One particularly interesting aspect of digital construction software is how it uses building information modelling (BIM) technology to drive efficiency on projects.
BIM software creates a virtual 3D version of a project before construction begins. This modelling increases efficiency by making it possible to draw up more detailed plans for the realization of the project, and to spot and solve any potential problems that may arise with the design or operation of a building. For example, you can see if there will be any problems to pipes and services before they are put in place.
If gives you the opportunity to see where all the pipes and services are located, at the design stage, and see spot any issues before they arise
The use of BIM modelling as an information mediator is now regarded as compulsory in the construction industry. BIM offers an opportunity for better information exchange both between all the relevant stakeholders and decision-makers. It means planning is better and problems are not being solved onsite on the hoof.
In fact, BIM offers a whole range of benefits and efficiencies to the building process. However, the use of BIM must be carefully controlled and planned.
What Is BIM Software And Who Uses It?
BIM software works using data input by designers, architects, engineers, consultants and contractors. Using all this information, it creates a virtual version of a facility. Sub-contractors from all trades can provide data relating to their part of the project. Using BIM really facilitates collaboration between stakeholders, as, for example, the architect and contractors will be working with a single shared model rather than separate ones.
While the information from BIM can help with planning all aspects of a project, access to the modelling itself is normally the preserve of those higher up the chain of command on a job.
CEO Brendan O’Riordan explains: “In the industry at the moment, many people are talking about BIM and how they see this as the solution to digitizing construction. I think it is not the solution, it is a part of the solution. The problem with using BIM [in isolation] is that everything is based around email, and people having access to good computers that can display 3D models.
“The reality of construction now is most people don’t have access to all that. Many people who work on construction sites, they don’t even have company email. So my view of the industry is that you will have BIM up on the top level, the executive level” – the point being that while BIM is a crucial part of the kit, it must be used in tandem with other mobile apps which are accessible by the people lower down the chain of command.
Keeping tight control on a BIM model can be an issue if too many stakeholders have access, and the industry has seen instances of consultants or contractors altering the BIM model to their own narrow benefit without the consent of all stakeholders. This shows the importance of using it as part of a suite of apps and softwares, rather than on its own.
Zutec project manager Gemma Hawes explains how they can feed that onsite data into the BIM. “We’ve got some of those tools which get the attention, we’ve got BIM modeling, and we can reconcile that onsite data into a BIM model view. So, you’re not looking at something just in text and on a 2D view. You can actually go in and view it across an entire building in a 3D model.”
What Information Is Stored Within A BIM?
The information input and stored in a BIM will tell you exactly where all assets are in the building in relation to everything else - it'll give you an items position, geometry, XYZ co-ordinates, dimensions, location within the building.
It works by assigning everything in the building a GUID (global unique identifier) - each ceiling tile, fixture, desk, everything, which makes each item completely unique and distinguishable from anything else in the building (and on the planet). This means you can relate things from a number of databases back on one point, and locate things in relation to each other across three dimensions.
Generally, the model will contain detailed information about:
- Systems or assemblies
- Components or equipment
- Maintenance tasks, parts, tools and resources required to operate the building
- Documents related to the project, building, systems, products and materials
- Details of companies/people involved in the project
Why Is Having This Source Of Information Important?
The importance of using BIM software on a project is evident through the amount of efficiencies it can bring. It prevents problems by ‘clash detection’ – this means it highlights possible pain points in the design or functionality of the virtual construction, allowing solutions to be found before the problems have a chance to materialize in bricks and mortar.
It facilitates milestone planning and successful sequential planning of the project, meaning just-in-time delivery of materials can be employed, or perhaps offsite pre-fabrication. It allows different sections of the job to be isolated and planned in granular detail – for example, it helps to calculate the exact quantities of building materials to be used.
BIM software offers great advantages in the planning stage, with the knock-on benefit that work onsite progresses more smoothly and efficiently.