Industry Progress: The “I” in BIM

By Kevin Kendellen, Construction Technology Manager

Since the early days of implementing Building Information Modeling (BIM) on construction projects, the focus has nearly always been on the visual aspect.  Phrases like “a picture is worth a thousand words” were constantly used to sell the concept of 3D models being used as a tool during the construction process.  While there definitely is proof in that idea, and the communication aspect is one of the biggest benefits of the model development process, the AEC industry is now finally making significant progress on the most important part of the BIM acronym:  The “I” for Information.

Building models themselves are just graphic representations of data.  So, while the industry has been focused on the “pretty pictures” that are so accessible with BIM, this data sat behind the scenes due to it either being accessible to just a few team members, our inability to make sense of what could be exported to Microsoft Excel, or just not having the time to dig into it all due to project demands.  That data is now front and center and the AEC industry is knee deep into learning how to digest this hidden gold mine of information to build projects better and cut back on waste.  This evolution is being fast-tracked through a swell of software hitting the market that is focused on leveraging that data through the lifecycle of the building, affecting not only design and construction, but providing opportunities to change how buildings are managed by facility personnel.

So how do we get there?  We, as an industry, need to look at the flow of information and what shifts in a project’s timeline are now obtainable because of it.  The data that is contained in the models will be even more relied upon due to it being a single source of information being used across multiple software applications and how fast and easy it is for project teams to access that information.  This shift in data usage will continue to change how project teams interact and make decisions.  As the industry shifts to this mentality, there will be new challenges at each phase of a project.

The word “collaboration” is constantly thrown around but rarely is a project team able to capitalize on those initial thoughts or ideas on how to better use each player’s time wisely and teams retreat to the corners of their old ways as soon as a new idea falters.  Data will be the driver for crossing “collaboration” over from a buzz word to a standard practice.  Projects will look to utilize an unbroken chain of information, we’ll be looking at ways to eliminate “hand-offs” and further advance the usage of manufacturing processes such as standardization and modularization to delivery better projects in a shorter duration.