Maximizing project delivery through BIM coordination and integration

By fully understanding BIM, identifying how it will be used on a project, and adding additional modeling tools to maximize its utility, design and construction teams can maximize project delivery.


Learning objectives

  • Understand the differences between a traditional Revit building model and BIM.
  • Explain the ways in which different project delivery methods can impact using BIM.
  • Explore the benefits of add-on software that is available to expand the power of BIM.

Owners, consultants, and contractors often agree that BIM is the right approach for coordinating a project from design through operation. But maximizing the integration of this powerful tool requires a mutual understanding of what BIM is and how the design and construction team intends to work within the model.

Some teams use an Autodesk 3-D model as a coordination tool and depend on conventional drawings of elevations and generic content that is not reflective of the actual conditions. A BIM, on the other hand, includes information linked to model elements to provide a deeper level of project-specific design data, specifications, and even operation and maintenance procedures. This allows design, construction, and facility personnel to delve into the model and use it as a tool that reflects the building's true design. Another useful feature of a 3-D model is that elevations and sections can be created and viewed at any location in the model.

Figure 1: A high-level blocking model, such as the one shown above, is often used to show early concepts for massing/stacking, system design, and space allocations based on programmatic information, the budget, and preliminary meetings with the client. Courtesy: IMEGWith a classic Revit delivery, the model to coordinate disciplines will show the building's structural components elements, and ceiling heights, but the elevation elements may or may not be shown. Some disciplines only use elevations as supplementary drafting detail of the model. This can cause omissions or clashes if not clearly communicated upfront in regard to the expectations of how the model is built. Coordination reviews require toggling between many detail sheets and elevations to see the entire scope of the model. Chasing these references makes it harder for the design team, the constructors, and owner to see and understand the design intent. Incorrectly tagged references-a common occurrence-lead to misleading design intent altogether. Additionally, when miscellaneous metals are not included on the base model, coordinating ductwork and risers becomes much more difficult.

Conversely, with BIM, the wall elevations are linked from the model so all of the content is visible to the rest of the team and is located in one place. This method increases efficiency, ensures the work is integrated into the design, and makes it easier for the design team, constructors, and owner to review design intent on the screen without toggling between many sheets. In addition, mechanical, electrical, and technology in-wall devices can be placed more accurately during design because the model also includes furniture, casework, and other architectural details to more clearly depict elevations, device orientations, and design intent. 

Delivery method affects BIM

The project delivery method also can have an impact on the characteristics and intended use of BIM. The BIM deliverable may take a different form in a design-bid-build project versus a design-build project. Yet another version of the model may emerge when integrated project delivery (IPD) is used, in which all stakeholders cooperatively work through a project seeking speed to market, constructibility, and cost control—and all hold some form of contractual accountability.

Design-bid-build projects

In a design-bid-build project, disciplines design with a BIM platform, using competitively biddable construction documents that incorporate the owner's program requirements, which are developed through a series of user group meetings. The intent is to provide a design based on the project budget, potentially with milestone cost checks from a third party to verify the project is staying within the construction budget. The design of the technical components with this model is based on the judgment of the design professionals and input from the owner. This model will typically only show basic design intent and will assign the constructors the task of enhancing the base model into a coordinated and integrated delivery package for field fabrication.

Design-build projects

In a design-build project, the design team is usually assigned to work under a construction manager. Within this deliverable, the owner, constructors, and design team are all active design participants during the construction document process. Owner user group meetings still occur during the design development, but with this deliverable model, the constructors can provide real-time feedback about decisions that can cause construction budget issues. Options can be presented to maintain design intent, but they might use different materials or means and methods to maintain the project budget. Therefore, the model's specifications are collaboratively modified to reflect the changes and maintain model integration. With this model, major construction subcontractors are brought in early so the bidding time is reduced and the owner can make the decisions to proceed faster, which can save several weeks in the bidding and construction period.

IPD projects

Figure 2: This drawing shows the start of a structural model with HVAC shafts and major equipment locations. Courtesy: IMEGAn IPD project is similar to the design-build process except that a construction budget is set at the beginning and is contractually binding. All parties have a financial stake in the project's success, from the construction budget to the construction time frame. As this BIM deliverable has financial incentives as well as penalties, it promotes cooperation and collaboration from all parties to provide a design that is integrated, at or under budget, and able to forecast unforeseen circumstances that often slow down construction.

Regardless of the project delivery method, architects, engineers, and specialty consultants can optimize their ability to efficiently meet the project goals by working within a shared and mutually understood BIM. Being able to share these models frequently or in real time enhances integration and communication, allowing the design team to correct their course early instead of later in design or during construction. 

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