‘Knowledge is power’ is a truism embodied in Building Information Modeling (BIM

13Oct16

by Vaughan Harris

The saying ‘knowledge is power’ is a truism embodied in Building Information Modeling (BIM). A process involving the generation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of places, it is the embedded information that makes this technology so powerful.

Used in all design disciplines including town planning, geospatial and all build-related disciplines, Nicholas Karassavas, BIM Manager at Arup South Africa, explains, “The software packages differ from architectural drafting tools, such as AutoCAD, by allowing the addition of further information such as time, cost, manufacturers’ details, sustainability and maintenance information to the building model. Additionally the information remains valid for the life of the building, which is showing substantial savings in facilities management and ultimately reducing risk in design, construction and finance management.”

oveIn the conventional construction model, each discipline works in a silo and operates from its own two-dimensional linear drawing, often unaware of changes made in another discipline that may have significant impact on its own portfolio. To understand the value of BIM in contrast to the conventional model, Karassavas suggests imagining that a single unit (like a Lego brick) represents each element of the building, such as a light fixture. “Each discipline attaches its ‘recipe’ to that brick. It could be the photometric details and electrical specs, the costs and supplier, the style, colour, model, etc. Inserted into the 3D model, the ‘brick’ immediately shows up any coordination issues, such as a column blocking the light or an air conditioning outlet in the same space. It also relays associated data such as quantity, position and other pertinent information required by the different players involved, from designing through to construction and then facility management.

To understand the value of BIM in contrast to the conventional model, Karassavas suggests imagining that a single unit (like a Lego brick) represents each element of the building, such as a light fixture.

“A key saving from the contractors’ perspective is time. Only one model carries the truth and, because it is 3D and parametric, calculating elements into an accurate project plan removes the traditional delays caused by overlapping construction-sequencing details. For instance, scaffolding can be arranged so that all elements requiring scaffolding can be dovetailed in one moment – currently, it is quite common for scaffolding to be erected, removed and then re-erected by another supplier for another aspect of construction,” says Karassavas.

Arup South Africa’s BIM expertise has strong support from the UK offices. Driven by architects, engineers and, in the UK, mandated by the UK government, BIM continues to grow worldwide. A survey held in April this year of 1 000 UK construction professionals, revealed that BIM adoption has increased from 13% in 2010 to 54% in 2015. Furthermore, early indications in UK government buildings have shown an 8% saving in construction costs and a 10% facilities management saving since 2010. However, further extrapolation points towards a 27% facilities management saving across the life of a building.

Speaking to delegates at the recently held ‘BIM Infinity and Beyond’ talks at Construction IT, Casey Rutland, associate director of Arup UK, commented, “BIM is an exciting and positive way of working that offers many different methods of collaboration on project design. Its success and innovation can best be described as ‘hitting a target with a sniper rifle as opposed to missing with a shotgun’, thereby reducing wastage throughout every stage of a development. The training can be intense and intimidating but none of these challenges are insurmountable and the benefits are immense.”

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