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.”
In 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.”
Arup’s projects in South Africa clearly demonstrate the benefits. Karassavas – himself an international guest speaker on BIM – explains, “For our clients, the savings come not only in the latter stages of a building’s life, but also in asset management throughout the lifespan. The BIM model can go so far as to identify all elements of a building – right down to the level of furniture – and tag it. Now if someone moves office, you simply move the elements on the virtual plan, and asset management becomes much easier.”
“BIM is going to make major shifts in the way people design, construct and manage infrastructure and is the most exciting thing to happen to the construction industry, since the arrival of the computer.” – Nicholas Karassavas, BIM Manager at Arup South Africa
The future of BIM
“It’s exciting!” says Karassavas, “virtual reality lenses will enable us to ‘see’ the 3D model on a table, as it would appear from the ground and, like so many sci-fi films, allow us to unpack and rebuild without any costs to produce the optimum building. These 3D models will eventually be stored in the cloud and will make future additions or alterations so much simpler.”
Arup continues to be at the forefront in the successful application of BIM, ably demonstrated through the recent ProjectOVE – a 35 storey, 170m tall BIM building in the shape of a human body. Additionally in 2015, Arup introduced a ‘BIM Maturity Measure Tool’ to measure the maturity and level of success of BIM implementation. This model enables assessments to be made based on how well different projects have been completed, with scope for comparing the statistics collected.
“BIM is going to make major shifts in the way people design, construct and manage infrastructure and is the most exciting thing to happen to the construction industry, since the arrival of the computer,” concludes Karassavas.