Study Indicates BIM Becoming Mainstream

Originally published by: ASCEOctober 9, 2012

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A new research report released by Pike Research in the United Kingdom asserts that building information modeling (BIM) is producing significant results for those members of the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry who use it—and will become a necessity for those who wish to succeed in the future. The use of BIM lowers the risks associated with large construction projects, facilitates integrated design, and can lower overall project costs without necessarily lowering the fees that AEC firms are paid, the report states. BIM can also play a significant role in ensuring that buildings that are designed to be “green” actually meet the standards required for such a designation—a must for many owners. 

Eric Bloom, the senior research analyst/energy for Pike Research—part of London-based Navigant, a relatively new research firm in the AEC market—says his company has been following the development of BIM for the past three years. The firm’s report—based on one-on-one interviews with key industry players as well such secondary sources as company reports and news articles—is timely for a number of reasons, Bloom says. BIM use is increasing, according to the report; the market for BIM products and services reached $1.8 billion globally this year, and is expected to grow to $6.5 billion by 2020. And it will help that a number of countries—including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States—are beginning to require the use of BIM in the design and construction of public buildings (currently the U.S. Government Services Administration requires its use for all new construction). While public buildings make up a small percentage of the projects built in a given year, Bloom says, “Governments are proving the concept for the benefit of the broader industry.” 

The Pike report, Building Information Modeling—Software, Training/Support services, and Project Management/Collaboration: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts, argues that early adopters of BIM will reap the greatest rewards, both now and after the economy turns around. And Bloom says there is still plenty of time for AEC firms to become early adopters. “The construction industry is not known for moving particularly fast,” Bloom points out. “There is still significant time for AEC firms to distinguish themselves through BIM.” 

And what will distinguish those firms that design with BIM from those that do not is their ability to lower the risks for their clients; by essentially forcing all of the various disciplines involved in creating a project to design and construct collaboratively from the start, avoiding conflicts and unexpected challenges down the road, BIM increases efficiency while lowering costs. The useof BIM can also help to avoid redesigns and lawsuits. By creating, updating, and accessing the same drawings—which have complete information about every single part of a project—AEC firms become more accountable for their work when using BIM, Bloom says. “If you can avoid a major rebuild or major litigation a couple of years into the building’s life cycle because there has been better accountability for what each contractor has contributed to the project, and if you get things right the first time, you avoid a lot of potential risk,” Bloom says. 

The report contends that BIM also facilitates green building, again by encouraging early collaboration on the part of all players. Many green rating systems require that buildings not only operate in ways that save energy and water, for example, but also that they are designed and constructed that way; the use of recycled or locally sourced materials is also encouraged. By tracking exactly where each product came from and which firm was responsible for each part of the project, BIM can help AEC firms certify that their work meets green standards. 

And by forcing early collaboration, BIM allows environmental benefits to be built into every stage from the start. For example, Bloom says, a mechanical engineer who is asked to design a conservative energy system for a building may find that difficult if the orientation of the building on the site or the number and locations of windows has already been determined by the structural engineer or architect long before he or she gets there. “There is little you can do to make the building more efficient if you are brought in at the eleventh hour,” Bloom points out. “So BIM is the perfect tool for bringing those stakeholders together early in the process and enabling information to be shared throughout the construction process, so there’s no guessing, no surprises,” he says. “As energy-efficient buildings become more commonplace, BIM will be required to get to those higher levels of performance and facilitate integrated design.” 

No static program or process, BIM is also constantly evolving, the report points out, and AEC firms that adopt it will also need to keep pace with new add-on technologies to continue to reap its rewards. Storing large design files in the cloud and using mobile devices and specialty software to enable in-the-field BIM computing will enable progressive firms to offer the most efficient services, Bloom says. “In a very cost-competitive industry, it’s all about delivering the highest level of service for lowest price,” Bloom says. “BIM enables practitioners to provide a higher level of service for the same price. Right now, just because adoption across the AEC industry is so spotty, companies that at do adopt BIM and use it correctly and effectively have an advantage.”

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