Leveraging BIM for improved project coordination, integration

Building information modeling can help construction companies enhance productivity, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution

By Amanda Comunale, Victaulic, Easton, Pa. December 3, 2019

Learning objectives 

  • Discover best practices to streamline BIM coordination and integration efforts. 
  • Learn how to capitalize and unlock value through seamless, integrated technologies. 
  • Identify uses and benefits of BIM during preconstruction and fabrication phases. 

A recent survey by JBKnowledge, a Texas-based organization that provides technology solutions for construction companies around the world, indicates the construction industry lags behind others in implementing new technologies. While companies that participated in the survey recognize the value of information technology and are adding people to their IT departments to support it, overall data suggest the transition from traditional project management solutions to digital tools remains stagnant 

While the number of companies using processes dependent on spreadsheets is dropping, survey responses confirmed spreadsheets still remain the tool of choice. Reflecting how difficult it can be for companies to adopt and implement new technologies, only half the companies surveyed reported having dedicated resources to building information modeling. 

While it appears the construction industry is actively working to implement BIM methodologies, many report they have yet to establish a process to create teams that are able to evaluate and assess the viability of these new approaches. The sheer volume of available software solutions can be daunting to teams when determining if programs can live up to the hype of a sales pitch and drive efficiencies once implemented into workflows.  

As BIM continues to drive the construction industry forward, it is critical for companies to recognize BIM is not a one-size-fits-all solution for a contractor or an engineer. It is a process  a way of implementing best practices  that provides the best results when tailored to a specific business.  

Capitalizing on integrated technology 

When the construction industry discusses BIM, it focuses on streamlining processes to drive a project toward successful completion. However, BIM has the potential to deliver much more when all the pieces that make up the program work seamlessly. The most critical factors to consider when selecting a BIMenabling technology are software integration and compatibility.  

JBKnowledge reported 80% of companies use up to five different software platforms  the majority of which do not integrate with one another. However, project managers need coordinated tools to manage a project from conception through installation to improve workflows. 

When software integration succeeds, employees cannot imagine working any other way. JBKnowledge analysts agree: “Software integrations eliminate redundancies and improve efficiencies for companies across projects, offices and divisions.” It should be notedhowever, that these efficiency gains are typically achieved only when software programs function and communicate well 

BIM and preconstruction 

Successfully adopting BIM technologies begins with preconstruction, which means the tools used in the earliest stages of the project are critical.  

In recent years, the first choice for BIM software has shifted from Autodesk’s AutoCAD MEP to Revit. A key driver of this trend is Revit’s ability to connect and work with other software packages and power add-ons  amplifying initial software investments. This software interoperability is best showcased through the partnership of 3D scanners and mechanical, electrical and plumbing modeling programs 

During the preconstruction phase, 3D scans of a jobsite can be imported into a series of Revitcompatible programs, allowing final images to be viewed in both augmented reality and virtual reality platforms. This enhanced visibility allows companies to visualize their designs not only in 3D model, but also within the space the system will eventually be installed, enabling them to identify issues that would have previously only been revealed on-site when installation was already taking place 

Software interoperability is driving enhanced collaboration between teams, eliminating bottlenecks that can occur during modeling and coordination processesWhen a company modified a model before using BIMchanges had to be emailed to an end usertriggering a project review. This time-consuming process triggered several backandforth emails until the change was eventually approved. Today, software programs allow team members to exchange comments in real time  streamlining the process and eliminating approval bottlenecks. 

Selecting software that provides seamless integration helps project managers move through modeling quickly, coordinate more easily with other trades and allow crews to start on a jobsite faster.  

BIM and fabrication 

Streamlined coordination improves the effectiveness of the BIM workflow and it can be applied at every stage of a project, including fabricationFabrication spools can be created and published in RevitThen, using programs like GTP Stratus, each fabrication spool’s status can be updated in the fabrication shop and within the Revit model.  

This software integration provides project managers a higher level of control over the coordination process, providing real-time updates on the status of each spool piece within the fabrication shop. Data are also integrated into the Revit model for easy visibility by multiple stakeholders 

As a spool moves through the shop, its status code can be updated in both Stratus and the Revit model, without the need for republishing. 

Prefabrication within Revit is simplified because team members can visualize the project site and identify clashes before they occur, allowing the team to coordinate to find solutions. Designers can create virtual mockups with specific components, enabling more precise estimating, as well as the ability to verify everything is compliant with relevant codes. Scheduling is simplified with spooling, which means keeping the project on schedule is much easier. 

Awareness of these technological advancements is only part of the BIM journey. It is through the adoption and integration of these tools that the construction industry will continue to redefine efficiencies and deliver greater value than its traditional approaches 

Laying the foundation for success 

Recent data suggests 40% of the current construction workforce will retire within five years and the industry cannot afford to lose this knowledge. Companies will have to trade in the spreadsheet for an advanced alternative sooner rather than later. As a result, being able to “do more with less” will continue to be a reality for many 

Embracing the value of integrated software platforms that enable seamless communication and real-time collaboration and decision-making will deliver enormous efficiencies. Companies will benefit if they invest in technology that streamlines these processes and thereby delivers greater productivity.  

Author Bio: Amanda Comunale is the director of virtual design and construction at Victaulic and holds an executive MBA from Case Western Reserve University. She also sits on multiple industry committees including MCAA Weblem 2.0 Task Force, Women in Supply Chain and Pipe Fitters Institute Engineering Subcommittee.