Challenges of a Next-Generation Builder: Optimizing BIM

Construction delivery methods within the United States are not efficient, incentivizing a culture of redundancy, over-design, and construction change orders

In an increasingly abbreviated AEC industry, it’s worth expanding on a key acronym: BIM. The building information model is now fundamental to a company’s business prospects in a collaborative, tech-centric economy. Advanced implementation of BIM, however, remains untapped.

Some benefits are obvious. BIM-enabled builders can leverage a 3D model to provide services like 3D visuals, clash detection, cost estimates, 4D animated schedules and material takeoffs for their projects. These individual deliverables are valuable, but represent only a baseline level of BIM maturity.

To achieve a sophisticated common-data environment and streamline construction, builders, architects, engineers, consultants and contractors require a common strategy. This strategy requires a renewed investment in people and processes to overcome larger obstacles within construction.

People

The construction industry is an aging sector. Over 400,000 skilled workers will be reaching retirement age over the next ten years. This projection, coupled with an estimated 182,000 additional jobs over the next five years and a quickly maturing digital economy signals a crippling shortage of skilled talent. While there is no shortage of BIM tools – Revit, Tekla, ArchiCAD, Navisworks, to name a few – there are not enough new industry professionals to use them. In 2016, the most commonly cited struggle for construction companies was finding professionals with the necessary BIM training.

“Not only has the construction industry struggled to appeal to a younger, more technologically savvy workforce, but during the economic downturn, many companies opted not to bring in younger, newer talent,” says Tom Menk, an assurance partner with BDO’s national real estate and construction practice.

A mere eight percent of organizations within the construction industry consider themselves as “cutting-edge” with only another 20 percent “aggressively rethinking” their construction services and business model, according to the 2016 Global Construction Survey by KPMG.

For forward-thinking companies, this shift implies a high-tech focus on analytics, assemblage, and metrics-based coordination, enabling project teams to proactively address design issues before they escalate on site. With a rise in architectural complexity, contractors must evolve from trade-based skill to BIM-based proficiency. 

Process

The prevailing form of project delivery, design-bid-build, is losing traction. In its place are collaborative BIM-centric approaches including the most cited methods of design-build and integrated project delivery (IPD). 

It’s no secret. Construction delivery methods within the United States are not efficient, incentivizing a culture of redundancy, over-design and construction change orders. For example, an industry-standard of 7.5 percent of total project costs in change orders is expected. This inefficiency comes at the expense of the overall project delivery and consequently the owner’s pocket. To minimize delays and cost-overruns, think of how we now draft documents.

Consider Google Docs. A completely web-based and easy-to-access platform that allows multiple users to edit a word processing document – character by character – at the same time. When optimized, BIM is much more than a 3D-based technology, it’s an entirely integrated  process that encourages project teams to collaborate in real-time. When the architect adjusts an interior partition, for example, the mechanical engineer is immediately made aware by simply “synchronizing” their model, enabling the ductwork to follow suit. Similarly, when the plumbing design conflicts with electrical conduits, engineers can make the necessary adjustments instantly. Lag time and “information silos” are dramatically reduced.

Organizations that fully embrace this approach, ensuring that all designers and builders are properly executing, improve the overall quality of a project by delivering faster, reducing waste and ultimately lowering costs.

Jose Cruz is Director, Virtual Design and Construction at UA Builders Group. He may be reached at uabuildersgroup.com.