Building Information Modeling, or BIM: Benefits for Contractors

Published May 20, 2016 by Whirlwind Team

BIM_Contractor_BenefitsIt goes without saying, but we will say it anyway: the top three performance indicators in construction are cost, time, and productivity. Anything that can save time and minimize construction costs while improving productivity is a tool you need in your toolbox.

Building Information Modeling, hereafter referred to as BIM, may be one of the best tools you will ever find for meeting and exceeding those three measures. BIM helps you collect and use information across your entire construction project, right from the beginning; and it continues to improve a building’s lifecycle after construction is done.

Pre-construction BIM benefits

BIM allows a designer to build a virtual project with links between design, client, contractors, subs, workers, and the actual end user of the project, providing the perfect platform for collaboration and review from all stakeholders.

The owner can pass the plan around to other designers, the contractor, and the subs to get input on the development drawings before the ground is even broken. These same drawings can then be used to create development drawings for permit documentation.

The team has access to high quality drawings early in the process, which gives a boost to labor productivity by increasing the level of engagement. Early access to the design also increases familiarity and providing a better handle on project management. With the team involved early in the design process, there are fewer RFIs, a faster schedule, and opportunities to use the model further in both the field and in facility management.

It’s an old cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words, but in construction the best thing you can do for your team and client is to show them exactly what is being built, how it fits into the landscape, and where everything should go before starting construction. This level of detail in design can also lead to better estimates and a chance to research less expensive materials or other cost savings.

All of this can be shown along with the 2D plans to create the best picture of the project.

BIM also promotes a better understanding of design not just for the architects and engineers, but for everyone involved with constructing and using the building. It breaks down the siloes that tend to form in any business by making information available to anyone anytime they need it and creating a platform for feedback.

For example, supply chain and materials management can add their two cents about material selection and availability. Accurate measurements provide the basis for ordering the right quantities of materials. BIM removes pricing risks with better cost estimates as well as information on the cost of any requested design changes.

Benefits of BIM during construction

We all know how easily information can go astray, especially once the work starts. BIM makes sure everyone is always working from the same model and that any changes are immediately disseminated to the entire team instantly. If and when new teams come into the project, they will have complete information on the project from beginning to end. Changes, especially in real-time, tend to mean delays and confusion. BIM eliminates these issues.

If everyone understands the plan, wastage can be reduced on the front end because the method of construction has already been selected and put into place. The delivery scheduling will be completed early as well, providing some breathing room for unexpected problems, such as severe weather events.

Having all information so early also promotes prefabrication off-site, a definite cost savings with the result of higher quality, error-free components. You can then take advantage of just-in-time delivery and mitigate storage issues.

Having a BIM to work from enables the contractor to overlay scheduling and other work plans over design and create a workable construction sequence. You can manipulate data to look into various outcomes and you will be able to quickly see where clashes could occur between trades or activities. When two or more things must be done in the same area, having too many bodies creates incompatibility and inconsistency. Delays, material costs, and budgetary concerns raise their heads.

Instead, jobsite delivery and organization are streamlined with integrated project delivery and seamless coordination. Further reductions in costs, delays, and reorder rates are the result. If you can see the whole picture, scheduling, material tracking, and supply chain management are all more easily handled.

The benefits don’t stop with design and scheduling. Risk management is easier as well. A 3D design can show you where the design may not work as intended. You will be able to see where crowding could occur and work to mitigate them. The design should allow you to identify and eliminate safety issues before anyone starts work.

BIM benefits post-construction

Once construction is complete, you can provide the client with an accurate model of the structure as well as an asset list of all components. Facilities and operations management use these as a basis for maintenance planning and scheduling.

In fact, operations and facilities could conceivably provide input at the design phase to make maintenance and other operations easier.

Case studies prove benefits

From 2003 through 2013, 18 case studies of the use of Building Information Modeling showed these results:

  • 600 total days of direct schedule reductions and 32 days of average schedule reduction
  • Productivity increases of 25% or more
  • Direct cost reductions of 2.95%

These case studies drive home the realization that higher BIM adoption rates translate into higher value output at every turn.

The construction business gets more competitive every day. BIM is a major tool that can cut costs and time while increasing production and quality of work. Mistakes, design changes, and rework are extremely expensive in this industry. Anything you can do to eliminate costs results in more money in your pocket and a shining reputation as a go-to contractor in your niche.

If you wouldn’t leave this type of money at the bargaining table, don’t lose it for lack of the best tool and platform out there, available for you to use. If you aren’t using it, know that your competition is. 

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