Anticipating a BIM Boom

The numbers don’t lie – 2009 was an incredibly tough year for the global construction industry. Spending in construction fell by a seemingly improbable 12.4 percent while every single state as well as the District of Columbia lost construction jobs. While employing approximately five percent of the nation’s workforce, fully 20 percent of recession-related job losses were in construction. These happenings were unprecedented and proof of the industry’s tumultuous year.
The troubles aren’t likely to dissipate this year and those looking for a huge recovery will be disappointed. The Associated General Contractors of America recently conducted a survey of 700 of its members on their outlook for the industry in 2010. The results were overwhelmingly negative with 90 percent indicating there will be no recovery this upcoming year.
Yet despite these grim facts, all hope is not lost for those in the construction industry. For one, the federal stimulus has kicked in and raised the level of publicly funded projects. Also the AGC’s Chief Economist Ken Simonson reports the costs of building materials are at an all-time low, meaning now is a good time to build.
How does technology fit into the recovery? Building Information Modeling (BIM), as well as other industry-specific technologies, is proving to be effective time-savers and bring a whole new meaning to collaborative effort. If any company needs a reason to smile in 2010, look no further than BIM.
According to the official definition supplied by the AGC, BIM is “the process of generating and managing a building information model through the use of three-dimensional, intelligent design information.” Its presence is nothing new in the industry; it’s been around since the late 1980s.
However, only recently has BIM begun to emerge as an industry favorite. For many in the industry BIM represents a tremendous way to cut time by early problem identification. S3H, Inc., a pre-construction specialist in Las Vegas, NV, utilizes its expertise in BIM to deliver cost-effective HVAC and plumbing solutions, in particular used it for this reason.
“We have used BIM from Day One. It allows us to work with the project design and construction team and identify problems early, such as potential clashes with other building trades. You have all the information before you start. It’s a lot cheaper to identify and fix problems on paper than it is to fix them during construction,” says President Vatche Sarkoyan.
According to Sarkoyan, the process eliminates the need for Superintendents to trouble-shoot in the field, which can decrease productivity, be inefficient and is demoralizing.
One who agrees with Sarkoyan is CEO David Cullen of JP Cullen & Sons of Janesville, WI, who says BIM helped save a two-phase renovation of the 1917 historic Sterling Hall at the University of Wisconsin.
“We are the general contractor and there are separate prime contractors. We got behind during the first phase and it was a significant problem. Then we came on board with BIM and worked with the other contractors to bring back the Landscape Consultant Indonesia schedule and materials movement. They’ve commented that bringing BIM on saved the project,” says Cullen.
As much of an impact as current versions of BIM have on today’s contractors and construction companies, constant improvements to its capabilities will leave an even greater mark on the industry. Like any other technology, many companies have gone through generations and generations of software to improve and refine BIM.
Recently, one software company that makes a version of BIM – various developers produce different variations of BIM software – has made recent improvements to increase efficiency. According to Tekla, its latest Northern Construction Palmer Ma BIM software includes an improved solution for cast-in-place concrete design and detailing, better IFC data exchange, better utilization of reference models and improved numbering and model publishing tools.
New versions of BIM software, such as Tekla’s latest, are also helping designers, engineers and architects push towards greener building. “Moving towards a greener installation is a small step forward but still part of the bigger sustainability benefits that implementing BIM can bring to construction,” stated Risto R?�ty, Tekla’s Executive Vice President.
In addition to newer, better versions of BIM software, the industry’s acceptance of this technology have gone even further. Many companies, such as Ameri-CAD out of Allen, TX, have begun offering BIM implementation and consulting services. Ameri-CAD offers analysis, implementation, training, support, and services.
Meanwhile, the AGC is on board with BIM. In March the association is offering a BIM 101 Convention in Orlando. At this convention, various BIM experts will explain what the technology is, what its benefits are and they’ll help attendees implement it for their own companies.
With all this happening and much more, it’s likely that 2010 will not only be the year of the Tiger, but the year of the BIM.