Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been a buzz word in the industry for the past decade. In 2011, 13 percent of people in the building industry were aware of and using BIM. That rose to 62 percent in 2017, according to the National BIM Report 2017 published by NBS. The number of industry professionals who were neither aware of nor using BIM decreased from 43 percent in 2011 to only 3 percent in 2017.

Scott Adams, director of virtual design and construction at Ghafari Associates, led a webinar called Leveraging BIM and Virtual Reality (VR) for Project Efficiencies, hosted by Engineering News Record, in order to address some of the ways BIM is being underused.

“BIM is not just a 3-D software. One of the goals of BIM is to make it easier to illustrate models, but using it only for the 3-D aspects is not taking full advantage of its abilities,” said Adams. “It’s also not just a production tool; that process doesn’t happen overnight. Using BIM should bring value to all parties throughout the life cycle of the project.”

According to Adams, one way BIM improves project efficiency is by allowing people in each step of the process to share modeling to ensure that misaligned understanding can be corrected before the problem becomes costly.

There are several BIM options for companies, and it’s important to find out which one will work best.

“If you’re not putting intelligence into BIM, you’re not going to get the value and efficiencies you want. You should have teams study what they can bring to the project through different BIM systems and how to leverage them so the system will stay in place long term,” he said.

Seventy-three percent of a building’s budget goes toward operation and maintenance. If used properly, BIM documents the story of the building, and can be useful even after the project is complete.

“As an industry we’re falling short in getting BIM to the client,” said Adams. “We need to pass on the model to those who are responsible for the continued management of the building – only 26 percent of companies are doing so now, according to the National BIM Report 2017. The industry has to move past focusing on construction only to see the true savings of BIM. This requires collaboration by all parties during all stages of a project.”

According to the report, 72 percent of clients don’t understand the benefits of BIM, and only 33 percent trust what they’re hearing about BIM.

“Only 42 percent of projects are using Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie). Fifty-eight percent aren’t because the client isn’t specifically asking for it in the contract. What we should be doing is asking the question and informing the client about the benefits of long-term information, and maybe offer up training about it,” said Adams.

He explained that to add to the confusion, many clients send proposal requests saying they want to leverage BIM, but ask to deliver computer-aided design (CAD) files as the end deliverable, meaning the BIM information wouldn’t be leveraged throughout the lifecycle of the project.

Before BIM, firms had to use multiple software platforms to manage projects. With BIM, firms can complete real energy analysis models or calculations without having to use a secondary or third-party software. Adams suggests taking each building material into account on the front end of the project, allowing each team access to the information they need.

“If you front load the model with known information you can start the building material take-off sheets directly from same data,” said Adams.

BIM also builds safety into projects.

“It increases off-site fabrication, creates less jobsite clutter and traffic and allows for better coordination and fewer lifts in the building at the same time,” said Adams.

Once a project is complete, renovations can be completed easier because BIM can show a team exactly where the material in question is located, rather than field teams having to search the site.

“Bar coding is a useful tool because it allows you to know where every object is supposed to go, rather than having binders of information that can get lost,” said Adams.