Construction projects, whether for buildings, infrastructure or other facilities, are complex. They involve a significant amount of data and numerous teams and professionals across architecture, engineering, construction and other areas. Building Information Modeling, or BIM, can help everyone involved in a project to manage its challenges.
BIM is a method of digitally representing a facility's physical and functional characteristics. It provides a common source of information for everyone involved in a project and helps team members make better decisions through a facility's entire lifecycle — from conception to demolition. Building information modeling software allows you to explore project elements visually, collaborate with others and determine the most efficient methods of completing tasks. Ultimately, the use of BIM can result in better designs, more efficient building operation, faster construction and more.
Through our partners at CADD Microsystems, Duncan-Parnell provides software support for Autodesk, which offers leading BIM software. Autodesk provides a wide range of BIM software for various industries and parts of the project process. Autodesk BIM 360 is a cloud-based web service for construction management that lets you manage a project's lifecycle and creates a central source of project data. It includes a controlled work-sharing environment, BIM coordination, design review, change visualization, deliverable coordination, quality management, safety program checklists and submittals. It includes numerous modules to help you manage every aspect of your project. Autodesk also provides BIM Revit, which allows modeling of building designs, and Autodesk Navisworks, which is used for 3D design review.
Benefits of Building Information Modeling
Why should you use BIM as an AEC professional? It provides numerous benefits to companies and individuals in the architecture, engineering and construction sectors, including the following.
1. Improved Data Capture
Today, AEC professionals have access to more data than ever before. Improved mapping tools, aerial imagery, digital elevation models, scans of existing infrastructure and other technologies give you advanced insights into your sites and projects. These data capture technologies create a highly detailed and accurate representation of reality. BIM enables you to gather all of that data in one place and helps you use it to improve your project.
2. Faster Drawing Tools
With 2D drawing sets, the various building disciplines involved in a project need to duplicate and rework drawings produced by other disciplines to meet their requirements. With BIM, all of the information that each team inputs is collected in the shared database, and each group can use it without having to redo a drawing. The 3D model can also contain more information than a drawing set, and BIM drawing tools are much faster than 2D ones. As team members update the model, information such as the number and size of windows can update automatically, saving significant amounts of time.
3. Automatic File Saving
With BIM, you can easily see the most recent version of your model and look back at its history to see how it changed over time. The workflows in most BIM software will automatically save your progress and add it to your work history to ensure you don't lose your work.
4. Improved Collaboration
BIM helps foster collaboration both within and across teams and throughout a project's duration. With BIM, you create a common model and dataset that everyone can access. This helps keep everyone updated on projects' progress. Often, these capabilities are delivered through the cloud, meaning project participants can access the building information model from anywhere. Digital workflows include various tools such as review and markup steps that ensure everyone has input before moving to the next phase and keeps the whole team on the same page.
5. Enhanced Simulation and Visualization
BIM also includes a growing number of simulation and visualization tools to help improve project and facility planning. The software can use rules based on physics and best practices to help you visualize factors such as the sunlight during different times of the year and calculate a building's energy performance. Using these software tools to conduct analysis and modeling can help you save time and consider more factors in your design to improve outcomes and achieve peak performance.
6. Early Warnings of Problems
BIM software can automatically detect design problems such as ductwork or electrical conduit that run into a beam. This capability allows you to catch these things early, helping you avoid the costs of discovering them onsite. Modeling also helps you to ensure that you get the right fit for elements that are being manufactured off-site, helping speed the construction process.
7. Streamlined Construction Processes
Once you've created a model and submodels for the various phases of construction, you can create a coordinated sequence of steps for your construction process. These sequences can include requirements for activities, materials and crews. You can use the BIM software to create animations of steps and a shared source of construction information to create a more organized process.
8. Enhanced Communication
The 3D model includes a lot of information that it makes easy to share, but you may also want to share a more traditional plan and other reports with your team. With automation and customization features, BIM software can enable you to put together this information and share it with other project participants.
9. Impressive Presentation
The 3D models you create using your BIM software are the perfect tools for presenting your designs, construction plans and other proposals. They can include a huge amount of information and present it in a visually pleasing, easily understandable way. With BIM, you can quickly create impressive views and fly-throughs to help you gain proposal approval, sell commercial space, obtain regulatory approvals and more.
10. Access From Anywhere
When you use BIM software, your model is tied to a database, which gives you easy access to a significant amount of information. Many BIM products, such as Autodesk BIM 360, are delivered via the cloud, meaning you can access the models and project information from anywhere on any device with an internet connection.
11. Reduced Fragmentation
Getting a clear view of an entire project is difficult when you have multiple fragmented drawings, plans and other documents. BIM, however, provides you with a central source of information and a visualization that the whole team can access. This enables anyone to get a clear overview of a project and helps to improve collaboration, communication and efficient project progress.
Why Your Building Information Modeling Software Matters
BIM provides many benefits for those in the AEC industry and is one of the best civil engineering software available. In fact, as technology continues to advance and more companies adopt solutions such as BIM, it's becoming more important for AEC firms to embrace the technology.
Companies that adopt BIM can often reduce costs and speed project completion time, allowing them to offer lower rates and take on more projects. If you wait to adopt BIM, you could start to fall behind those who are already using it.
BIM is also valuable because of its ability to wow clients. This can help you to win more contracts and impress the clients you already have, encouraging them to come back to you the next time they have work. BIM can help you stand out from the competition and improve your reputation among your clients.
These tools can also allow you to take full advantage of other advanced technologies such as those used for collecting and analyzing data. Additionally, BIM, as well as advanced data collection and analysis methods, are going to continue to become more common and more sophisticated in the future. Getting started with technology like BIM helps you prepare for this future environment in which smart technology is the norm.
It's also crucial that you have the right BIM software for your needs. Different tools have different capabilities, and the needs of your company may differ from those of your competition. That's why it's essential you take the time to make sure that you get the BIM solution with the right features for you. Having all of the features you need also allows you to be certain your model is complete and helps ensure that all project participants can collaborate via the software, which can ultimately make for a more cohesive, optimized design and efficient construction process.
Choosing the Right BIM Tools
How do you know which BIM tool is right for your business or project? Following a process such as the following can help.
1. Set Goals and Create a Basic Plan
Start by taking a look at your current processes and identify areas in which you want to improve. Think about the goals you hope to achieve by adopting BIM software. Also, consider how your needs might change in the future as the market evolves.
Next, start doing some preliminary research about the available BIM software and what others are using. Read articles, talk to others in the field and attend trade shows to help you get a feel for the BIM landscape.
Once you've done some basic research, you can start to create a preliminary plan that includes the following elements:
- Determine who within your organization will take the lead on evaluating your company's needs and potential BIM solutions
- Define your budget for BIM software. In doing so, be sure to consider the limitations in your current process and the positive financial impact that BIM software may have for you. For example, it may be taking too long to complete jobs, meaning you have to turn some down.
- Decide on your timeline for adopting a new BIM solution. Keep in mind the time needed to learn the new software.
- Determine who will make the final decision of which BIM tool to select.
2. Prioritize Your Needs
To find the best BIM tool for you, you'll need to figure out what features are most important to you. Different programs have different functionalities, and having a prioritized list of your needs will help you determine which one best fits your business. Sometimes, you may need to combine multiple tools to get the functionality you want. Categorize each feature into one of three groups:
- Essential features: These are the features that you absolutely must have. For you to select a product, it needs to have these features.
- Conditional features: Features that are not critical but are meaningful for your business. Products that don't have a conditional feature won't be eliminated but will get a lower ranking.
- Optional features: These features are not essential or conditional but would be useful. The product you choose doesn't need to have these features, but they give a tool a slight boost in ranking.
Once you've prioritized your needs, contact vendors and ask them about the features in your list. This ensures that you get information about all of these features you need to know about and helps vendors offer you the right solutions. Set aside time to fully evaluate how well each of the products you're considering meets your needs.
3. Create a List of Potential Vendors
Create a list of software vendors that can provide the features you need. Ask them for a demonstration of how their tools and services can meet your requirements and benefit your organization. Narrow down your list of possible solutions to the ones that you believe are the best fits.
4. Validate Your List
Now, start the process of narrowing down your BIM software list further. Ask vendors for references of clients who had requirements that were similar to yours. Consider factors such as:
- The kind of support the vendor provides and whether live support, built-in help systems, videos or documentation are available
- Whether options are available for BIM software training
- How the vendor deals with software updates, how frequently updates are needed and how much they cost
- How the software is licensed
- The reputation of the company and what users say about them
- The cost of the products
- How easy the system is to use
- Whether the solution will be able to meet future needs and how easily scalable it is, if necessary
5. Make the Final Decision
Finally, choose the solution that best fits your requirements. Decide how many copies of the software and what maintenance contracts, training and other services you need. Then, ask for a quote. Negotiate if necessary, and once you've reached an agreement, you can start the process of deploying the solution.
Duncan-Parnell: Successful Projects Start Here
BIM software solutions can help you improve your designs, speed construction time, reduce project costs and enable enhanced collaboration among your team. It can prove to be one of the most valuable tools for AEC project success.
At Duncan-Parnell, we've been a trusted supplier to construction contractors, engineers, architects, surveyors and designers since 1946. We specialize in providing high-quality software, hardware and services that help make projects successful and offer wide format printers, additive manufacturing technologies, signs and graphics, geospatial solutions and cloud-based construction information management systems. We also provide OpCenter, an online project management solution for construction professionals, as well as software support for Autodesk through our partner CADD Microsystems, an Autodesk Platinum partner.
CADD Microsystems provides BIM process consulting, employee development and training programs and other services to help clients achieve their goals.To learn more about BIM, BIM subscriptions, CAD and how we can help you make your project successful, contact us today.