Researchers have examined building information modeling (BIM), or parametric three- dimensional computer-aided design, from a myriad of technological perspectives. Many of these studies focus on examining or enhancing the interoperability of building information modeling technologies across project networks. The findings highlight the importance of understanding and developing inter organizational work practices to reap the benefits of building information modeling. The realization of the increased functionality and productivity associated with BIM tools requires firms to successfully adopt and implement the associated technologies.
Changes made in building projects during their design and executions are a major cause for delays, cost overruns and deviations from performance requirements. The impact of changes on the project often becomes clear only after their implementation in the project. At that stage it is difficult to make adjustments or consider alternatives. A timely recognition, by the project team, of the implications of proposed changes can lead to a reconsideration of the changes, so that the completed project would still meet the client’s objectives.
Different model based tools are used now-a-days in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. The model facilitates an automatic identification of the possible consequences of changes when they are first proposed, prior to their implementation in the design and planning of the project. The model utilizes available sources of project information in order to identify the impact of changes on the primary client objectives of cost, schedule and performance. The users, using different model based tools, continue to differentiate themselves from those who have yet to adopt the technology, bringing value to clients while improving their bottom line.
As we face uncertain economic times in 2009, and perhaps beyond, innovative approaches to project delivery, such as BIM can be critically important differentiators among service firms and can help owners more effectively to control costs, quality and completion schedules.
Building information modeling (BIM) is a new industry term referring to parametric three-dimensional (3D) computer-aided design (CAD) technologies and processes in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. BIM models represent the spatial relationships between building components and contain logic that facilitates information extraction from the model (for example, sets of plans or material quantity takeoffs). BIM technologies are unique when compared to earlier advances in CAD technology because when coupled with integration of work practices among architects, engineers, fabricators, and contractors they can lead to tremendous improvements in project productivity. With two- dimensional line-based CAD, data were typically exchanged between firms in the form of a printed set of plans. The plans themselves then became the visual representation where coordination and conflicts could be elaborated and resolved (Henderson 1999). However, with BIM a network of interdependent architects, engineers, fabricators, and construction firms can collaborate to develop a virtual building information model of the planned structure (Taylor 2007). A more thorough understanding of how BIM paradigms evolve in project networks will enable architects, engineers, fabricators, and contractors to both anticipate and accelerate the capture of benefits associated with BIM tools and processes.
One theory claims that Professor Charles M. Eastman at Georgia Institute of Technology coined the term. This theory is based on a view that the term Building Information Model is basically the same as Building Product Model, which Professor Eastman has used extensively in his book and papers since the late 1970s. (‘Product model’ means ‘data model’ or ‘information model’ in engineering.)
Nevertheless, it is agreed upon that the term was popularized by Jerry Laiserin as a common name for a digital representation of the building process to facilitate exchange and interoperability of information in digital format.
Researchers contend that building information modeling technologies are being adopted more slowly in the AEC industry than its predecessor two-dimensional (2D) CAD (Whyte et al.1999, 2002). Harty (2005) identified how the implementation of 3D CAD in a large infrastructure project had spillover effects that impacted multiple firms. He termed innovations like 3D CAD that impact multiple firms as “unbounded” innovations (Harty 2005, p. 512). Elsewhere researchers classify innovations that impact multiple specialist organizations as “systemic” innovations (Taylor and Levitt 2004, p. 84). Research has shown how systemic innovations are more difficult to implement and diffuse more slowly than localized innovations (Taylor 2007; Taylor and Levitt 2007). In addition to research on adoption and implementation of 3D CAD, a number of researchers explore the development of objects and tools to support cooperative model-based design and construction (Roy and Kodkani 1999; Szykman et al. 2001; Halfawy and Froese 2005). Some of these researchers seek to address general issues of CAD object interoperability (Szykman et al. 2001) while others explore Web-based forms of object exchange (Roy and Kodkani 1999) or idiosyncratic object extensions to capture the AEC design process (Halfawy and Froese 2005). A recent report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the United States (Gallaher et al. 2004) estimates the cost of inadequate interoperability in the AEC industry to be $15.8 billion. As a result, the body of literature on interoperability of model-based design software will likely continue to grow and evolve to address this global issue. Researchers who focused on improving interoperability of model-based CAD tools are joined by a growing body of researchers seeking to use these tools to integrate processes not feasible with 2D CAD. Researchers explore the use of BIM tools to integrate and improve the scheduling of construction activities (Songer et al. 2001; Heesom and Mahdjoubi 2004), the estimation of costs (Staub-French et al. 2003), the constructability of buildings (Fischer 1993), the identification of time-space conflicts in production (Akinci et al. 2002), and the visualization of the construction process (McKinney and Fischer 1998). The realization of the increased functionality and productivity associated with BIM tools requires firms to successfully adopt and implement the associated technologies. However, it has been shown that design and construction firms are adopting BIM tools slowly when compared to earlier adoption of 2D CAD (Whyte et al. 2002; 1999). Users of these tools operate in interdependent project networks (Chinowsky and Taylor 2007). Research has show that BIM tools impact interdependent work processes in project networks (Harty 2005; Taylor 2007). To capture the full benefit of BIM tools, firms in project networks must coordinate and develop interoperable business practices. However, firms may have different interpretations—or paradigms—toward the practice of using BIM tools. Technological paradigms have been shown to exist and vary among firms in a population (Dosi 1982). Differences in paradigmatic practice across organizations in a project network increase difficulties in developing inter organizational practices to support efficient use of BIM tools. This may explain difficulties identified in the adoption of BIM tools when compared to earlier 2D CAD adoption rates.
Competitive Advantage of BIM in a Down Economy
McGraw-Hill Construction research shows that, in the face of an economic recession, BIM users expect to significantly ramp up their investment in BIM in 2009. Experienced users are realizing greater productivity, improved communications and a competitive edge when bidding work. As development opportunities tighten, these users continue to differentiate themselves from those who have yet to adopt the technology, bringing value to clients while improving their bottom line.
- 62% of BIM users will use it on more than 30% of their projects in 2009.
- 82% of BIM experts believe that BIM has a very positive impact on their company’s productivity.
- 72% of BIM users say that BIM has had an impact on their internal project processes.
Market Adoption and Growth
BIM is being broadly adopted across the construction industry with over 50% of each survey segment – architect, engineers, contractors, and owners (AEC/O) – utilizing the tools at moderate levels or higher. In the population as a whole, roughly one-third (35%) of BIM users are very heavy users, one-third (27%) are medium to heavy users, and one-third (38%) are light users.
Key segment findings include:
- Architects are the heaviest users of BIM with 43% using it on more than 60% of their projects.
- Contractors are the lightest users of BIM with nearly half (45%) using it on less than 15% of projects and a quarter (23%) using it on more than 60% of projects.
BIM usage will also grow rapidly in the coming year. Nearly half of all current adopters (45%) will be heavy users of BIM in 2009, using it on at least 60% of their projects—a 10 point increase over the previous year.
- A majority of architects (54%) will be very heavy users of BIM in 2009, up from 43% in 2008.
- Contractors expect to see the greatest increase in BIM usage in 2009. Thirty eight percent will be heavy users, up from 23% in 2009. Only 12% expect light use of BIM, compared to 45% the previous year.
The rising use of BIM correlates with a generally upbeat assessment of its impact on users’ business practices. As users begin to see its benefits, they deepen their involvement with BIM.
- Half of users say BIM has a very positive impact on their respective companies. Only 7% report a negative impact.
- As users gain experience with BIM, their view of its impact improves significantly.
- Contractors (61%) have the most positive view of BIM.
- Most architects see BIM as having a very positive impact on their businesses.
- Owners are beginning to see the value of BIM, with 41% reporting that BIM has a positive impact on their projects. One-third are very willing to purchase BIM software for other team members and half are at least moderately willing to pay extra for time and effort on detailing BIM models.
Measuring the Value of BIM
Survey results indicate that 48% of respondents are tracking BIM return on investment (ROI) at a moderate level or above. Results from companies who are actively tracking BIM return on investment (ROI) (see PCL Construction Case Study and Holder Construction interview) are showing initial BIM ROIs of 300 to 500% on projects where BIM was used.
A follow up McGraw-Hill Construction online survey of AGC BIM Forum members (November 2008) found that the average perception of ROI on BIM to be between11% and 30%. However, those making the effort to measure ROI perceive a higher value. Among those that do measure it, almost one third report an ROI greater than 100%, with several greater than 1,000%. Thus measuring ROI establishes greater benefit of BIM than mere intuition suggests.
Some of the most important aspects of BIM ROI being measured by firms include:
- Improved project outcomes such as fewer RFIs and field coordination problems (79%)
- Better communication because of 3D visualization (79%)
- Positive impact on winning projects (66%)
Internal and External Impact of BIM
BIM is changing the way companies work internally as well as with external team members. In order to reap the greatest benefit from BIM, many users recognize a need to rethink roles and work flow. As a repository of information from multiple team members, BIM also promotes a more collaborative environment that breaks down traditional boundaries between firms and allows the sharing of project data among users.
- Seven in 10 users say that BIM has had at least a moderate impact on their internal project practices.
- Two-thirds of users say that BIM has had at least a moderate impact on their external project processes.
Top Ways BIM Changes How Users Work
- Routinely using BIM’s 3D visualization capabilities to communicate with all parties.
- Using BIM on the jobsite to guide construction activities.
- More time designing, less time documenting.
Adoption of BIM
Building information modeling is quickly gaining traction. After years of development and experimentation in the marketplace, BIM is bringing swift transformative change to how its users approach their work. Research shows that users see clear benefits of BIM and they are responding by deepening their use of the technology. At a time when the overall development market is tightening, these users are looking for BIM to help them gain a competitive advantage.
The expanding use of BIM is profound. All users expect to rapidly increase their use of BIM in 2009. In 2008, one-third of BIM users said they were very heavy users, involving it in at least three in five of their current projects. Next year, nearly half expect to use BIM at that level—a 10 point increase over the previous year.
- Contractors could see the greatest rise in use. Although contractors report relatively limited BIM use compared to others, they are quickly catching up. Twenty-three percent currently use BIM on 60% or more of projects. Thirty-eight percent expect to use it at that level in 2009—a 15 point increase.
- Architects use BIM on the highest percentage of projects. Because many architects were among the early adopters of BIM, they have a head start on other users. A majority of architects expect to become very heavy users of BIM next year, jumping from 43% in 2008 to 54% in 2009. This substantial commitment to BIM could prompt other team members to increase their use of the technology as well.
- Engineers see their BIM use increasing, but not as drastically as other build team members. Thirty five percent use BIM on at least 60% of their current projects. Forty- three percent expect to use it at that level next year.
- Owners expect to see moderate increases compared to other build team members. Owners currently have limited opportunities to use BIM for operations and maintenance purposes. As those capabilities develop, BIM use among owners could increase significantly.
Perception of BIM
As BIM use becomes more relevant, much of the industry has a positive view of its effect on their business practices. Half of users say BIM has a very positive impact on their respective companies. Only one in ten experience a negative impact. Users offer an upbeat assessment of BIM despite the fact that a limited number of users measure their ROI (see section “Value of Using BIM”). This suggests that although many users can’t quantify its benefits, they still embrace BIM’s promise.
Contractors have the most positive view of BIM. Sixty-one percent of contractors say it has a very positive effect on their companies. Contractors see benefits such as improved clash detection that can directly reduce costs and delays.
Architects also see BIM as beneficial with three in five reporting it has a very positive effect. Thirty eight percent say it has a neutral or slightly positive impact. Through use of BIM, many architects find they can spend less time drafting and more time designing.
Engineers are also generally positive about BIM, though slightly less compared to other users. Thirty seven percent report that BIM has a very positive effect on their businesses. A majority (54%) say BIM has a neutral or slightly positive effect. Engineers can leverage data in BIM to help with simulation and analysis.
Owners are largely positive about BIM, but less than contractors and architects. One in 10 reports that it has a negative impact. This could be related to concerns over its cost. Many owners do not see the direct benefits of BIM compared to others. This could change as the capabilities of BIM for owners expand.
Usage of BIM
The great promise of BIM is its expansive range of applications for users. At its basic level, BIM represents an evolution from traditional 2D design to a dynamic 3D model built around a database of a project’s physical and functional characteristics. The more data users add to the model, the more benefits can be leveraged from it. Beyond 3D visualization of a project, information about specific objects within the model can be used for a wide range of analyses such as building performance, schedule and costs. Today, 3D modeling is by far the most popular use of BIM, with architects leading the way.
Other users, such as engineers, are finding selective ways to model elements in BIM. Contractors are building momentum for the use of BIM in 4D (scheduling) and 5D (cost estimating). As users continue to gain expertise with BIM, they will further capitalize on the technology’s potential and push for new ways to garner benefits in areas such as sustainability and building operations. Architects and engineers will likely use BIM to do energy analyses, and owners will use the BIM model to manage and maintain their facilities.
Modeled Elements on BIM Projects
Build team members say that architectural, structural, mechanical and plumbing elements—in that order—are the most likely to be modeled when using BIM. This view holds generally true among all team members, although the larger and more experienced the firm is, the more likely it is to see these elements modeled on BIM projects. This view makes sense in light of the BIM adoption and usage patterns of various disciplines.Architects lead the way with 54% reporting to be either heavy or very heavy users in 2008. Engineers lag slightly as 43% of all engineering disciplines combined are at that usage level. In 2009, fully two-thirds of architects predict being either heavy or very heavy users—a 41% increase. By comparison, engineers predict a 37% increase at this usage level in 2009.
Electrical engineers lag behind mechanical and structural. This is likely due in part to the relative lack of content for electrical elements. These elements also have smaller physical size requirements in buildings compared to bulky structural systems, large mechanical elements like duct work, and the diameter and pitch/location requirements of plumbing waste lines. As such, electrical coordination issues are less challenging and modeling is less critical.
Users suggest a relative prominence of accessibility planning as a special function (30%). This points the way toward more innovative uses of BIM modeling beyond visualization and powerful efficiencies by using simulation to optimize logistics, phasing, equipment locations and materials handling. As more enabling applications come online that extract relevant data from design models to automate valuable tasks, it is likely that their use will dramatically increase.
Paradigm change to BIM:
For each of the three major phases in the building lifecycle—
Design, Construction and Management, Building Information Modeling offers access to the following critical information:
- In the design phase—Design, Schedule and Budget information
- In the construction phase—Quality, Schedule and Cost Information
- In the management phase—Performance, Utilization and Financial Information
BIM according to American Institute of Architects as “a model-based technology linked
with a database of project information”.
Database systems provide various facilities including modeling data, queries, semantic integrity control, concurrency control, recovery and authorization. The transition from relational database technology to object technology is characterized by a richer data model to meet the requirements of new applications. The building practice, for example, is characterized by the organization of different participants that work towards the elaboration of the building; each one performs a specific role and has a specific view on the building project data.
Building Information Modeling Workflow
Tekla ‐ BIM:
Tekla Structures software is a BIM (building information modeling) tool that streamlines the delivery process of design, detailing, manufacture, and construction organizations. While integrating openly with architectural models, the strength of this single-model environment lies in the contractor end of the process. Thousands of Tekla Structures software users in more than 80 countries have successfully delivered BIM-based projects across the world. Tekla Structures’ ability to process extensive amounts of data enables the creation of detailed 3D models that apply to every stage of design and construction. From planning and design development thru to fabrication and installation, Tekla models naturally develop in parallel, representing the “as- built” condition of a building. Tekla Structures effectively integrates into any best-of-breed software driven workflow, while maintaining the highest levels of data integrity and accuracy.
Such collaborative workflows are the cornerstone to minimizing errors and maximizing efficiency, resulting in high profitability and on-time project completion. Tekla Structures encompasses specialized configurations for structural engineers, steel detailers and fabricators, precast concrete detailers and manufacturers, as well as contractors.
“There is enough cultural and social awareness about BIM that it will eventually become part of our daily work process. Tekla has been BIM even before the name was created. And with its sound position in the automation back‐end of the construction process, Tekla is on the leading edge of innovation.” – Professor Charles M. Eastman, Director, Ph D Program for the College of Architecture at Georgia Tech, US
Fig: Tekla BIMs are the center of optimized building production
Tekla takes the architectural model from architectural BIM solutions (and other reference models from other solutions) and makes them into a constructable model.
Tekla offers the highest level of constructability on project delivery (Design BIM vs Construction BIM). The model is easy to change and coordinate changes between several designers who do different tasks in the model. Tekla technology enables the creation and management of accurately detailed, highly constructable building information models that act as the new center of optimized building production.
To ease the job of fabricators, different software are used for material management. Information can easily be transferred from one software system to other software, which reduce the effort of the fabricators. Combination of BIM software tools (specially Tekla steel detailing) and steel fabrication material management software (Fabtrol), it is very easy to transfer data for fabricator use within a justified time and with great accuracy. Any steel detailing service provider companies can easily increase the revenue by using these kind of software.
- Leading solution for steel fabrication materials management
- Fully integrated, modular software solution for managing estimating, drawings, materials, production, and shipping
Preparing accurate takeoffs requires a tremendous amount of knowledge – material availability, labor rates, and waste factors. Finding people with the right skills is not easy. FabTrol MRP offers an alternative. By translating the knowledge of senior estimators into company-standard data tables, it limits the expertise required to prepare takeoffs. Even the greenest apprentice can be trained to work up reliable bids. And the senior staff can focus on making the final adjustments that will ensure winning, profitable bottom lines.
Drawings are the lifeblood of the fabrication process, but managing their revisions and approvals can be a real nuisance. Without an integrated solution, many steel fabricators settle for keeping a simple drawing log by hand. Such systems are a pain to maintain, but that’s nothing next to the risk of issuing the wrong drawing to the shop because someone lost track of the revisions.
FabTrol MRP software offers a better solution. Its powerful links with the industry’s leading detailing software solutions enables fast, error-free data transfers. And beyond a simplistic one-line-per-drawing log, it provides a true management system and up-to-date statusing mechanism for drawings and revisions.
With FabTrol MRP, you can import bills of materials, drawing image files, and in some cases even CNC instructions from nearly any detailing software, including:
SDS/2®, Tekla Structures (Xsteel®), StruCAD®, AutoCAD® and its add-ons, Any KISS- compliant system, including 3D+®, FASTRAK®, CadVantage CVSpro®, SteelCad®, and more.
In a material-intensive business like steel fabrication, better usage and handling of materials can have a major impact on your bottom line. FabTrol MRP software tackles the challenge of material management with the best weapons of modern technology: automation and integration.
Companies need a powerful integrated production management system, which includes: CAD & CNC integration, Shop capacity planning, Automated routing to work areas, Estimated fabrication times, Work order & cut list management, Progress tracking etc. These all facilities are included in FabTrol MRP software.
It allows user to easily plan sensible, right-sized loads, manage them through the shop, and track their status throughout the process.
As recognition of the benefits of BIM grows, the ability of design professionals, contractors, fabricators and suppliers to work effectively in this new environment will increasingly become a competitive differentiator in winning work. In challenging economic times this kind of edge can be critically important to survival. Also, owners competing for scarce capital resources will find an advantage in being able to demonstrate the ability to more accurately control costs, quality and schedule through implementation of BIM.
Previous research on BIM or parametric 3D CAD has focused largely on issues of technological interoperability. A report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the United States described inadequate interoperability of technology in the design and construction industry in the United States alone as a $15.8 billion problem annually (Gallaher et al. 2004). Therefore research focused on improving BIM technological interoperability will certainly continue to increase. Addressing technological interoperability is not sufficient to unleash the benefits of integrated technologies. When technological change spans inter organizational boundaries in project networks, inter organizational business practices must also evolve and adapt to these changes. Future research should examine how differences in BIM practice paradigms impact project performance. It should consider the impact of other potentially causal factors on BIM paradigm evolution such as project complexity, project size, and specific BIM tool used to develop a more nuanced explanation of how firm practice paradigms evolve. The existence of some firms who view BIM as a way to enhance visualization, others that see BIM as playing an important coordination role, others who view BIM principally as an analytical tool, and finally others who view BIM chiefly as a means to integrate product information into the supply chain, is likely to limit the benefits of using BIM for all firms in the project network. Research should identify ways to improve coordination given the existence of this array of paradigms that can coexist on a project. A promising avenue for future research would be to examine whether firms choosing partners in interdependent project activities based on their stage of practice paradigmatic evolution impacts firm-level and project-level performance.
Contractors are predicting an acceleration of BIM usage that significantly outstrips the other groups surveyed, and paves the way for 2009 to be “the year of the contractor” in BIM. Most contractors using BIM are not waiting to receive BIM files from designers but are doing 2D-to-BIM conversion from whatever CAD files or paper documents they can get their hands on. The tangibility of the benefits that contractors can extract from BIM makes a compelling business case for investing. This trend mirrors the traditional lifecycle progression of a project, where the architect is initially responsible for the format of information and shares it judiciously with a small group of consultant Then contractors assume responsibility, using their own tools and processes to interpret, divide and distribute that information broadly for multiple purposes through to completion. BIM has now evolved from a focused tool set for design to a more comprehensive platform for design and construction integration, driving major changes in the ways all the players interact.