BIM: A LEAN Revolution

In my January blog, I discussed the recent movement of healthcare owners to make their business more efficient using six sigma or lean thinking to re-engineer processes driving a demand for the design and construction industry to eliminate waste and add value to healthcare facility delivery. Aiding the architect in meeting lean design objectives are robust technical tools. Known as Building Information Modeling/Management or BIM, this technology has been generating an industry wide revolution that is long overdue. Building design and construction has been delivered in much the same way for decades and is filled with inefficiency. Today’s information age strengthened by advanced computing power is changing the design practice in much the same way a forest fire initially creates destruction but then rebirth. The last ten years of change provide only a hint of the revolution underway and the potential transformative power of BIM ahead.

What is BIM?

For those not familiar with BIM, there is a new language and acronyms to learn. In its simplest form Building Information Modeling is the process of building a building virtually (in 3D computer space) prior to constructing it physically. Historically, it was a computer model used initially in design phases for “clash detection” – understanding and avoiding conflicts between disciplines and trades to improve design coordination and communicate better in the field. Today, BIM is a process by which a team manages and systematically assembles structured information about a facility for the purpose of planning, constructing, and commissioning that facility.

The degree of BIM use and the level of sophistication of the various parties — the owner, design team and building team ­ are greatly influencing how robustly the BIM process can be employed and are changing the entire delivery process and contracting approaches. Industry leaders are fashioning new processes and phases of work that shift from traditional Schematic, Design Development, Construction Document, and Construction Administration phases, scope of services and deliverables to what is now called Level of Development (LOD). Level of Development relates to the model’s completion stages and provides for the integration of the model being shared and developed by multiple parties – owners, architects, engineers, contractors and subcontractors – potentially all simultaneously.

Value of BIM

Owners motivations for getting more out of less effort and resources places similar demand on designing new spaces. This demand coupled with advances in computing memory, speed and cloud capability now allow the healthcare design industry to leverage BIM technology on scales of projects previously unimaginable ­ making its use more beneficial than ever.

Use of BIM can:

  • Increase speed of completion, translating to earlier revenue generation
  • Reduce costs by reduced RFIs and change orders
  • Heighten reliability – tightening estimates and allowing earlier Gross Maximum Prices
  • Enhance quality, accuracy and precision of the end product
  • Create understanding and improve expectation management
  • Increase long term maintainability and reduce future operational costs

Employing an effective BIM process can eliminate duplicative effort, thereby streamlining the process and reducing time. In FKP’s recent projects, owners, design teams and builders have demonstrated a time savings over traditional non-BIM delivery of a similar scope project prior to full BIM capability. This combined with an Integrated Project Delivery type partnership saved even more time. The estimated potential revenue enhancement possible by bringing projects on line faster can be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

This type of time savings is created by re-inventing the delivery process, shifting responsibilities for portions of the project into the hands of the experts most capable of developing and guiding that portion of the model. BIM model reviews along with collaboration of the architects and engineers lead to design adjustments that minimize construction delays overall. By collaborating and developing the model in tandem, the questions arise prior to construction and issues can be coordinated.

Accomplishing significant time and money savings requires the right team. BIM experience is important, but equally vital is the right attitude towards collaboration and flexibility, combined with the ability to communicate effectively to ensure expectations are aligned. Leveraging BIM requires profound change and not all individuals are open-minded and readily embrace testing, exploration and abandoning years of tradition.

Looking to the Future

BIM is revolutionizing the way architects and engineers think and conduct our business. But BIM is not a replacement for good management, thought process and planning. Even with BIM ­ validation, quality control, checking behind others and communication are still major keys to success. BIM is only as good as the expertise of the team members and the quality of information coordinated and placed in the model. “Trust, but verify” is still an important aspect of any successful project and model. But with BIM, we can push the bounds of creativity and design to construct truly transformational facilities, transformative in experience and operational results.

— Dan Killebrew is a partner at Dallas-based FKP Architects.

Posted in Expert Opinions.