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A while back, I mentioned our desire to explore Building Information Modeling (BIM), a database which catalogs a structure throughout its life cycle in real time 3D. We felt the system would provide a value-add large enough to merit hiring someone to manage our efforts. I’m pleased to say we found the right fit.
William Byrd, a graduate of Auburn University’s Building Science program, has a long history with modeling technology. His father, the manager of a steel manufacturing company, brought home drawings of machine parts that his shop was building.
William learned the basics on their home computer, and found a passion that led him to complete his senior thesis in Construction Information Technology using BIM.
I asked him to put together a list of what BIM can do for a construction company in terms of customer benefits. Here are the areas he thinks will be most useful:
Presentation. Owners, investors and contractors can see their building taken from a 2-dimensional plane to a model. They can now “walk through” a structure that has yet to be built.
Collaboration. For architects, general contractors and owners, working together on a model gets a conversation flowing. Through BIM, all parties can begin their partnership earlier. This saves time in the long run by avoiding costly changes or mistakes.
Forecasting problems. Constructing the building virtually can aid in finding problems in the design or the constructability of a project.
Record Keeping. With a complete model, an owner can see what exactly is hidden behind a wall or a concrete slab. In renovations or repairs, this can be invaluable.
It is our belief that BIM will drive efficiency in the construction industry in the same way that AutoCAD (and equivalents) revolutionized how drawings are completed by architects and engineers. We’re confident it will give us the edge in both negotiated and hard bid work. We’re pleased to be early adopters.
I will ask William to check in occasionally, sharing thoughts on BIM upgrades and tips from along the trail. We look forward to sharing our experience.
Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email
Last week, I mentioned a partnership I’ve fostered with WP2DC, the company who designed and implemented a cloud-based application for Stewart Perry. We’ve managed to get all our internal information into an easily accessible virtual file cabinet. As a result we’ve cut out a lot of duplicated efforts.
Using a Building Information Modeling (BIM) is our next goal for being more efficient and a better resource. The American Institute of Architects defines it as a “model-based technology linked with a database of project information.” Basically, BIM catalogues a structure throughout its lifecycle in real time 3D. All the details—from design, to functionality, to construction, to operation—are accessible from one file. We had a project T’d up using BIM and because of the Recession the project was delayed. We believe that BIM will be a huge value-add for our customer relationships. That’s because, for us, BIM will:
- improve project visualization
- improve productivity with easy retrieval of information
- increase coordination of construction documents
- isolate and define scope of work
- increase delivery speed
- reduce errors
- reduce costs
BIM will allow us to harness technology to drive long-term improvement in project delivery. It’s a soup to nuts philosophy. If problems come up down the road, building owners can look at how a facility was designed, engineered and built. They can address problems with a holistic approach, often saving them tons of time and effort trying to track down the unknown.
BIM is a huge tool for establishing and continuing relationships. However, I won’t recommend BIM without a word of warning. Adaptation means you’ll have to change the way you look at building phases. There’s a lot less alpha and omega and a lot more ebb and flow. Architects, engineers, contractors and other stakeholders will be sharing more information than they’re used to. It’s more effort up front, but in the end, BIM bridges the information loss often associated with handing a project from design team to construction to owner/operator.