedule delays, material supply shortages, and miscommunications that lead to quality issues. Building Information Modeling (BIM) serves as the glue that binds project teams together with 3D depictions of the project at each phase of its lifecycle. Here are some specific advantages for using BIM in project management.
Better Scope Management
Establishing the scope of a project is one of the first things that construction project managers do when they take charge of projects. While many novice project managers assume that the scope of a project is determined when architects document a building’s design, this may not be the case. Without using BIM, an architect can easily document a design for a building that doesn’t give a clue about how the structure is supposed to operate.
As a project manager, you must ask the right questions to find out about the client’s goal to make his or her building more efficient and sustainable. Your scope for the project would involve considering how energy is used in similar spaces, planning for a more energy-efficient structure, and testing to find out if the green features in the space work as expected.
When using BIM, your architect can capture a client’s sustainable building goals and make a note of them within the design documentation. Those initial design documents can spur discussions with engineers about the proposed space’s configuration such as the placement of windows, doors, and walls. As a project manager, you’re armed with more information about what the client expects from the space and the features that he or she has agreed to pay for.
Supports Early Analysis
By using the BIM process and associated tools, engineers in the earlier example of the sustainable building project have more resources at their disposal to conduct deep analysis early. After using the project’s 3D design document to insert renewable-energy solar panels on the building’s roof, the engineer can then link the model to other tools that’ll tell her how much energy those panels are expected to generate any energy shortfalls to expect.
If the roof panels can’t generate enough energy to satisfy the client, the engineer can offer the client alternatives such as installing additional solar panels over large car parking areas to increase energy yields and provide covered parking. The solar energy analysis that the engineer conducts helps to create more detailed, integrated design documents that project managers need to do their jobs.
Improved Cost and Schedule Estimates
While architects and engineers can come up with some spectacular designs and building features, it’s ultimately the client who must decide whether those designs and features are worth the money. When adhering to a firm budget, a client may ask architects and engineers to compare different designs and features and cost out those elements. BIM software allows project team members to associate costs to different elements in a design and quickly document 3D models of alternative configurations. After the client does a cost-benefit analysis of his options, he’ll be able to give approval to move on with project start.
Construction projects are also known for their tight schedules. Schedule issues are made worse when the industry experiences chronic labor shortages. BIM diagrams support documentation of schedule milestones. Project managers can pull up a 3D model of a building at a certain project stage and verify the timing of material ordering, supply delivery, and subcontractor work start.
Cost-Effective Risk Management
You rarely hear about buildings or highways in the United States failing because of design errors. U.S. architects, engineers, and construction managers adhere to strict standards that help to ensure that design errors that lead to safety hazards are caught and fixed before they cause injuries or fatalities. However, finding and fixing these errors take time and cost money. BIM helps project teams to create visual models that support constructability reviews during the design process.
Constructability reviews bring construction experts into design discussions early so that no one approves a flawed design. A flawed design is one that can’t be built without breaking building regulations and good construction practices. BIM visual models help to do away with the need for technical jargon and miscommunications among designers, engineers, and construction professionals. Everyone can see the same version of the design in 3D picture format, which facilitates faster, more effective constructability reviews. Tools such as BIM 360 Docs help with configuration management.
BIM 3D diagrams are also used to document construction sites and plan for site logistics activities. These detailed diagrams support safety training for specific hazards that workers will encounter at particular work sites.
The BIM process was developed decades ago but hasn’t yet reached its full potential within the construction industry. For instance, an architectural firm will use powerful BIM models to document its designs, but it will turn over 2D versions of the design documents to engineers and construction managers. The BIM models that these designers use are called “lonely” BIM models in the building field. The goal is to have “social” BIM models that have fully unlocked permissions so that cross-disciplinary team members can make their models talk to each other.
Since each player creates models from a different perspective, there are likely to be discrepancies when they integrate their work. Many BIM tools have clash detection capabilities that allow builders to link models from different disciplines and detect incompatible design elements that must be addressed before construction begins.
Construction projects present a variety of risks because their success usually relies on a number of different stakeholders working together to build a complex structure or piece of infrastructure. The BIM process allows project managers to break down stove-piped project activities and integrate project workflows to make cost, schedule, and quality goals a reality.
Nick Marchek is a Building Information Modeling (BIM) Specialist at Microsol Resources and he is based in their Philadelphia office. He has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in architecture from Pennsylvania State University. He provides consulting, training, technical support, model management, and implementation services to our architectural and building engineering clients. Nick is an Autodesk Certified Instructor and Revit Architecture Certified Professional.