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From the bidding process all the way through final construction, coordination and collaboration is an enormous issue. Over the past two decades, technology has been simplifying the process, increasing safety and decreasing costs throughout. But competing techniques and technologies have also made it difficult to assess which ones are best equipped for your needs.
This raises the question: Which type of Building Information Modeling is best for which circumstances? Here, we break down the differences between fabrication-level BIM and “regular” BIM for architects, engineers and contractors. What becomes clear is that the importance of integration and cooperation in building today means what’s best for one group should also be what’s best for the whole.
The Limitations of Regular BIM Modeling
Any architect or engineer knows that they can’t possibly include the myriad small details of a finished structure in their initial plans. That level of detail would more or less overwhelm them with work and make the resulting plans nearly unreadable. So the small details would be left for the contractor to work out in the actual construction phase.
At least that was the state of the industry before the introduction of BIM software. Earlier software made some aspects of the design and construction easier but still failed to capture the full range of possibilities today’s fabrication-level BIM offers.
BIM 360 screenshot; via Autodesk
The results of those older ways of doing things were hardly surprising. Leaving these details to a later stage can lead to huge delays when, say, the drainage needs of one area of the facility interfere with poured slabs, or when plumbing and structural elements interfere with each other. Not identifying and resolving these potential problems in the planning stages is one reason why BIM is so needed in construction management. It creates a system that can easily identify and correct potential problems resulting from inconsistencies between engineering, architectural and other systems involved in a structure — before those problems ever reach a contractor. Besides simply making the issues clear, BIM software makes it easy for discussions and resolutions of these issues to take place.
Used correctly, it creates huge cost savings. One contractor found it cut time for projects by 32 days and increased productivity by 25 percent, leading to a direct cost savings of almost 3 percent. The Construction Industry Institute itself recommends using better design software to avoid interference, errors and late changes.
But regular BIM software still largely relies on this system. It may be a step up in terms of coordination, but it lacks the ability to integrate high levels of detail — a necessity to avoid leaving so many crucial decisions to contractors at the later stages of designing and building. That’s where fabrication-level BIM sets itself apart.
Baku Stadium model; via Tekla
Fabrication-Level BIM vs. Regular BIM
If BIM technology is all about transparent integration, fabrication-level BIM takes that goal to the next level.
This is because fabrication-level BIM simply has tighter tolerances. While regular BIM shows representations and approximations, this newer BIM software can capture the detail of the final structure in full detail. So, instead of modeling approximations, the software models the exact dimensions involved.
One effect is, because issues are resolved before construction begins, it’s easier to integrate more prefabricated components into a structure. This reduces costs by shifting work to more efficient off-site locations. In a related benefit, having a better idea of what will be required beforehand means more precise order quantities and less overall waste.
The result is better collaboration, greater efficiency and reduced costs. Fabrication-level BIM offers a higher level of detail and makes it easier to identify how various elements of the building interact with each other and build more predictably.
The Other Benefits of Better BIM Software
Of course, there are many more reasons to consider using fabrication-level BIM besides its ability to allow earlier and deeper collaboration and efficiency than other systems. Features like cloud integration and better accountability mean there are even more ways using BIM can save you money throughout the building and designing process.
This post was written by Traci Beilharz and originally published on VIATechnik under the title “The Payoff of Fabrication Level BIM.”
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