Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a collaborative process and technological tool used to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of construction projects. This set of technology processes and developments has significantly revolutionized the practices of designing, analyzing, constructing and managing construction projects (Cho et al., 2011). The concept of BIM was introduced by Prof. Charles Eastman in 1970s and has since been applied in several industries. This concept started being applied in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries in mid-2000s. The U.S. became the first country to start implementing BIM in construction industry. Many stakeholders in the construction industry are now adopting BIM because of its potential to prevent design problems during design planning stage and reduce construction costs (Aryani, et al., 2013; Masood, Kharal and Nasir, 2014). Additionally, BIM is being used to enhance collaboration and coordination among various stakeholders involved in construction projects such as clients, engineers, architects, designers, contractors and project managers.
On the other hand, implementation of BIM has been faced with a variety of challenges. In most cases, implementation of BIM has been seen as more appropriate for high risk and complex construction projects. This has made most small and medium-size contractors to be reluctant in implementing BIM because they rarely utilize information technology (IT). Also, these companies require large amount of resources to purchase BIM tools and train their employees on how to use them. Some countries have come up with strategies of overcoming these issues by providing free training, grants or incentives aimed at helping companies to training their staffs on how to use BIM. One of such countries is Malaysia, which provides grants to individuals, organizations or undergraduate students that want to receive BIM training.
Proper implementation of BIM provides beneficial opportunities to all parties involved in construction projects. BIM can increase employee productivity, efficiency and job satisfaction; prevent project delays; reduce operating cost; and increase the quality of final product developed. This report discusses various elements of BIM, including advantages and disadvantages of BIM in construction industry, and the future development of BIM in construction industry.
Construction industry is a very fragmented industry. The fragmentation results from the separation of three main phases of a construction project: design phase, construction phase and operational or use phase. In most cases, contractors are not fully involved in design phase, which results into numerous problems during the construction phase (Nawi, Baluch and Bahauddin, 2014). Also, final users of the structure built are not involved in the design or construction phases hence they do not understand how to use the structure effectively and efficiently. The industry is also fragmented because it involves stakeholders from different sectors and professional fields (Scott, 2014) who come together for the purposes of executing the project at hand. For example, mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) projects within the construction industry bring together manufacturers, suppliers/vendors, mechanical contractors, electrical contractors, plumbers, designers, engineers, consultants, surveyors and laborers, among others. These individuals have varied levels of knowledge, skills and perspectives thus it is quite challenging to bring them together and ensure that they work as one team. This fragmentation makes it very difficult for the key stakeholders involved in a construction project to identify problems that may affect the project at any stage and solve them jointly and instantaneously. According to Pringle (2012), construction industry is fragmented, inefficient, no-client focused, uncoordinated and expensive, making it very difficult to solve existing and emerging issues. Fragmentation is very costly in construction industry hence there is great need to integrate construction teams and processes so that they are focused on completing a project within the planned schedule and budget and create and increase value by meeting the client’s needs (Construction Task Force, 2014). One of the most effective and efficient strategies of overcoming this fragmentation is use of BIM. This is because BIM integrates various activities of construction projects thus minimizing fragmentation problems (Haron, Marshall-Ponting and Aouad, 2009; Blanco and Chen, 2014).
BIM is among the recent developments that are modernizing the AEC industry. The BIM technology makes it possible to digitally and accurately construct a virtual building model called building information model. This model is used to help on how the building is planned, designed, constructed and operated. This helps architects, designers, engineers, clients and contractors to visualize the product that has to be built hence being able to identify possible issues that may arise during the design stage, construction stage or operational stage of the project. The building information model comprises of relevant data and precise geometry required to enable efficient design, procurement or tendering, fabrication or manufacture and construction (Eastman et al., 2008). After the building has been constructed, the building information model continues to be used to ensure that the building is efficiently operated and maintained. Therefore BIM technology is applicable throughout the building’s lifecycle. The technology facilitates integration of all stakeholders involved in a construction project.
Some of the reasons why BIM has become a major development in AEC industry are because the technology is capable of increasing productivity, reducing project cost, decreasing project delivery time and increasing final quality of the product developed. These are the key objectives of any construction project hence BIM users in a better position to achieve all of them (Azhar et al., 2008). Some of the projects that have implemented using BIM and attained its significant benefits are: Aquarium Hilton Garden Inn project; Emory Psychology Building project; The Mansion on Peachtree project; and Savannah State University project. All these projects are located in Georgia, U.S. (Azhar, 2011).
BIM characterizes various elements of the project including: geometry, geographical information, 3-D or spatial relationships, building elements’ properties and quantities, project schedule, material inventories, and cost estimates. This makes it easier to extract properties and quantities of materials, isolate and define scope of project works, show relative scale of systems, sequences and assemblies, and interrelate construction documents including drawings, specifications, submittal processes, procurement details and payment requests. This means that BIM combines all important systems, disciplines and aspects of a building project in one virtual model. This makes it easier for the project team to efficiently and accurately access necessary data and information to perform their roles and collaborate with other stakeholders. Most importantly is that all these members (owners, engineers, architects, consultants, suppliers, contractors and subcontractors) are involved in creating, refining and changing the virtual model so as to meet the project goals and objectives (Azhar, 2011).
There are varied levels of BIM implementation in different parts of the world. One of the reasons for this is varied levels of knowledge and confidence in BIM adoption among stakeholders involved in construction projects (Gu and London, 2010). After realizing the benefits of BIM in construction industry, many countries have started making it compulsory for construction companies to implement BIM when executing a project. Such countries include United Kingdom (UK), U.S., Singapore, Norway, Denmark, Hong Kong, Finland, Australia and Malaysia, among others. During bidding or tendering process, construction companies are required to prove and guarantee that they will adopt BIM when executing the project. In 2011, a report was published by the UK Cabinet Office making it mandatory for BIM to be used when executing government projects by 2016 (Allison, 2015). It meant that use of BIM was a major requirement for companies interested in executing government construction projects. This was part of the plans by the UK government to revolutionize the construction industry and reduce at least 20% of costs used in constructing and operating new buildings. Since 2007, the Malaysian government, through the Public Works Department, has been promoting implementation of BIM through various initiatives such as establishment of BIM Committee and BIM Unit Project (Latiffi, Mohd and Brahim, 2015).
Uses of BIM in Construction Industry
As aforementioned, BIM is applicable in all stages of construction projects, including pre-construction, construction and post-construction phases. During pre-construction phase, BIM is used for modeling of existing conditions, planning the project, designing the project, scheduling the project activities, estimating the costs of the project, and analyzing the site. During construction phase, BIM is used to integrate and coordinate all construction activities. During post-construction phase, BIM is used for enhancing operations and management of facilities. The key uses of BIM are discussed below
Visualization: BIM s used to generate 3D renderings making it easier for stakeholders to predict how the facility will look like, be built, used and maintained efficiently and effectively.
Shop drawings and fabrication: BIM is used for generating shop drawings of different facility elements and systems.
Code reviews: BIM is used to review various elements and systems of the facility to ensure that they comply with the local building codes and standards, such as fire codes.
Cost estimation: BIM has built-in features used for cost estimation. This makes it easier to extract and update material quantities automatically.
Construction sequencing: BIM is used to effectively coordinate all processes and schedules of construction projects, including fabrication, material ordering and delivery, and construction activities.
Conflict detection: BIM is used to detect any interference that may be created by a facility element and clashes arising among the project team. Identifying these conflicts and interferences helps in solving them before they occur or augment.
Forensic analysis: BIM is used to detect potential leaks or failures of the facility, and other systems and procedures such as evacuation plans.
Facilities management: BIM is used to facilitate operations of the facility and ensure proper space planning, renovations, and maintenance and repair operations (Virtual Building Studios, 2016).
Purposes of BIM
According to Kreider and Messner (2013), BIM has five key purposes. These purposes are discussed as follows:
This entails collecting or organizing information about the facility during different phases of the facility’s lifecycle. The main purposes of gathering this information are: capturing, quantifying, monitoring and qualifying. Capturing involves collecting attribute and geometric data of the facility so as to know the current status of the facility and its elements. Quantifying is about collecting or measuring the specific amount of various elements of the facility so as to be used in cost estimation. Monitoring involves observing the performance of various elements, systems or processes of the facility. Qualifying is about identifying, tracking or characterizing the status of the facility elements.
This involves creating information about various elements of the facility at different stages of its lifecycle. The main purposes of generating are: prescribing, arranging, and sizing. Prescribing entails establishing the need for various facility elements and selecting the specific elements that are most suitable to serve the intended purpose. Arranging involves determining the exact locations, layouts or configurations of various elements of the facility. Sizing comprises determining the scale and magnitude of different elements of the facility. This may include size and shape of ductwork and beams, insulation thickness, size of rooms, etc.
This entails examining the facility elements so as to understand them better and determining their viability. The main purposes of analyzing are: forecasting, coordinating and validating. Forecasting is about predicting the facility elements’ future performance. The factors that BIM can predict include energy flow and consumption, water supply and consumption, maintenance needs, financial (lifecycle costs), temporal and scenario. Coordinating involves establishing ways of ensuing that facility elements function efficiently and in coherently. Validating encompasses confirming the accuracy of information provided about the facility to ensure that it is rational and consistent.
This is about presenting information about the facility in a manner that enables easy exchange or sharing among all stakeholders involved. The main purposes of communication include: visualizing, transforming, drawing and documentation. Visualization entails creating facility’s realistic representations. Transforming is about modifying information about the facility and translating to ensure compatibility with the preceding processes. Drawing entails making facility’s symbolic representations. Documentation involves creating records of data or information about the facility. This includes specifications, design schedules, submittals, etc.
This involves use of facility information to control or make a physical element. The objectives of realizing are: fabricating, assembling, controlling and regulating. Fabricating involves use of information about the facility to manufacture the facility. Assembling entails use of information about the facility to combine and integrate separate facility elements. Controlling is about using information about the facility to influence executing equipment’s operation. Regulating involves use of information about the facility to optimize the facility’s operation.
BIM Tools Used in Construction Industry
BIM is both a technological tool or software and process (Price, Demian and Ahmad, 2012; Eastman et al., 2011). This is because BIM technology entails use of 3D intelligent models and changing project delivery and workflow processes (Hardin, 2009). There are various BIM tools, each designed to perform a unique function. These tools are mainly designed to improve accuracy, reliability, usability, communication and collaboration among parties involved in construction projects. The following are examples of BIM tools used in construction industry
Revit Architecture: this tool is used by architects for designing plans of different elements of the building such as walls, roofs, doors and staircases.
Revit Structural: this tool is used by structural engineers for performing structural design and analysis of the building. This is done by creating a building model using fundamental components of the foundation, columns, beams and walls (Autodesk, 2012).
Revit MEP: the tool is mainly used by mechanical engineers for creating or designing models of pipes and ducts, and to have a better understanding of the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Electrical engineers also use Revit MEP tool for modeling location of light fixtures and creating wiring and circuits. The tool is also used by plumbers to create models on how the water supply systems and fixtures will be installed and used in the building. All these models can be created in 2D or 3D, making it easier for the engineers to visualize how they will install the systems (Elvin, 2007). The tool is usually used by project managers for creating multidiscipline models that optimize and encourage scheduling, detect and manage conflicts, and boost collaboration between the design team (architects, MEP engineers and structural engineers) and contractors. This kind of collaborations helps the team to identify potential problems and solve them before they happen.
Cost X: this is an estimating tool developed by Exactal. The tool is specially designed for construction industry. It is efficient in estimating process of material quantities by use of computer aided design (CAD) drawing files (Exactal, 2013). It comprises of several extra features such as unique and advanced revision and viewing tools that increase the speed and accuracy of quantity takeoff.
Other BIM tools include: Vico, Autodesk, Bentley, Tekla, Navisworks, Vectorworks, and ArchiCAD, among others.
Factors Hindering Adoption of BIM in Construction Industry
Even though BIM has numerous potential benefits, there are several other factors that hinder its implementation in the construction industry, specifically when executing MEP projects. Below are some of these barriers:
Lack of support from top management and policy makers
This is a major barrier because BIM can only be implemented if the top management of companies and relevant policy makers provide adequate support to the process (Liu, Issa and Olbina, 2012). The top management and policy makers should provide the necessary resources, incentives, guidelines and motivation towards adopting BIM.
Insufficient awareness and knowledge
Another factor hindering adoption of BIM is lack of adequate awareness and knowledge about BIM. There are many people who are not aware of how BIM is used, its benefits, and risks. Others willing to adopt BIM do not even know where they should start from. All these hinders adoption of BIM.
High initial implementation costs
Adopting BIM requires a substantial amount of money for purchasing BIM software, installing it, upgrading existing computer hardware and probably hiring new staffs to oversee the adoption process and maintenance (Hosseini et al., 2015). Very few companies are willing to spend this money so as to adopt BIM.
Adoption of BIM can only be possible if employees are adequately trained so as to understand the way the technology works and how to use it effectively. There are few BIM experts to provide the training, and the training also requires significant amount of money and time. These requirements hinder adoption of BIM in construction industry.
Resistance to change
Adoption of BIM requires a complete change in design process and workflows (McCartney, 2010). Many MEP engineers and other stakeholders in the construction are reluctant to allow this total overhaul and therefore they are quick to resist BIM adoption. The reason for this is because BIM adoption will affect productivity of the company or individuals. Also, construction industry is generally slow to adopting new changes or technologies even when they are very important.
Unavailability of codes, guidelines and standards
Adoption of BIM is also affected by lack of codes, guidelines and standards that provide a framework or procedures on how the technology should be adopted. Lack of these codes and guidelines make some people to doubt whether BIM meets the required engineering standards.
Interoperability and incompatibility problems
These are major problems affecting implementation of BIM because it has been found that some BIM software are not compatible with each other (Amor, 2008; Lockley et al., 2013). In some cases, BIM users can lose very essential data when they integrate different BIM packages together (Constructing Excellence, 2008). This discourages many new users from adopting BIM.
Lack of demand
Adoption of BM is also hindered by the fact that some stakeholders in construction industry can attain most of the benefits of BIM using other technologies and methods, including traditional methods. For this reason, they do not see the need to adopt BIM.
Advantages of BIM in building, information and management
The following are some of the advantages of BIM:
Reduces project delivery time
BIM helps all project members to share files, data, information and opinions at all stages of the project. This helps in identifying and correcting errors, detecting and resolving conflicts, avoiding delays and preventing reworks. All these reduces the total project delivery time.
This is a major benefit of BIM because it enables all stakeholders involved in the project to share files and information from wherever they are at any time. All these stakeholders have unlimited access to all documents and they can see any changes made to the project. This enhances collaboration among the stakeholders because they constantly communicate and share ideas irrespective of their geographical locations.
Increases accuracy of cost estimation
BIM software has built-in features that are used for taking measurements of various facility elements and quantifying them more accurately. This helps in estimating the total cost of the project more precisely. As a result of this, there is very minimal difference (if any) between the estimated cost and actual cost of the project.
Avoids construction budget overruns
There are several reasons for this. One of the reasons is because BIM estimates quantities and costs of all facility elements very precisely. Another reason is because BIM facilitates proper scheduling of activities, assigning of roles and coordination and collaboration of all parties. This ensures that all activities are done within the planned budget and schedule thus avoiding cost overruns.
Enables simulation and visualization
BIM software comprises of simulation tools that are used by designers for visualizing various elements of the facility such as energy flow and consumption when the facility is in use. This kind of simulation is used by engineers to analyze the expected performance of the facility and how to optimize it. With simulation and visualization, BIM allows stakeholders to have a virtual feel of how the facility will perform before it is actually built. The simulation and visualization also helps stakeholders to plan properly and identify any possible problems in the preceding stages of the project lifecycle (Azhar, Hein and Sketo, 2014).
Avoids errors and design problems
There are various BIM tools that are specially designed for structural design and analysis. These tools are very effective in designing facility elements in accordance with desired specifications. Additionally, BIM enables different members to analyze the designs, identify any errors and make recommendations on appropriate changes. In general, BIM enables earlier identification of any problems, which makes it easier to correct them. This also prevents making design changes during construction stage, which saves money and time (Rodriguez, 2016).
Clash detection and conflict resolution
One of the key aspects of BIM is that it facilitates collaboration among all parties involved in a project. These parties share common goals and support each towards attainment of these goals. As a result, it becomes very easy to detect clashes/conflicts among the parties and resolve them amicably because there is trust, effective communication and mutual understanding among the parties.
Improve quality of final product
BIM improves quality because it enables accurate designs and analyses, precise measurement takeoffs and ease of project implementation. With BIM, key stakeholders are able to monitor and control all activities hence ensuring that everything is done in accordance with the required engineering standards and client needs.
BIM facilitates continuous sharing of important data and information throughout the project lifecycle. This prevents drawings duplication and reworks. Building information model also provides precise quantities of materials needed for construction, which reduces wastes. Also, the model allocates duties appropriately helping members to perform their specific roles. All these reduces wastes and saves both time and money.
BIM saves money in a wide range of ways such as waste reduction, rework prevention, precise measurement takeoffs, delay prevention, etc. All these helps in completing the project within the schedule and below the budget. It also saves money during post-construction because it facilitates optimized designs that use resources more efficiently.
BIM brings together all stakeholders who share data and information easily. These stakeholders are able to coordinate on how each stage of the project will be completed more quickly and cost effectively. They know the sequence of all steps from start to finish of the project.
Increases client satisfaction
Most clients get satisfied with the final product developed using BIM. This is because the clients are involved throughout the project, which allows them to give their opinions on what they want. The clients also benefit from reduced costs and completion of the project within the schedule.
Therefore BIM is beneficial to all stakeholders in the construction industry, including clients or owners, architects, structural engineers, construction managers, manufacturers of building products, fabricators, MEP engineers, general contractors, and specialty contractors.
Disadvantages of BIM in building, information and management
High initial costs
Use of BIM requires a substantial amount of money to purchase the BIM software, hire BIM experts, training existing employees on how to use BIM, upgrade existing IT systems, and maintain the entire system (Alinea Consulting, 2016). In most cases, this initial cost is very high for many companies. Because of the high cost and economies of scale, some companies opt to outsource BIM instead of installing IM system (Ireland, 2010).
Shortage of experts
BIM is relatively new in the construction industry and among MEP engineers. As a result, BIM experts are few and cannot meet the demand in construction industry if all companies had to use the technology. Because of this, users have to use a lot of resources in training their staffs on how to use and maintain BIM technology or platform (Mineer, 2015).
Incompatibility among stakeholders
This is a major disadvantage of BIM because stakeholders in the construction industry have varied levels of knowledge and expertise in relation to use of BIM. It is very common to find that some stakeholders are familiar with use of BIM while others have no idea about it. For example, architects and designers may be willing to use BIM whereas contractors and subcontractors do not know how to use the BIM platform. This makes it difficult to use BIM, which results into incompatibility problems among stakeholders.
It can also be time consuming to use BIM especially at the start because all members have to be trained on how to use various BIM tools and the BIM platform as a whole. As stated before, BIM is a relatively new technology in the construction industry hence not all parties know how to use it. This initial training may derail the project.
Technological, cultural and behavioral change
Use of BIM involves significant technological, cultural and behavioral changes within the company (Dodge Data & Analytics, 2017). This means that some of the values and mode of operation of the company have to be changed. This disruption is not as easy as it may sound, and can affect the productivity of staffs and overall performance of the company (Construction Law Signal, 2010).
Future Development of BIM in construction industry
The basic concept of BIM is to create a virtual facility or building before constructing it physically, so as to detect and solve problems, and simulate and scrutinize possible impacts (Smith, 2007). This makes it possible to exercise construction, use trials and make necessary changes before the project is actualized (Kymmel, 2008). BIM has proved to be very beneficial to MEP projects and the construction industry as a whole. For this reason, BIM is expected to continue impacting the construction industry in the future. More stakeholders in the industry are expected to adopt BIM and capitalize on its benefits.
One of the future developments of BIM is establishing international BIM codes and standards. These codes will provide a framework of using BIM in the construction industry. BIM codes and standards will significantly reduce or eliminate legal issues and liability related to use of BIM. They will also make BIM to be more acceptable across the world.
It is also expected that new BIM models will be developed. These models are expected to be more efficient and help users to save more money and time when executing projects using BIM. The demand for BIM models is also expected to increase (Whiteoak, 2012).
Additionally, it is expected that governments and private organizations will put in place comprehensive measures aimed at promoting adoption of BIM. Governments will continue supporting use of BIM especially in the construction industry so as to save more money and other resources within the industry. Some of the strategies expected to be used include incentives and tax reliefs for companies using BIM. The requirement for all stakeholders in construction industry to use BIM is expected to be made compulsory in most parts of the world.
It is also expected that more focus is going to be put on how to use BIM in reducing emissions throughout the lifecycle of a building facility. There are a lot of emissions associated with pre-construction, construction and post-construction phases of a facility. These emissions are a big threat to global population and significantly contribute to climate change. Therefore BIM is expected to play a key role in reducing emissions in the construction industry.
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