Case of Construction Industry BIM: Building Information Modelling

Kamal Jaafar, Ph.D.
Faculty of Engineering & Information Sciences
Associate Professor, University of Wollongong, Dubai, UAE

Introduction

Humans have minds that are capable of doing things and have or show interest in learning new or better ways of doing things. This drive of curiosity has led to technological innovations over the ages. Today, innovation continues to advance and enhance the productivity and efficiency of labor, freeing humans of tasks that can be done more economically by machines.

The means of handling large amounts of data and information is the latest demand in technology among the society due to sophisticated business practices, increased record keeping through databases, and globalization of society (Mayo, 1985). The architecture, engineering, and the construction industry has seen major involvement of information technology and computing over the past few years (Khashe, 2016).

The construction industry portrays unique characteristics different from other industries. This industry includes projects that take place over a long period of time. During the lifecycle of the project, large amounts of documents with necessary data are generated and exchanged. As mentioned earlier, these data are stored in different formats such as databases and applications, including paper, which makes project management complex and difficult. The integral part of project management success is the effective management of data. Completing the project on time and under budget limitations with meeting specifications and requirements being the primary objective of a project. For easy decision making throughout the lifecycle of the project, data must be organized and thus appropriate data storage is crucial (Rojas, 2016; Marin, 2016; Vila, 2016). Unfortunately, the data storage task has become difficult because most of the data are stored and exchanged in unstructured documents. Information technology plays a key role in project management. Although the industry is implementing the latest technologies to improve the management of data and its exchange, the growth of IT in construction is slower compared to other industries due to the following reasons:

  • Project complexity
  • Communication among employees and exchange of data
  • The organizational structure

Along the years of the construction industry, various tools, and techniques or rather solutions were developed for effective data management and enhancing the productivity of the project lifecycle, which would give us access to accurate and up-to-date information. Some of these solutions are as follows:

  • Web, semantic web, and cloud: A type of internet-based computing that provides shared computing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand.
  • Data modeling through BIM (Building Information Modelling): Generation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of a place.
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS): A system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present spatial or geographic data.
  • Data warehousing: A system used for reporting and data analysis.
  • Knowledge discovery: Data analysis using data mining techniques.
  • Online analytical processing (OLAP): Enables users to analyze multidimensional data interactively from multiple perspectives.
  • Case-based reasoning (CBR): The process of solving new problems based on the solutions of similar past problems.
  • Genetic algorithm: Commonly used to generate high-quality solutions based on optimization.
  • Fuzzy logic: an effective tool to handle the uncertainties and subjectivities arising during the construction lifecycle.
  • Tracking technologies

The key elements of project management include cost management, project planning, risk management, safety, progress monitoring, and quality management. Cost has been one of the major worries during the project life cycle. Controlling project costs is one of the major challenges faced during the project lifecycle between the design and the completion phase of the project. Poor management of the site, slow decision making, changes in the scope, and complexity of design are some of the factors that cause overruns in cost. Thus, cost estimation is one of the key task in a construction project. Building Information Modelling (BIM) helps in this task. BIM offers measurements, and counts from a model, so the time necessary for estimation process decreases.

Another important task in a project is the planning phase. Planning includes the decision making of the activities from start to finish and the allocation of resources to each activity. Most of the company’s existing decision making process is done manually. The site is put into as a 2D model and then analyzed, and then develops a plan to organize the entire process. This traditional method of decision making and planning places a big burden as a large amount of information is handled and exchanged. BIM gives a visual insight of the entire site by providing more detailed, concise, and rigorous schedules. BIM does not pay much role when it comes to risk management, although risk management plays an important role in project management.

Safety is one of the greatest concerns in construction. A lot of delays occur during the progress of construction due to accidents that lead to tragedies that demotivate the workers. These delays cause a rise in cost and affect the productivity and reputation of the industry. Identifying hazards in the construction site reduce the risk of hazards and are one of the foundations of successful safety management. Again, as BIM provides an overview of the site, it is easy to track where there could be a possible hazard, thus helping it to eliminate such risks. Building Information Modelling and Geographic Information Systems together help in monitoring the progress of the project life cycle. In general, BIM has come of use in almost all phases of project management.

Information systems and databases provide an efficient way to handle large amounts of data and information, reducing risks of losing them and minimizing any delays or problems which result in an unsuccessful completion of the project. Data integration poses a big challenge in the project. BIM is considered as the most promising technology as it allows effective collaboration of project and data integration in the activities of project right from the design phase to the completion of the project. Rojas, Marin, and Vila, 2016 has provided information about the techniques used for managing data in their paper: The Role of Information Technologies to Address Data Handling in Construction Project Management, but does not give an in-depth analysis of these techniques. They concluded that BIM is the most effective and widely used technology, but no data has been provided to prove.

Project Management and Digital Change

In order to handle this issue, different project management approaches have been developed. Many existing approaches incorporate a set of techniques to manage changes and to keep the project flexible should any abrupt changes come up. In other words, many of those approaches treat the project as if it is unpredictable. Hence the planning and execution differ from traditional methods. Key elements of responsive project management should include client interaction, team integration, and flexibility. This is achieved by iterative development as also seen in figure 1. Hence, responsive project management is all about attaining flexibility by being able to adapt to any unforeseen changes in order to deliver the best possible outcome for client satisfaction. In addition, it involves increased client participation and input throughout different project stages.

As mentioned earlier, most responsive project management approaches are primarily developed for software development projects. However, recent research is being oriented towards extending it beyond the scope of the IT sector.

Application Gap

It can be seen in figure 2 that oil and gas and construction industries have been covered as part of the global survey. In the sample studied (856 responses), 60% of the studied projects were found to be using the traditional project management approach, and 28% were found to be using some form of responsive methods, 7% used hybrid techniques, and 4% used “other” methods. The latter being referred to as methods used internally by the company. The results can be seen in more detail in figure 3.

Figure 2: Industry sectors covered

Figure 3: Management methods used (Traditional – Agile – Hybrid) per industry sector

By referring to figure 3, it is obvious that the only industry within which responsive methods surpass traditional and hybrid methods in the IT industry. For the other industries, particularly, construction and oil and gas industries, the predominant method of management are the traditional ones.

 

Responsive project management beyond IT and software development industry

As mentioned earlier, the global survey carried did prove the existence of a gap in the implementation of responsive practices in many industries and business segments.  Responsive project management enablers are defined as “internal or external factors to the organization that is directly or indirectly related to the implementation of the project management approach that may impact the performance and use of a given practice, technique, or tool.  The following four values are K elements that need to be considered when adopting a responsive approach in managing projects:

  • “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”.
  • “Working software over comprehensive documentation”
  • “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation”
  • “Responding to change over following a plan”

As mentioned earlier, the rationale behind responsiveness in project management is realizing that projects are not predictable in nature. Throughout the lifetime of the project, there are changes in the market or in the product itself, in addition to other unforeseen changes. Since rational responsive project management practices divide a large project into smaller chunks, it becomes easier to prioritize or add or drop any feature in the middle of the project lifecycle. Whereas in traditional projects where excessive upfront planning is done, unforeseen changes tend to have considerable impacts on the project schedule.  Hence it is recommended that the following steps get adopted in the project management approach:

  • Flexibility
  • Project team dedication
  • Client dedication and availability
  • Iterative development
  • Team autonomy and self-management

The above enablers should be adopted on the following levels: organization, process, project team, and project type. On the other hand, there are critical barriers to responsive implementation, those barriers can be summarised as follow:

  • Changing mindset to allow flexibility
  • Long term planning
  • Poor process visibility

 Responsive Project Management Challenges and Risks

A key element of responsive project management is autonomy and self-organizing project teams. However, this comes at a price. In a brief manner, the following challenges will be encountered across the following levels:

  • Task Level: Lack of acceptance criteria and Task dependency.
  • Individual Level: Asserting autonomy and Self-Assignment.
  • Team Level: Achieving cross-functionality and Effective estimations.
  • Project Level: Delayed and changing requirements and senior management sponsorship.

some recommendations to overcome or address such challenges, are as follow

  • Planning with a holistic approach.
  • Sharing knowledge to attain cross-functionality.
  • Effective means of communication.
  • Investment in technology.
  • Considering the role of the responsive project manager.

The Driving Force behind digital evolution in project management

Information technology (IT) is not as novel to our economy as it was about three decades ago. The popularity gained by IT can be attributed to its ability to increase the productivity of each unit in terms of the time invested into completing a particular job as well as the quality of the output (Aziz, Nawawi & Ariff, 2016). The growing use of the internet and how profound its usage has become in the everyday life of the common man has been sufficiently commented upon by Onyegiri, Nwachukwu, and Jamike (2011). Their take on the influence of IT is that it has been able to replace face to face interaction which was once considered the key to effective communication, yet keeping up with the standards and most often than not increasing the efficiency of the work to be completed.

However, research shows that IT has been unable to bring into its control the workings of the construction industry like how it was able to with regard to other sectors of the economy (Davies, 2008). Construction projects and infrastructure play a very important role in determining the progress of an economy and the inability to use the potentials of the IT sector put the progress of the country back in a significant manner (Onyegiri, Nwachukwu and Jamike, 2011). We live in an age that is characterized by fast and perfect evolution. We are under constant pressure to improve current trends and bring about new changes with the existing resources. The construction industry in comparison to others, though adopting measures of progress is lagging far behind in terms of the progress sought (Cambeiro, Barbeito, Castaño, Bolíbar and Rodríguez, 2014).

One of the major factors identified for this reason is the time involved in imbibing technology into the workings of the organization. IT is a sector that requires money for investment as well as time to teach the people involved how it ought to be used. This sort of time sometimes may not be possible with the construction industry due to the fact that quick work is expected from the side of organizations dealing with the construction and this sort of time is not available to them. What they fail to realize is how expenditure on time would help in decreasing further time spent on construction procedures thereby increasing the amount of work done as well as efficiency (Davies, 2008).

Keeping this fact into consideration, due credit has to be given to the strides that have been made in the industry. The construction industry is considered to be one that is more or less traditional and one where change is not greeted with welcome hands (Davies, 2008). Even in such a situation, the amount of change that has been brought about with the introduction of IT into the system is quite commendable. Computers, both hardware, and software help with regard to data entry and maintenance and the amount of information that can be stored and retrieved at any point in time are immense. 

Among the technologies that sprouted in specific to the construction industry, Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the most interesting one. BIM has the ability to represent a design concept as a physical image of a building allowing the designer to understand the needs of the client and provide solutions. BIM combines the design, fabrication, assembly, logistics, and project management into a database. BIM is a tool that allows objects to be drawn in 3D for simple reading and solving conflicts in the diagram. To sum the whole thing and by providing a better definition, BIM is a three-dimensional software tool that integrates different models, having the characteristics of a 5D technology. BIM is a tool that assists in improving better communication and collaboration for success between the designer and the contractor.

BIM should have the following characteristics

  • Digital – allow design and construction simulation
  • Representation of complex designs using 3D technology than 2D drawings
  • Measurable
  • Comprehensive – combining design, performance, constructability, and sequence and finance aspects
  • Accessibility – availability of data to the entire project team through an operable interface. The project team could include architects, contractors, engineers, owners, fabricators, maintenance, and users.
  • Durable – data should remain usable throughout the entire phase of the project

Applications of BIM include:

  • Visual illustration: BIM highlights the use of 3D technology in the construction industry. The designs generated by BIM using different projection tools or through a projector provide us an insight into the model, which helps in cutting down construction costs.
  • Assistance: BIM provides a review of the means and methods that guarantees the design can be built and completed as per the schedule and under budget. BIM also helps in detecting errors in the design.
  • Planning and Utilization: BIM is used for the analysis of a building and its site conditions, the existing and neighboring facilities and the proposed facilities, safety issues, positioning of a building, access to the site, etc.
  • Scheduling and Sequencing: BIM helps a project manager to access and calculate the resources required during that period of construction. This helps in increasing the efficiency of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the construction industry.
  • Cost estimating: BIM helps in facilitating the quantity survey of the materials and components used for building. These quantities are directly connected to the cost databases. This piece if the information helps in the modification of the design before the commencement of the construction.
  • BIM clubs all the data provided by the subcontractors, suppliers, and vendors. This data includes all the specifications and the pre-fabrication specifications provided by the supplier or the manufacturer.
  • Fieldwork and layout: The data provided by BIM helps in laying out of systems and materials in the field, which includes 2D extractions of the drawing, which gives a detailed description of the work.
  • Operations and maintenance: BIM illustrates the operational method of the project phase.

Figure 5 BIM application in Digitizing Processes

The use of computer simulation in construction and its advantages are well discussed by various researchers. BIM simulates a model of the ultimate outcome giving perspective to the project regarding its final outlook and the various components involved in its efficiency such as cost, feasibility and the general aesthetic appeal (Marzouk, Azab & Metawie, 2016). Earlier times required the project to be analysed only after the construction was done which made the whole efforts frugal. All that could then be done was ensure that the drawbacks be resolved later. However with technologies such as BIM, a general finishing can be generated helping construction projects from making jarring errors and irreversible mistakes.

Effects of BIM on Project Management

Some problems in the traditional management model and technology can be solved if the management of the implementation process of the construction entities with BIM can be carried out, and some fundamental changes, such as, delivery outlets, accumulating ways, etc. will be achieved. It can be shown in figure 4.

Figure 4  The Transition of Information Sources

Due to these changes, BIM makes new requirements for the project managers in abilities, qualities, etc. and has a far-reaching impact on all aspects of cultivating project management talents as following: It requires the project managers to set up the BIM-centered concept of information communication and know convenience and profits of project management brought by BIM. In the information communication of new projects (figure 4), BIM is the core and all delivery and communication of information is based on it. Under this situation, the project managers should set up the BIM-centered concept of information communication. The concept should contain two levels at least: Firstly, make clear the functions of BIM; Secondly, be able to tell the differences and associations between BIM and traditional 3D models in order to make it effective. Meanwhile, the project manager should fully understand the benefits brought by BIM so as to function it well. According to the standpoints of AGC, the effects of BIM on project management are as following: finding conflicts (such as the structure of pipeline, etc.), setting up a visual model, judging the construction sit condition more reliably, and protesting it with higher quality and less creative chances.

What’s more, it helps the managers to prepare more schemes, such as, different construction orders, logistics organization, crane’s location, and costs, etc. It also helps non-professional members to see visual final products, so the number of re-examining and the costs of project guaranteeing are reduced. Therefore, it is easy to find that the effects of BIM on project management are in all fields so that the project managers should recognize it. Having a good command of tools and technologies related to BIM. Because BIM becomes the core and basis of information communication, so the project managers should not only have a good command of BIM tools but also fully understand some technologies related to project management. At the present, solutions of BIM are Autodesk’s Revit, Bentley’s MicroStation TriForma and Graphsoft’s ArchiCAD, etc. These varied solutions are widely used in construction and they can be worked as a basis to guiding some managerial jobs and building models applied in management work, though they are mainly adopted to build construction, structure, and MEP models and have some differences between models of the project management. In addition, some products can be used to build models that applied in the process of construction, etc. For example, some construction software like Autodesk’s Naviswork, Garphisoft’s Constructor are better adopted in project management. In the case mentioned above, Naviswork is served as a basic tool for all parties in the project. Fully understand some problems caused by BIM.

The application of BIM has changed the project management work and procedures and the ways of communication for parties. Hence, the project manager should fully understand some problems caused by BIM. For instance, how to add items related to BIM in a contract? How to deal with some risks caused by it? How to get rid of the costs? And how to cope with some changes in the team structure? etc. Due to these complicated problems, on one hand, some research is needed to solve these problems; On the other hand, the project managers should keep a clear head when meeting with these problems. When they make full use of BIM, some potential risks should be concerned.

Conclusion    

BIM is the new achievement when digital software’s reused in the construction field. It has a profound influence on the project management process. The paper mainly discusses the effects of digitization on project management information processes. Over recent years, the use of digital software in general and BIM in particular at different levels of construction has been widely noted. So much has its influence been in the construction industry that Government agencies of various countries with special reference to UK and US, mandatorily ask for the submission of BIM models for proposed projects to approval. In any country, where the construction industry plays a vital role in the generation of country’s per capita income and where commercial holdings are so common, the influence of BIM should be very high and hence the need for digitizing process become crucial for project success criteria

Sobre o Autor

Dr. Kamal Jaafar is an Assistant Professor in Engineering Management at UOWD. He holds an MPhil degree and the PhD degree in Structural Engineering from Cambridge University (UK), and an MBA degree from Ashcroft International Business School in Cambridge (UK). Dr. Jaafar has been honored by Prince Charles as a fellow of Cambridge Overseas Trust. His contribution to the Engineering field was recognized by KRSF and he was honored at the Royal College of Engineering in London. Dr. Jaafar is the author of the book titled” The Digital Project Management Evolution”.

References

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