Beyond the costs of training and software purchase, companies must also make an investment to purchase a computer that can run a BIM model. Training costs are relatively low, because the system is intuitive. Another concern is model management. It is critical that all team members continue to make changes in the model and not just sketch them on paper.
According to Rosado, the first step when working with BIM is to determine what you want to get out of BIM. "The best way to learn about BIM is by speaking with others in your local community to determine what they are doing with BIM," said Rosado. "Determine how many are using BIM in your area and do extensive research to determine which tool is best for your firm."
It is also important to have buy-in from all levels of your firm. At Saunders Construction, they established a cross-sectional team that included estimators, project managers, project engineers, superintendents and executives to determine how to make BIM useful for all levels of the firm.
"For Saunders, our initial low-hanging fruit on BIM was collision checks, because it was beneficial to pre-construction services and in the field," said Rosado. "We began by using mechanical/electrical/plumbing, structural and architectural models to do cross checks. This greatly assisted our preconstruction and estimating team, because they were able to perform their jobs faster and more efficiently."
As with any new technology, it is not best to use BIM for the first time on a marquis project. Rosado advises that firms even model a completed project to get a feel for the software and not worry about schedule constraints. Further, Rosado recommends that BIM is not used for the first time on a remodel or reuse project. "If the original building was not modeled, it could be a very time intensive task to input all of the information into the software."
Tilt-up and BIM
Site-cast tilt-up construction is particularly well-suited for BIM. "With tilt-up, each panel has so many parts and you could view each panel as its own project," said Rosado. By using BIM, tilt-up professionals can generate lift drawings to maximize efficiencies.
One example of a BIM success story on a project is the Evie Garrett Dennis Campus, formerly known as the Green Valley Ranch E-12 Shared Campus in Denver, Colo. Denver Public Schools selected tilt-up as the construction method of choice for the 185,743-square-foot facility because of the schedule advantages the method affords. Tilt-up was four to six weeks faster than conventional steel construction.
When Saunders Construction — the general contractor for the project — secured the job, the project was already being modeled using both Revit Architecture and Revit Structure. This allowed panel shops to hit the ground running. "The design of the panels and the exterior skin really became the catalyst for the completion of the building design, as many things had to be reconciled through the panel shop drawings, including locations of embeds for structural steel members, mechanical and electrical blockouts and penetrations, window/door opening locations, etc." said Rosado. "The tilt-up shop drawing process really set the pace for the balance of the design."
Using BIM brought several advantages to the project. First, it allowed the team to view an architecturally and logistically complex project in 360 degrees and provided an integrated approach to the design for the project team. "Visualization and modeling enabled the process of accurately locating dimensionally and in elevation thousands of structural connections (embeds) within the panels," said Rosado. Second, BIM provided a rapid understanding of the architecture and structure by viewing the building in 3D and allowed Saunders Construction to correct errors before they were realized in the field, saving time and money. The architectural and structural models will be used to coordinate mechanical/electrical/plumbing design and initiate clash detection prior to installation in the field.
Rosado explains that the key to success when working with BIM is creating a good quality model that will save dividends on the backend. "Trying to work with a poor model or haphazardly creating your own is a path to disaster," said Rosado. "The productive gains, the associates time saving and eventual dollar saving is only as good as the model."