Five BIM Predictions for 2015

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Building information modeling has become an integral part of the way many construction firms do business. More and more contractors are seeing the benefits and value of BIM and using it to take a more proactive approach to construction. Exciting things are happening in BIM this year! Here are some of the trends you should expect to see throughout 2015 and beyond.

1. BIM Is Here to Stay

Today, virtually every large construction firm has a BIM department in-house and even most medium-sized firms either have BIM departments or are in the process of getting one. This trend will continue this year.

New software has made it easier for field teams to extract information from the field and drop it into 3D models to accurately reflect real-world conditions. The result is more accurate models and a more efficient process with less rework overall.

“Once all of the big construction firms are using BIM, all of the mid-tier firms will start using it. The big architectural firms already use it so the smaller firms who want to work with them will also have to have it,” said Tate Jones, owner of LandAir Surveying Company, one of Atlanta’s top five surveying companies. “That migration will continue – similar to the migration from hand drawings to CAD. In five years, there will be very few firms who don’t use BIM.”

For most, the first step in BIM adoption is model coordination. As a next step, firms will extend BIM to include laser scanning before and during construction, as well as total station layout during construction.

2. Laser Scanning Will Be Used by More Contractors

Historically, because of the newness of the technology and the lack of in-house expertise around the software and how to use the data, contractors have typically outsourced their laser scanning to service providers. But over the past several years, industry knowledge around laser scanning has grown significantly.

At this point, many contractors have already bought several scans from service providers and more clearly understand the business benefits and value. There are also more hardware and software options available and more general knowledge around scanning. As a result, more and more contractors will bring this technology in-house in 2015.

This will free contractors to do more scans, while at the same time taking control of their schedules and standardizing costs.

Laser scanning is an invaluable tool for contractors because it allows them to see into the future. While most projects are typically scanned before construction, with in-house scanning capabilities, scans can be conducted throughout the process to bring data back into a BIM environment to compare as-built to as-designed and to ensure the project is on schedule.

This allows contractors to see clashes, as well as when things are not installed correctly before they become costly reworks.

“Hardware and software companies are figuring out that the construction market is a hotbed for this technology,” said David Epps, BIM manager for Holder Construction Company in Atlanta, a top construction firm and early adopter of BIM. “Where laser scanning was cost prohibitive in the past, today it’s cheaper and the software is much better. The more it is used in the industry, more firms will see the value and want to create it for themselves.”

3. Construction Firms Will Continue to Experiment with Drones

Aerial inspection with the Aibot X6. Image courtesy of Brasfield & Gorrie.

Aerial inspection with the Aibot X6. Image courtesy of Brasfield & Gorrie.

Last year, we saw a trend of many construction firms starting to experiment with drone technology for quality assurance. This trend will continue to increase as companies find more uses and become more comfortable with the technology.

Drones are a hot topic not only with general contractors, but also with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Currently, drones are not allowed for commercial use and in order to fly them in public air space, FAA approval is required.

Contractors are beginning to get approvals to use drones on their project sites. Hopefully, the FAA will come through with looser regulation for the use of drones on construction sites so that this technology can move from experimentation to more practical uses.

4. BIM Departments and Field Teams Will Work More Closely Together

robotic total stations and field software

Robotic total stations such as the iCON 60 combined with easy-to-use field software makes layout faster and more accurate.

Historically, when it comes to construction layout, field teams have been the primary users of total station technology. BIM departments, on the other hand, haven’t typically been involved with the actual layout.

Today, BIM departments have become more and more involved with layout – a trend that will continue in the industry. More and more BIM departments will provide services to the field including layout points, training the field on the benefits of BIM, and augmenting the services of the field team.

BIM teams and field teams will begin having a more open dialogue and will work in concert, which represents a huge cultural change in the industry. In the past, construction layout has been 2D in the field and 3D in the office. Now these workflows are beginning to come together.

5. Subcontractors Will Have to Increase Their Adoption of BIM Technology

As more general contractors – especially in the larger firms – are adopting BIM, they are also requiring their subcontractors to be BIM-efficient.

“Minimum BIM requirements” are being included in more project specifications and stakeholders are looking for companies that offer these services. This trend will continue, with general contractors making it mandatory for anyone bidding a job to use BIM and provide 3D drawings.

“More and more, general contractors are saying, ‘if you want to work with us, you have to use BIM’,” said Cathi Hayes, BIM business development director for Leica Geosystems. “This trend will grow this year. Subcontractors who are not adopting BIM organically will be forced to get on the BIM bandwagon if they want to compete.”

Other Trends

What are some other trends you can expect to see in 2015? One we are hearing a lot about from our clients is 4D scheduling, or scheduling using a model.

This allows contractors to build a complete schedule with line items for floors, ceilings, walls and more that ties back to a virtual model. Once designed, all you have to do is click “play” to see a project built before your eyes.

“It gives you the complete construction of a building in the field in fast forward, showing you where the issues are and the implications downstream,” said Epps. “That way, you can make important scheduling decisions ahead of time and be more proactive in problem solving.”

Another trend to watch is using BIM for planning pre-fabrication, which enables contractors to build parts of a building off-site. This is especially efficient for buildings with repetitive conditions like hospitals and hotels. The result is improved quality and increased safety because fewer people are in the field.

What other trends are you seeing with BIM technology? Share your comments below or contact us.

Cathi Hayes is an architect, building information modeling (BIM) pioneer and strategy leader with more than 20 years of experience developing and implementing workflow improvements in various facets of the building design and construction industry. Early on her career, she established Revit as an industry changing model-based design technology in the architectural design industry. She later served as strategic BIM manager for Autodesk, establishing the company as a primary resource in the US residential, commercial and government markets for design, engineering and construction collaboration to help improve workflows and reduce costs. As BIM strategy and business development director for Leica Geosystems, Cathi focuses on helping building contractors achieve greater success in BIM through the adoption of leading-edge hardware and software solutions that make it easy to move from 2D to 3D workflows and extending the value of BIM into the field. Cathi is a trusted BIM advisor and a leading voice on BIM throughout the North American construction industry. She holds degrees from North Carolina State (BEDA Architecture) and the University of Kansas (PBA). She can be reached at cathi.hayes@leicaus.com.

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