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The Best of BIM is Yet to be Discovered

BIM 4DRecently I flipped on the Speed Channel to catch the Formula 1 race in Bulgaria. The first shot I saw was of a dozen members of the Ferrari factory team all huddled around a wall of six flat panel monitors that were producing a constant feed of information. The mass amount of data informs everyone from the crew chief to the tire supplier about the performance of the race car and the driver’s vitals, while comparing it to the computer models that were fed into the unit months before the race began. It is fascinating to think about how far auto racing has come and the impact computers have had.  Today, all car design, fabrication techniques, and testing take place in the virtual world before the car is rolled onto the track.

During the early dawn of racing, fatalities were high, design happened at the English wheel, and R&D took place during the race.  You hoped the car, driver, and team would hold it together to win, and then hopefully you would try to apply what you learned this week to next week’s race.  

To me the early days of auto racing sound like the recent era of construction:

  • Hoping the design that was put together really works so you can finish the job without costly errors and losses. 
  • Leaving the final design details in the hands of the field crews. 
  • Figuring you will make it up on the next job and caulk it up to “lessons learned.”  

No different than auto racing, these types of challenges were the catalyst for the development of Building Information Modeling (BIM), and now the A/E/C industry is in the process of making the leap into the virtual world of design and construction.

According to a recent article, “The Tide is Shifting in Favor of BIM Technology,” only 31 percent of companies are using BIM in tandem with CAD and no one is solely relying on BIM as the tool of choice. As more architects, subcontractors, and suppliers realize the benefits of BIM technology, the use will explode into areas that we have not even imagined. Some current areas that are evolving as BIM continues its growth as the standard in the industry are BIM 4D, 5D, 6D, and 7D.

  • BIM 4D is the integration of the project schedule, phasing, and sequencing into the building model. This can be tied into material shipments to ensure the right products are on the right job site at the right time.
  • BIM 5D is the integration of project cost into the design. This provides all team members current, accurate, and live data as it relates to the project budget. 
  • BIM 6D introduces the facilities and energy management component into the model. Long after the contractor, subcontractors, and suppliers are gone the building will take on a life of its own. Over the life of a building, roughly 80 percent of the cost represents operations and upkeep while only 20 percent represents the actual cost of the building.
  • BIM 7D starts to pull into the model the idea of life safety within the building.

What’s the next big benefit of utilizing BIM in the A/E/C industry?  How will any of these four components revolutionize the industry? The opportunities are endless, however until a majority of the industry is utilizing BIM as the standard for design, everyone is going to be stuck doing R&D on race day.