Building Information Modeling (BIM): What Owners Need To Know To Deliver Results

BIM project managementAfter years of questions about whether Building Information Modeling (BIM) significantly improves a project’s ROI, the debate is over.

In a McGraw Hill Construction survey of more than 700 contractors across ten countries, 50 percent of respondents with high BIM engagement levels reported an ROI greater than 25 percent. Ninety percent reported some level of ROI, ranging from reduced errors and omissions to less rework and faster project delivery.

BIM: Taking ownership

This survey was excellent news for project owners, who are the greatest beneficiaries of BIM.

But it also risked giving owners a false sense of confidence. Some might leave the implementation of BIM to other stakeholders, expecting it will automatically lead to faster delivery, reduced costs and higher productivity.

In fact, owners who take charge of BIM and weave it into their project’s information requirements will reap much greater rewards than those who are not actively involved.

BIM: For the entire project life-cycle

The key thing to know about BIM is that it is a process for creating and managing all the information on a project – before, during and after construction. BIM lets you first build your asset in a virtual world, improving processes ranging from design reviews to clash detection and ensuring the provision of high-quality, as-built information at handover.

But realizing the full potential of BIM requires upfront planning. As Steve Fox, a manager at BIM Consulting, explained in the webinar How BIM can accelerate project-wide review cycles, an owner can’t just make BIM available and expect it will be used effectively. “Model exchanging itself doesn’t ensure collaboration,” Fox said. Indeed, it is important to set your master BIM strategy at the very beginning of a project. “The project team must be clear on the “whos” and “hows” of delivering BIM,” Fox added.

Michael Alder, project innovation leader at Arup, also emphasized the need to bake BIM into projects at their inception. “If we are going to build a model to improve design coordination, we need to ensure that the people responsible for design are actually using BIM to inform the decisions they make,” he said. “We need to have the team using the model first, not as a last resort.”

Among other things, your BIM execution plans should explicitly define when models are to be released for publication and subsequent coordination and what content is required. This way, all project stakeholders will be clear on their individual roles. They’ll engage more effectively in the BIM process and extend the value of BIM beyond construction to handover and operations.

Locating and leveraging BIM expertise

One of the biggest obstacles facing owners who seek to implement BIM on their projects is the shortage of BIM expertise.

While BIM adoption is accelerating around the world, most project teams that use BIM still have limited to moderate experience with it. According to the McGraw Hill study, contractors from all regions that said they were using BIM on more than thirty percent of their work are expecting to expand from 39 percent to 69 percent in the next two years. As beginners grow into advanced users, knowledge of BIM will eventually become widespread.

Today, owners looking to realize BIM’s value are turning to consultants to help articulate their BIM strategies and provide guidance in implementing BIM on their projects. Consultants can help the project team understand and adopt BIM, including industry best practice workflows and process automation.

Consultants can also be useful in ensuring BIM forms the cornerstone of a project-wide collaboration and information management solution.  As part of the United Kingdom’s mandate requiring BIM on public works projects, which takes effect next year, organizations must put in place a common data environment (CDE). A collaborative environment that everyone can access speeds up checking, versioning and reissuing information – among other processes. It also facilitates the complete capture of information from all project teams, across the entire project lifecycle. Owners end up with a single, fully connected dataset to rely on for facility management.

Managing BIM expectations

As you begin to make BIM an integral part of your projects, it’s important to have realistic expectations.

Implementing BIM is a journey. You won’t realize the full potential of your investment on your first project. But as your experience with BIM grows, so will the dividends.

BIM Review CyclesLearn more about How BIM can accelerate project-wide review cycles from Arup and BIM Consulting, who spoke as part of an Aconex-led webinar series on best practice project delivery. Previous webinars, featuring Parsons, Fluor and HNTB, can also be viewed on-demand here.

Want to learn more about how BIM simplifies multidimensional model management – connecting teams, models and project data on a single online collaboration platform? Visit Aconex Connected BIM.

John Barkwell

John Barkwell

Director of BIM Professional Services (Americas) at Aconex
John Barkwell is the Director of BIM Professional Services (Americas) at Aconex, the world's leading collaborative construction and engineering management software.
John Barkwell