5 ways BIM is shaping the future of construction

By Katerina Mansour - 28 January 2021

The construction industry is subject to many enduring pain points. The sector lacks enough skilled workforce, has stagnant productivity levels (1% growth in productivity over the past 20 years) and struggles with collaboration on project management. Several technologies have emerged to help address construction’s biggest woes. One of them is building information modelling (BIM).

The stages of building information modeling
Source: BIMMDA

What is building information modelling?

Building information modelling is a 3D-model process that provides professionals in the construction industry with data, insights and tools to plan, design and construct their projects. Thanks to BIM, all stakeholders on a project can easily collaborate throughout all steps of a building’s lifecycle. By using building information modelling, they have access to a highly detailed digital representation of their projects.

Beyond simply being the 3D visual of a structure, BIM also includes key insights. For example, professionals can use BIM to see how materials will hold up over time, to estimate costs and to predict performances. BIM ensures all information is centralised and updated in real-time, so that everyone has access to reliable data. Construction professionals can combine BIM with other technologies to further enhance its capabilities and its benefits to the construction process: virtual/augmented reality, IoT, AI, 3D printing, robotics, etc.

Now that we have a general idea of what building information modelling is, let’s look at five ways in which it’s shaping the future of construction.

Faster project delivery

A survey by the National Building Specification (NBS) in the UK showed BIM helped increase the speed of delivery for 55% of construction professionals in the UK. Indeed, automating several aspects of the design process helps save time and see results faster.

Detecting clashes early on is key to avoid time-consuming and costly design changes or reworks. Automated clash detection is a BIM feature that can help stakeholders avoid last-minute changes and unexpected issues. Early clash detection means professionals avoid stalling construction to change designs last minute. They complete projects faster, with less human errors.

Indeed, getting one thing wrong in a construction project can often mean the project gets set back months. With BIM, any edit you make to one aspect of your project is automatically added to every single phase of the project. This helps detect and avoid errors that could delay project delivery. This also means that all stakeholders have access to automatically updated information on the project. As such, you avoid delays due to miscommunications or bad documentation.

Several startups offer BIM solutions that can help achieve benefits such as reduced planning times. Spacemaker ranks in the top 1% of Early Metrics’ rated startups. The company develops building information modelling for property development professionals to collaboratively generate and evaluate the optimal environmental design for any multi-building residential development. It allows them to optimise for factors such as sun, noise and volume constraints. To achieve this, the software crunches information, including regulations, physical and environmental data.

Lower expenses and reduced risks

The NBS survey also showed 60% of construction professionals benefit from cost efficiencies thanks to BIM. Quantifying costs can be a time-consuming process and is prone to human errors. The model-based cost estimates that come with BIM solutions help optimise this process. Thanks to BIM, design changes or price modifications are automatically updated in a project’s budget. Furthermore, stakeholders can decrease costs early on by figuring out the exact amount of materials or equipment that will be needed. This not only avoids unnecessary costs but also decreases waste generated from a construction site.

Faster project delivery thanks to BIM also leads to lower expenses. A survey in the UK showed delays in construction can cost a company up to 20% more than their initial estimated costs. Being able to detect all the possible issues a project could face, before any tangible work begins, is an invaluable tool to reduce expenses.

By providing everyone with easy access to accurate and up-to-date information, construction projects can also reduce risks. Indeed, extensive cross-checks are no longer necessary when everyone has access to the same data. If someone changes any aspect of a design, it’s updated for everyone involved.

Higher quality structures and improved client satisfaction

BIM can be paired with other technologies such as augmented or virtual reality. These technologies provide the ability to fully test a structure’s design. This can help with spatial planning, validating emergency routing, verifying indoor lighting design and more. BIM therefore represents an added layer of verification that enables stakeholders to ensure the quality of a project. Furthermore, VR is a useful tool to increase client satisfaction. It provides clients with the ability to walk through designs themselves.

Hegias, another one of Early Metrics’ rated startups in the proptech sector, offers a product that addresses this very issue. Hegias has developed a VR content management system allowing architects, real estate companies and building companies to create virtual properties for client presentations. This cloud-based platform allows the architect to directly upload their 3D file and customise their virtual property to suit the final client’s taste (wall paint, furniture, etc.). At the end, clients can use a VR headset to walk through their future home and project themselves before buying the property.

Improving sustainability

Green real estate is becoming an enduring trend. Commercial and residential buildings are among the main culprits when it comes to the depletion of resources and energy waste. Research has shown that they account for an important part of CO2 emissions in the Western world, 40% in the US and 36% in the EU.

As previously mentioned, construction professionals can reduce waste by using BIM functionalities to assess the exact amounts of materials they need. Thanks to BIM’s integrated analysis and evaluation tools, professionals can also compare materials to choose more sustainable options. Indeed, these evaluation tools can help stakeholders find and assess materials with less carbon impact.

Furthermore, energy simulation modelling, daylighting and shadow analysis, and life cycle assessment information can all help design more energy-efficient buildings. These buildings can provide a variety of benefits, from reduced energy consumption to better air quality.

Smoother building handover

BIM continues to provide ROI even after a construction project is complete. Facility managers and renovators can access accurate digital records throughout a structure’s lifecycle.

Thanks to building information modelling, an owner can easily check their building’s components. Installation dates, maintenance history and warranty information are all accessible to them. Convenient access to such detailed information helps ensure efficient building management.

In the case of smart buildings that have integrated sensors, the combination of AI and BIM could empower facility managers to analyse the collected data for preventive maintenance. It could also inform architecture firms of the quality of their builds and their deterioration over time which, in turn, could allow them to learn from their potential mistakes for their future builds. In fact, some experts even suggest architectural design automation could be a reality in the future thanks to the combination of BIM and machine learning.

So, what does the future look like?

It’s worth noting there are some barriers that can slow down BIM adoption rates. Lack of in-house expertise, lack of training and BIM’s associated costs are all barriers to implementing the technology.

Nevertheless, clients and contractors increasingly insist on the usage of BIM. Some governments have also taken a strong stance on the matter. In the UK, using BIM has been mandatory since 2011 for companies looking to work on government contracts. The notion that BIM is becoming the norm is further strengthened by the fact that 55% of construction professionals in NBS’s survey said if they don’t adopt BIM, they’ll get left behind.

attitudes towards building information modeling within construction industry

BIM has already gone through several developmental phases that increased its capabilities and functionalities. It’s a safe bet that more improvements are to come. Stakeholders in the construction sector will need to adapt in order to remain competitive. Change has been slow for the construction industry. Increased adoption rates for BIM and emerging technologies could help mitigate the sector’s many pain points.

The global building information modelling market is expected to grow at a 15% CAGR between 2020 and 2027, reaching a value of approximately $16 million. As the market grows, more startups will emerge to help stakeholders transition into these technologies. They will continue to address barriers by providing training and access to experts.

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