Unlocking efficiency: What is the potential for BIM in construction projects?
By Catrin Jones24 July 2023
Catrin Jones explores the power of digital transformation in construction and the potential BIM has to enhance project outcomes.
The construction industry recognises that Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but there is increasing evidence of its significant benefits. The use of BIM can offer project stakeholders precise information and a better understanding, particularly through improved data and visualisations that can be shared across different teams working on a project.
Accuracy is crucial for complex construction projects; even the slightest mistake can cause major issues. To mitigate errors and minimise the need for rework, BIM has become an invaluable asset.
BIM is a collaborative process that employs digital 3D models of building and infrastructure assets’ physical and functional characteristics. It aims to support the decision-making process during an asset’s life cycle, all the way from inception to demolition. The core of BIM lies in creating, using and exchanging these digital models among stakeholders.
The latest report on the BIM software market from UK-based Cambashi forecasts it will grow to a value of US$30.7 billion (€28.2 billion) by 2027. The research company reveals that the market will see double-digit growth CAGR of 11.5% from 2022 to 2027, an increase in revenue of around US$12.9 billion (€11.8 billion) over that period.
Joe Brooker, industry analyst at Cambashi, said, “BIM Design, Construct, and Operate showed positive growth during the worst lockdown periods caused by the Covid pandemic – displaying strong growth in 2021 and peaking in 2022.
“In 2023, a struggling global economy will slow down BIM software growth. However, BIM Operate software will show some resilience as building management and maintenance are ongoing needs that cannot be postponed indefinitely.”
At present, the BIM industry is witnessing remarkable growth in the Asia-Pacific region, emerging as the frontrunner in the global market, says Spherical Insights & Consulting.
This can be attributed to the region’s rapid urbanisation and infrastructure development, creating a surge in construction projects and fuelling the demand for efficient project management and coordination through BIM.
Additionally, there is a growing focus on sustainable and environmentally friendly building practices in Asia-Pacific, which amplifies the use of BIM for energy-efficient design and construction purposes. Technological advancements, increased awareness about the benefits of BIM, and supportive government initiatives are also playing a pivotal role in driving its adoption.
Stefan Kaufmann, product manager of BIM strategy and new technologies at global provider of BIM solutions, AllPlan, believes that, “BIM’s significance in the construction industry is tremendous.”
Kaufmann adds that, “It provides a coherent, comprehensive, and easily communicable representation of a building or asset, enabling the effective management of information about that asset throughout the construction lifecycle.
“BIM not only aids in visualising the building before it’s built but also assists in better coordination, resulting in higher accuracy, efficiency, sustainability, and profitability. BIM data is machine-readable and, unlike 2D plans, can be used directly in subsequent use cases.”
A world without BIM
But of course, there was a world without BIM – as Dr Jonathan Ingram recalls. Ingram is recognised as ‘the father of BIM’, having created and developed the initial BIM systems such as Sonata and REfLEX.
He also taught the first BIM courses at Harvard University and won the Prince Philip Gold Medal from the Royal Academy of Engineers for his work. Ingram spoke to Construction Briefing earlier in the year on why BIM has become so important to construction.
“There were a number of problems with construction before BIM. One was the coordination of information.
“You would have separate plan drawings, elevation drawings, and quantities being done by different groups of people in different offices and there was no physical link between them. This could lead to expensive errors. For example, the windows being in the wrong place. That information needed to be coordinated.”
Ingram goes on to mention that BIM provides consistent information in terms of drawings and physical data. “Data is not duplicated in a true BIM system. You have one source of data, which is correct.”
As interest in BIM continues to increase, Ingram looks back at its early adoption and how construction isn’t to blame for its slow progress. “It was just too difficult and, to some extent, too specialist and heavy for your average designer.
“It has been 40 years and it was a very hard sell in the early days, trust me. When you have various people using a system, it is very easy to get the next person to use the system. When no one is using it, then finding people to use a system which is meant for sharing is hard.”
Ingram stresses that BIM needs a good rewrite to bring it into the modern environment and to make it comprehensible, intuitive and powerful.
What is BIM’s potential?
Since Ingram’s first systems, BIM has made considerable progress, and many decision-makers have likely contemplated its usefulness for their companies. It is well-known that it is capable of streamlining the planning stages of a project but can the technology go beyond this?
“Absolutely,” says Kaufmann. “The BIM value chain extends far beyond project planning. BIM revolutionises the design, execution and operation of buildings in a multitude of ways.
“For starters, it enables better context capturing and accelerated conceptual design techniques, providing an integrated visualisation of the project early on in the planning stages. This allows for proactive issue detection, leading to fewer design revisions, lower project risk, and overall cost savings.”
But that is not all. During the execution phase, BIM is said to have the potential to improve construction planning and delivery through enhanced coordination, minimising construction errors and material wastage.
Organisations looking to benefit from BIM may face challenges such as the need for upfront investment in software and hardware, a learning curve for staff and an initial productivity dip.
Despite this, Kaufmann highlights that the key to overcoming these is an organisation-wide commitment and a phased implementation strategy. An efficient data management and exchange system is crucial to navigating these challenges.
Kaufmann says, “By integrating project data across different asset types – for example, buildings, roads, and bridges – and through their whole life cycle, organisations can ensure data consistency and interoperability.”
As companies strive to enhance their sustainability efforts and adopt innovative technologies to support this goal, Kaufmann emphasises that BIM’s capabilities are not to be understated.
“BIM provides precise data and metrics, which allows for the optimisation of resources and materials,” he says. “For example, by enabling early identification of potential issues and efficient resource management, BIM can reduce wasted materials on-site and unnecessary expenditures.”
Additionally, BIM could have the potential to help design teams make informed decisions about how a building will work in operation. It allows for precise analysis and simulation of energy consumption, aiding in the design of more energy-efficient buildings. It can also enable the owner or end users to better visualise the completed building so any adjustments can be made before construction begins and materials are wasted.
Successfully integrating BIM
When it comes to implementing BIM for the first time, construction companies should begin with a clearly defined vision and strategy, according to Kaufmann. This includes gaining a thorough understanding of their business needs and objectives.
Equally important is investing in employee training and ensuring top-down commitment.
“We recommend companies explore platforms that can automate processes and reduce manual work,” says Kaufmann.
“Furthermore, solutions that promote interoperability and facilitate collaboration among different stakeholders – in other words, an open BIM approach – will ensure interoperability and data exchange across different software platforms, contributing to overall project efficiency and success.”
The key is that organisations looking to adopt BIM must view it as a comprehensive process change rather than simply a replacement for 2D CAD systems.
“BIM requires more than just learning to use your chosen platform – it’s a collaborative and integrated approach to design and construction which brings together various AEC disciplines,” says Kaufmann.
Therefore, promoting a culture of interdisciplinary cooperation will not only enhance the overall design and construction process but also maximise the benefits derived from BIM.”
Effective data management is also key to leveraging BIM’s full potential. Organisations should ensure they have robust systems and protocols for handling and sharing BIM data across all phases of the construction lifecycle.
“This, of course, stems from good management,” says Kaufmann.
“This support is another significant influence on the success of BIM adoption. When the leadership team is committed to the process, it motivates the entire organisation to embrace the changes that come with BIM.”
Although some might see investment into BIM as an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach, Kaufmann says that this does not need to be the case.
“Organisations can start small, perhaps with a pilot project, and gradually expand their use of BIM as they become more comfortable with the processes and tools,” he says.
“By taking a strategic, patient, and iterative approach, organisations can effectively navigate the transition to BIM, reaping significant rewards in terms of efficiency, cost savings, and improved project outcomes.”
Perega achieves ISO 19650:2:2018 certification for BIM excellence
Perega, an independent structural and civil engineering firm in the UK, has announced its attainment of ISO 19650-2:2018 certification after undergoing an evaluation conducted by global assurance partner LRQA.
ISO 19650 is the internationally recognised framework for effectively managing information throughout the entire life cycle of a built asset, utilising BIM.
First introduced in 2018, the framework now comprises five parts, with part two specifically outlining the process for information management and collaborative production during the asset delivery phase.
Integral to the assessment process was the involvement of third-party assessor LQRA, responsible for auditing and providing a final evaluation. This rigorous assessment spanned two days, culminating in Perega officially obtaining certification to ISO 19650-2:2018 in February.
Mark Asplin, Perega’s Group BIM Manager, commented on the achievement, “ISO 19650-2:2019 represents a remarkable milestone and aligns perfectly with our core business values. To thrive in a highly competitive environment, we must remain fully committed to innovation and consistent improvement.
“By closely scrutinising our processes and ensuring their value to the organisation, we can guarantee our clients the best possible service. As the demand for accreditations continues to rise in our industry, this certification sets us apart from our peers.”