BIM Gaining Traction on Water and Wastewater Projects

New Dodge Data & Analytics report shows reversal of previous studies which indicated the water sector has been slower to embrace BIM than other sectors

Better design solutions, increased client satisfaction, and reduced errors and omissions on project documents are among top benefits reported.
Better design solutions, increased client satisfaction, and reduced errors and omissions on project documents are among top benefits reported.

Advanced technologies such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) are rapidly gaining traction on infrastructure projects around the world. A new report, The Business Value of BIM for Water Projects SmartMarket Report, demonstrates the industry is accelerating its implementation of BIM, a reversal of the findings of previous Dodge Data & Analytics studies on this topic, which indicated that the water sector has been slower to embrace BIM than other sectors such as transportation.

The new study was conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics in partnership with Autodesk and Black & Veatch, and with additional support from e-Builder and Pinnacle Infotech, Inc. The study reveals that BIM is improving water projects, generating higher levels of client satisfaction and improving critical aspects of the project design and delivery process.

One critical finding about the value of BIM in the water sector is its ability to enhance multi-party collaboration on project teams, a benefit that numerous Dodge Data & Analytics research studies demonstrate is having positive impacts on all types of projects around the world. Among BIM users in the water sector, improved collaboration is the top-rated business benefit, resulting in reduced errors and omissions, reduced conflicts and coordination problems, better ability to maintain quality and better communication from 3D visualization.

“Extraordinary pressure is being placed on our cities and our planet’s limited resources as the global population grows and urban areas become more crowded,” says Theo Agelopoulos, Autodesk Director of Infrastructure Industry and Business Strategy. “Understanding the value of BIM on water and wastewater facilities will allow us to build more and better facilities while using less resources, including natural and financial resources.”

BIM’s ability to enhance collaboration directly improves the level of owners’ involvement and engagement on water projects, as demonstrated in several of the five case studies included in the report. This attractive feature also likely contributes to the strong finding of increased client satisfaction on water projects where BIM is deployed.

One area where the water sector shows leadership in BIM deployment compared to other infrastructure verticals is the degree to which 3D models are being used for the operation of the completed facility and to support asset management in the US. In fact, 86 percent of respondents report that they are integrating the models with asset management, and the same percentage report using the models to support operations and maintenance (O&M) activities. While this use, especially for O&M, is still only reported on a relatively low percentage of projects, it has the potential to become a powerful driver of additional adoption.

“We view facility owners’ interest in BIM use for operations and asset management as an emerging value proposition that could drive significantly increased BIM utilization across the water sector,” says Steve Jones, Senior Director of Industry Insights Research at Dodge Data & Analytics. “As owners recognize BIM’s contribution across the facility lifecycle, it will provide them with a greater reason to mandate its use, and also be a competitive advantage for BIM-capable engineers and contractors who can not only enhance project delivery, but help owners conduct better operations and asset management for the long term.”

The study demonstrates that use of BIM for water projects is increasing in both frequency and generation of value. Current users already report deploying it for a relatively high percentage of their water or wastewater treatment facilities and mining and industrial projects. And while their implementation is currently lower for tunneling and hydroelectric projects, they expect it to increase dramatically in the next two years. 

“The value of BIM mirrors the growing importance of leveraging data in the water and wastewater industry,” says Mike Orth, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Black & Veatch’s water business in the Americas. “As the use of BIM expands, not only will owners and project delivery teams realize greater execution efficiencies, but owners will see enhanced stakeholder engagement through the unmatched visualization capabilities that the tool provides. By transitioning to digital processes and gaining simplified access to complex data, owners will continue to reap long-term benefits from BIM through its capabilities in asset management and operation and maintenance as well as the integration of projects.”