After decades of declining productivity, the facility design and construction industry is beginning to benefit from powerful technologies that are poised to transform the way we design, construct and operate buildings. These technologies are commonly referred to as “BIM,” the acronym for Building Information Modeling. I personally prefer VDC, or Virtual Design and Construction, but let’s stick with BIM for the sake of conformity.
The benefits of BIM are so compelling that they have ushered in whole new project delivery methods, relationships and workflows. Many A/E firms and construction companies have begun to embrace BIM, and are seeing substantial improvements in productivity, construction quality, budget and schedule control.
At the heart of BIM is 3D computer modeling, which greatly enhances the ability of project stakeholders to visualize, collaborate and coordinate their efforts toward the shared goal of completing a project efficiently. Construction prefabrication, decreased materials waste, and enhanced energy modeling applications all dovetail nicely with virtual models. The lifecycle view of the sustainability world also rings true with BIM, as the model is well-suited for use as a virtual, real-time, as-built owner’s manual, throughout the lifecycle of the facility. Thus the marriage of BIM and sustainability is a potential virtuoso performance in the making.
As facility owners and managers have become savvier of the opportunities for cost savings and operational efficiencies afforded by BIM, they have moved towards mandating that their new facilities utilize BIM, just as many have with LEED. Because “BIM” means various things to differing parties, those owners who have also established standards to define processes, requirements and protocols, have realized the greatest benefits. In doing so, they have defined a roadmap that should not only produce a better, cheaper, faster facility, but also deliver a final, as-built BIM–a digital asset which will provide the foundation for 21st Century facility management.
Among the early-adopting agencies now requiring BIM for all their projects are the GSA, US Army Corps of Engineers, NASA, Veterans Administration, State of Texas, State of Wisconsin and Indiana University. Many others have now followed suite, and the National Institute of Building Sciences and its buildingSMART Alliance have played a leading role in blazing the trail, in development of standards and fostering software interoperability, a major challenge facing the nascent industry.