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Building information modeling: Are you ready?


Whether we are ready for it or not, the age of technology is here to stay. How we respond to the world of “big data” and evolving information systems is guaranteed to be one of the most pivotal points in every company’s history; not to mention an integral part in the long-term legacy you as a business leader leave behind.

Architectural and engineering (A/E) firms, many large construction management and general contracting firms, as well as some specialized subcontractors have started integrating Building Information Modeling (BIM) into their business processes to operate more efficiently and add value to each project they design or construct. As these pioneering entities develop a more comprehensive strategy around BIM and its functions, both construction project owners and middle market contractors can find themselves caught in the shuffle, trying to determine an appropriate level of adoption for their organization’s size and complexity.

BIM initiatives can streamline project timelines and reduce the likelihood of change orders through clash detection and better subcontractor coordination. In fact, these are just a few of the reasons why industry-leading A/E firms and commercial contractors utilize modeling on construction projects, even when the model is not contractually required.

As the economy surges back from the failures of 2007-08, more developers, public sector entities and other project owners are exploring options to upgrade to BIM-compatible project and facilities management information technology systems. Through a BIM-integrated system, owners can more efficiently coordinate repair and maintenance work at newly constructed facilities, significantly reduce work request investigation time, and have real-time access in the field to as-built documents through their tablets and smartphones.

The effective incorporation of BIM into an entity’s operations is contingent upon a multitude of factors, some of which have likely not even been contemplated yet. However, one thing is for sure, if you are not already engaging other leaders in your organization about what BIM could mean for your operations, you could be missing the boat.

Your organization’s timeline for integration of 3-D modeling into operations should not, and will not happen overnight. It is a long-term process for which you and your team should develop a systematic plan for implementation. In many cases, implementation of a new process or system is more effective when a phased approach is utilized, allowing for your team to accept changes to their everyday functions in small or medium-sized doses. Some of the key points to consider in developing a BIM integration strategy are as follows:

  • Development of strategic objectives: Figuring out specific ways that your organization can benefit from BIM is the first step in developing strategic objectives for long-term integration of modeling. Without identifying specific objectives (i.e. using BIM to conduct better subcontractor coordination, or gaining operational efficiencies from using a 3D viewer in facilities maintenance), it can be hard to get buy-in from company employees, C-suite personnel and other key stakeholders. Having specific, tangible strategic objectives can help keep your stakeholders on task, and prevent scope creep or unnecessary investigation into non-value add or off strategy topics.
  • Information technology (IT) needs assessment: Assessing the current state of your IT infrastructure is critical to determining the necessary capital outlay required to bring your organization up to speed as it relates to modeling in Revit or Autodesk, or the viewing of 3D models for use within work orders systems, energy management systems, etc. Weighing the costs and benefits of upgrading existing IT systems is an important step in determining the level of effort required to take on this type of initiative.
  • Education: Fear of change or the unknown is a primary reason why businesses tend to be regressive in their approach to developing information technologies. Internal workshops, external training and WebEx demonstrations can be some of the most effective ways to bring your team up to speed on BIM. A little information can go a long way in turning a reactionary IT strategy into a proactive one.
  • Development of an execution plan: Well-defined roles and responsibilities for the resources directly involved in the execution of your BIM strategy will help team members better understand how they fit within the process, and will help to keep them engaged. Much like any major construction endeavor; a well-defined scope, budget and schedule are also key components of your execution plan.

As owners, architects and contractors nationwide attempt to add value in an increasingly competitive market, BIM continues to prove itself as an attractive means of differentiation. The modeling process and system capabilities change and evolve with each passing day, but this shouldn’t deter organizations from developing a foundational understanding of what your future looks like…in three dimensions.


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