Think outside the BIM box


Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the new backbone to digitised construction. BIM increases productivity and improves the quality of work across the construction ecosystem from design, through construction and into operation.

Although BIM is gradually integrating into contracts and processes, South African uptake and confidence among contractors remains low. This can be attributed to a limited knowledge of BIM processes and too much emphasis been placed on design software in the past. We recently witnessed one of South Africa’s largest contractors sending out request for proposal (RFP) invitations for vendor software application partners to facilitate its BIM adoption strategy, sparking renewed interest among other contractors to follow a similar strategy.

BIM is not software

Many people mistakenly think that BIM is software, when it is actually a process of working. Software tools are the technological core of BIM, but this makes up only 10% of the system. The remaining 90% centres around the sociological and collaborative practices that the software enables.

BIM allows all stakeholders to collaborate on a single model to design, construct and operate a building. The technological base of BIM consists of 3D design, intelligent models and information management; social components include synchronous collaboration, coordinated work practices and a cultural or institutional framework in which BIM is incorporated in a company’s processes — workflow, for example — and business plan.

The design stage includes conceptual design, detailed technical design and analysis (including energy analysis), working closely with the Professional Quantity Surveyor(PQS) to provide detailed estimates and pricing documents based on design information provided in the 3D model. In the build stage, contractors can re-model the Bill of Quantities for resource levelling, accurate cash flow projection purposes using quantification from the models provided, including automatic updated quantification provided by the PQS. The contractor can also use this information for fabrication, planning and simulation purposes. Once the facility is built, the contractor and owner can use the model to manage defects and operate and maintain the building, as well as renovate and finally demolish, if necessary, far into the future.

Understand the basics

Traditional design, bid and build (architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors and clients) delivery project processes still work in silos. Modelling and coordination is handled in the design offices and only the 2D drawings and information is sent to the contractor. Requests for information pass from the site to the design office and revisions get sent back. Quite often, the information is still on paper or in electronic pdf format — not in the cloud — and is duplicated many times.

In the traditional coordination process, communication between stakeholders peaks in the construction documentation phase, affecting progress onsite.

BIM alters workflows, so communication peaks in the design and design development phases. At this stage, changes are easier to make without slowing or halting construction. Costs are easier to control and litigation (due to cost and schedule overruns) is reduced or eliminated. Under this new approach, contributors cannot work in silos. Instead, all parties collaborate as the model develops, working together to eliminate clashes.

Solving coordination issues virtually in the design phase is more efficient and cost effective. It also improves safety and reduces labour onsite. With the client, design team and professionals involved from the outset, knowledge and awareness increases through each phase of a project — there is minimal loss of knowledge between phases.

Step up to the plate

The BIM Institute has worked with commercial streams and software vendor experts over the past three years to define South Africa’s BIM awareness. Now for the first time giving the industry a National BIM guide and enabling it to use its BIM skills to produce a better outcome. The BIM Institute currently also engages with various large contractors (locally and across Africa) on best practice.

It’s now your responsibility – as a contractor – to demonstrate your “BIM-readiness.”

This involves detailing your proposed processes to meet with the project’s BIM requirements. This does not only require refining your in-house software systems, but rather aligning internal processes with BIM and then identifying and addressing any software gaps.

Get started:

If you are just becoming familiar with BIM, theNational BIM Guide is an essential tool for you to understand:

  • Data information
  • Guide to global standards
  • The practicalities of BIM
  • The processes required
  • Keep up with the industry – register as a BIM Institute member.
  • Upskill – through the BIM Institute’s accredited courses or contact the Institute for an independent review.
  • Expert advice – The Institute has a definitive listing of vendor experts on its BIM Vendor Directory.