Five considerations when coordinating BIM projects

Construction projects can benefit significantly by leveraging BIM, but there are a few areas to take into consideration that, when applied, can help your next project reach its full BIM potential.

By Amanda Comunale, Victaulic, Easton, PA March 7, 2018

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand how to accurately estimate a BIM project.
  • Know how to leverage technology to assist with a BIM project.
  • Identify educational opportunities for help with BIM projects.
  • Understand the importance of project management in BIM.

According to McGraw Hill, the top building information modeling (BIM) benefits as identified by design and construction firms are the visualization of a project to enable a better understanding of design, fewer problems during construction, a more "well-reasoned" design, and a positive impact on project schedules. To achieve all of these benefits for a BIM project, it is important to recognize that there are several aspects to the BIM process that should be carefully examined, understood, and acted upon for a BIM project to reach its full potential.

1. Understand how to accurately estimate a BIM project. One of the challenges with estimating a BIM project is accurately predicting the hours needed to complete it. Many users underestimate the allotted hours because they only account for traditional modeling time. However, BIM encompasses coordination, modeling, and project management. Users should include those factors when estimating and allocating time.

It’s also not uncommon to estimate the BIM process from a percent of field labor. However, the reality is the BIM process isn’t tied to labor hours. As labor goes up and down, the BIM hours won’t change, therefore the BIM process should be a fixed price.

To come up with a fixed price, create a standard/baseline per type of building. For example, a high-rise building could cost "X" and a hospital could cost "Y," then add to it based on the project’s complexity. It is the same method for how contractors estimate an assembly.

Some people believe a BIM project comes with a high level of risk because they fear they will go over on their labor hours. But if you can establish a baseline fixed cost across modeling, coordination, and project management per project type, as opposed to using just labor hours, you can quote the BIM process more accurately.

2. Understand why the quality of Revit content matters.

There is a significant difference between content and quality content, and that difference isn’t price. While there is a lot of Revit content to be purchased, there are manufacturers who provide quality content for free.

Quality content is full of data that speaks to the philosophy of BIM. The more data built into the product models, the easier it is to implement changes across the project, which means less room for error and fewer mistakes on the job.

Manufacturers play a critical role in providing data-rich Revit content, and customers are entitled to know if their content is created to leverage BIM to its fullest potential.

3. Know how to leverage technology to assist with a BIM project.

For more than a decade now, there has been a movement to produce products that "boost your BIM." Revit is currently the preferred BIM software. There are also many add-ins/toolbars on the market that can take projects to the next level in terms of efficiency and productivity. Download a free trial or request demonstrations of these tools to ensure they are the right fit.

Retrofit BIM projects can be challenging, but 3-D scanning is making retrofit work simpler. Gone are the days of hand field measurements and taking on the risk of human error. With 3-D scanners, there is a direct, positive correlation to the project schedule in that an entire mechanical room can be scanned, modeled, and ready for project coordination in as little as 1 day.

And then there’s virtual reality (VR), which is making its debut in BIM projects because it allows the team to experience projects in a 3-D environment. VR is quickly becoming the single best way to identify clashes. With the onset of collaboration platforms and the need to accommodate multiple users from around the world, VR allows everyone on the project to be inside a virtual environment together, visualizing and engaging with the project model in real time.

4. Identify educational opportunities for help with BIM projects.

Coordinating a BIM project for the first time will be a learning curve, but building a solid foundation with education can go a long way toward making projects run smoothly. There are also conferences that host several education sessions to further your education. Some manufacturers also offer training. Be on the lookout for manufacturers who offer drawing and coordination services in addition to their products. Their unique perspective gives them insight into all aspects of the construction lifecycle, from preconstruction through installation. The more educated you become, the more you can maximize the value of BIM.

5. Understand the importance of project management in BIM.

Traditionally, for project coordination, the information you need is buried in a mountain of paperwork—and there usually isn’t enough time to locate it, analyze the possible impact across the project, and then address potential outcomes. BIM helps eliminate that problem.

A project leveraging the BIM process enables the project manager, designer, and field foreman to effectively manage because there is access to timely data. The biggest benefit of BIM is that it enables access to the data while there is still time to leverage it. It’s not uncommon for a BIM project to include several types of weekly review meetings: model reviews, cost reviews, and forecast reviews that look at the impact to shop and field labor based on the current model.

The power of BIM isn’t just a clash-free model. It’s about sharing information with the estimating team, field team, and procurement team so they can manage the project effectively and reduce costly changes.

Amanda Comunale is the director of virtual design and construction at Victaulic.