It has increasingly become crystal clear that BIM represents the opening of the architectural design community and construction industry to interoperability. There is no doubt that it’s a long and tedious way to being fully developed, however, important steps have been made during the last decades and the future of construction looks brighter day by day.
What is BIM?
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the process of creating information models containing both graphical and non-graphical information in a Common Data Environment (CDE) (a shared repository for digital project information). The information that is created becomes ever more detailed as a project progresses with the complete dataset then handed to a client at completion to use in the building’s In Use phase and potentially on into a decommissioning phase.
When we talk about BIM maturity we are essentially talking about the supply chain’s ability to exchange information digitally. The maturity levels from Level 0, through Levels 1, 2, 3 and beyond are often visualized via the maturity ‘wedge’ diagram conceived by Mark Bew and Mervyn Richards. Our article on BIM Levels Explained is a good place to start if you’re looking for more information.
BIM dimensions are different to BIM maturity levels. They refer to the particular way in which particular kinds of data are linked to an information model. By adding additional dimensions of data you can start to get a fuller understanding of your construction project – how it will be delivered, what it will cost and how it should be maintained etc. These dimensions – 4D, 5D and 6D BIM – can all feasibly (but not necessarily) occur within a BIM Level 2 workflow.
In this blog post we explore what it means to add different dimensions of information to a BIM process and explore what this looks like in practice and what benefits might be expected.
3D (The Shared Information Model)
3D BIM is perhaps the BIM we are most familiar with – the process of creating graphical and non-graphical information and sharing this information in a Common Data Environment (CDE).
As the project lifecycle progresses this information becomes ever more rich in detail until the point at which the project data is handed over to a client at completion.
4D (Construction sequencing)
4D BIM adds an extra dimension of information to a project information model in the form of scheduling data. This data is added to components which will build in detail as the project progresses. This information can be used to obtain accurate programme information and visualisations showing how your project will develop sequentially.
Time-related information for a particular element might include information on lead time, how long it takes to install/construct, the time needed to become operational/harden/cure, the sequence in which components should be installed, and dependencies on other areas of the project.
With time information federated in the shared information model planners should be able to develop an accurate project programme. With the data linked to the graphical representation of components/systems it becomes easy to understand and query project information and it is also possible to show how construction will develop, sequentially, over time showing how a structure will visually appear at each stage.
Working in this way is enormously helpful when it comes to planning work to ensure it is safely, logically and efficiently sequenced. Being able to prototype how assets come together before ground is broken on site allows for feedback at an early stage and avoids wasteful and costly on-site design co-ordination and rework. Showing how projects will be constructed visually is also handy when engaging with stakeholders, giving everyone a clear visual understanding of planned works and what the finished construction will look like with no surprises.
Adding sequencing information can be extremely useful, not just in the design phase, but earlier too, allowing for the feasibility of schemes to be assessed from the off. At tender stage this kind of information can allow initial concepts to be explored and communicated to inspire confidence in the team’s ability to meet the brief.
It’s important to note that working with 4D information doesn’t negate the need for planners who remain an integral part of the project team. Rather than creating programs as proposals develop, as is the case in traditional workflows, in a digital workflow planners can now influence and shape proposals from a much earlier stage in a project. Indeed, by being closer to the wider project team and providing feedback earlier in the process, there is the potential for planners to add significantly more value to a construction project.
Drawing on the components of the information model being able to extract accurate cost information is what’s at the heart of 5D BIM.
Considerations might include capital costs (the costs of purchasing and installing a component), its associated running costs and the cost of renewal/replacement down the line. These calculations can be made on the basis of the data and associated information linked to particular components within the graphical model. This information allows cost managers to easily extrapolate the quantities of a given component on a project, applying rates to those quantities, thereby reaching an overall cost for the development.
The benefits of a costing approach linked to a model include the ability to easily see costs in 3D form, get notifications when changes are made, and the automatic counting of components/systems attached to a project. However, it’s not just cost managers who stand to benefit from considering cost as part of your BIM process. Assuming the presence of 4D program data and a clear understanding of the value of a contract, you can easily track predicted and actual spend over the course of a project. This allows for regular cost reporting and budgeting to ensure efficiencies are realized and the project itself stays within budget tolerances.
The accuracy of any cost calculations is, of course, reliant on the data produced by multiple teams and shared within the Common Data Environment. If that information is inaccurate, so too will be any calculations that rely upon it. In this respect using BIM to consider cost is no different to more traditional ways of working. It is for this reason that quantity surveyors and estimators still have an important role to play, not only in checking the accuracy of information but also in helping to interpret and fill information ‘gaps’. Many elements of a project will still be modelled in 2D or not at all. There’s also likely to be differences between models in how things are classified and the cost manager will need to clarify and understand the commonality between what at first feel like disparate things.
An information model is likely to contain three types of quantity. Quantities based on actual model components (with visible details) which you can explore through the model are the most obvious. Quantities may also be derived from model components (such as moldings around windows) that aren’t always visible. The third kind of quantity is non-modeled quantities (these include temporary works, construction joints etc.). Unless the construction phase is modeled then the design model will show, graphically, design quantities but not the construction quantities. A cost manager is likely to be skilled in picking up the quantities that aren’t solely based on model components.
One of the advantages of extrapolating cost from the information model is the fact that the data can be queried at any time during a project and the information that feeds cost reports is regularly updated. This ‘living’ cost plan helps teams design to budget and because cost managers are engaged from the start of a project this allows for faster, more accurate reporting of costs at the early stages of a project. Compare this to a traditional approach where a cost manager’s report may be updated a few times during the early stages of a project with completed designs only fully costed at the end of the project team’s design process.
The cost manager may have to get used to working earlier and more iteratively than in a traditional process but has just as important a role to play in overall project delivery.
6D BIM (Project Lifecycle Information; Sustainability)
The construction industry has traditionally been focussed on the upfront capital costs of construction. Shifting this focus to better understand the whole-life cost of assets, where most money is proportionately spent, should make for better decisions upfront in terms of both cost and sustainability. This is where 6D BIM comes in.
Sometimes referred to as integrated BIM or iBIM, 6D BIM involves the inclusion of information to support facilities management and operation to drive better business outcomes. This data might include information on the manufacturer of a component, its installation date, required maintenance and details of how the item should be configured and operated for optimal performance, energy performance, along with lifespan and decommissioning data.
Adding this kind of detail to your information model allows decisions to be made during the design process – a boiler with a lifespan of 5 years could be substituted with one expected to last 10, for example, if it makes economic or operational sense to do so. In effect, designers can explore a whole range of permutations across the lifecycle of a built assets and quickly get an understanding of impacts including costs. However, it is at handover, that this kind of information really adds value as it is passed on to the end-user.
A model offers an easily-accessible and understood way of extrapolating information. Details that would have been hidden in paper files are now easily interrogated graphically. Where this approach really comes into its own is in allowing facilities managers to pre-plan maintenance activities potentially years in advance and develop spending profiles over the lifetime of a built asset, working out when repairs become uneconomical or existing systems inefficient. This planned and pro-active approach offers significant benefits over a more reactive one – not least in terms of costs.
Ideally the information model should continue to develop during the In Use phase with updates on repairs and replacements added in. Better yet, a myriad of operational data and diagnostics can also be fed in to inform decision making still further.
7D (Operations and Facilities Management)
Studies indicate that over 90% of total building lifecycle costs are related to facility maintenance and operations. Real estate and facility managers are increasingly showing interest in using BIM in facility management.
Some of the highlights of effectiveness of utilizing BIM 7D include:
- Preventative Maintenance Scheduling: BIM can be used to plan and track maintenance activities proactively and appropriately by using the information about the building structure and equipment used in the facility. This type of preventative maintenance activities will help improve building performance, reduce corrective maintenance and emergency maintenance repairs and increase productivity of maintenance staff.
- Sustainability Analysis: BIM integrated with other analysis & evaluation tools are used to track building performance data, which can be compared with specified sustainable standards to identify the flaws in the building systems. Facility’s sustainability program can be improved to better match the sustainability goals.
- Asset Management: Assets of a building consist of the physical building, its systems, equipment and surrounding environment. Asset management is essential in short-term and long-term planning for proper upkeep of building assets. The bi-directional Building Information Modeling (BIM) integration into asset management software can help in better visualization of assets and aid in the maintenance and operation of a facility.
- Space Utilization Management: Facility professionals and department liaisons can utilize BIM to effectively manage, track and distribute appropriate spaces and related resources within a facility. BIM space management application turns out to be beneficial in planning renovation projects and future needs, allocating space for proper usage of each corner of the building and tracking the impact of proposed changes.
- Disaster & Emergency Planning: BIM can provide critical building information to improve the efficiency of disaster response plans and minimize any risk. BIM can be integrated with building automation system (BAS) to display where the emergency is located within a building, to find possible routes to the affected area and to locate other dangerous areas within the building during such emergencies.
We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!
Rosario Mannino was born and raised in New Jersey. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Florida Atlantic University and a Professional Certificate from New York University in Construction Project Management. Eight years after graduating from FAU, Mannino founded the Architect-Led Design-Build company RS|MANNINO Architecture + Construction. RS|MANNINO builds on our diverse professional and construction backgrounds to provide a balanced and thoughtful approach to our clients’ projects. Together with our trusted network of professionals, trade and supplier resources, we bring the expertise and hands-on experience in architecture, design, engineering, construction trades, and project management necessary to make every project we take on a success. They approach everything we do with a commitment to an integrated design and construction process. For more information visit them online Facebook; Twitter; LinkedIn; Website
When did you first become interested in Architect-Led Design-Build?
I knew I wanted to be an architect from a very young age. Growing up around construction, I was so intrigued by the entire process. I loved being on the job site watching the architectural plans unfold into a beautiful home or building. I always thought I had to decide on which path to pursue: architecture vs. construction/office vs. jobsite. I had been exploring the idea of both disciplines from a very young age, and it grew into a focused research project for me by the time I reached high school. I don’t think there was ever this “ah ha” moment. It was a passion that I had from the start.
Can you describe the process of ALDB?
As the Architect, we contract with the owner both to design and to construct a building, and we procure the construction services by contracting directly with the various construction trades.
Can you walk us through a typical project?
In ALDB, we start our projects very similarly to a traditional method. We start with a budget and scope. If the budget and scope are approved, we start to design. Once we complete our schematic design, we provide an updated preliminary estimate. Once we confirm we are within budget, we continue to refine the design and the cost estimates. We want our clients to be informed and included throughout the entire process. This factor creates a trusting relationship between our firm and our clients. With our method, the clients only need to communicate with us. There are less parties involved making communication much more efficient.
How are the fees structured?
Depends on the complexity and size of the project; some are hourly design fees with the Construction documents set at a fixed fee which is determined after Schematic Design. Most of our projects are defined well enough that we can provide a professional fee plus reimbursable expenses. Our Construction Management fee is a fixed fee which also includes a pre-construction management fee. Occasionally we will perform Construction as a fixed price.
What are some of the risks and rewards of ALDB?
If a problem arises, there is only one place to point the finger. In the traditional design-bid-build method, miscommunication between Architect and Contractor can cause unnecessary tension. With ALDB, the entire process is much more cohesive creating a team-like environment. The clients also feel a sense of comfort when only having to communicate with one entity.
What are the three greatest challenges with ALDB process?
Higher Insurance premiums – This is one of the main reasons why we separate our business entities, having separate insurance for both entities and separate contracts for the client.
Most Architecture firms can take on smaller projects if the work load is slowing down, and most builders have very small overhead to compensate for the slower times. With ALDB, you need to have separate staff for both Architecture and Construction; it’s a bigger machine to feed.
Training new staff is much more of an investment because overall, they are becoming much more knowledgeable about our whole profession. There is even more training involved because new staff must learn both Architecture and Construction. It is extremely gratifying to educate Architects to think in a different way.
What are the three greatest advantages of ALDB?
One of the best advantages of being an ALDB firm is that we get to work directly with the craftsmen themselves to discuss how we can make improvements to the project; it is a learning experience for both of us. We appreciate this close relationship, and I am certain our craftsmen enjoy working in close contact with the designer. The designer and the craftsman work directly together.
As the Architect, we take on a role that allows better control of project budgets, schedules, and overall project quality, including the quality of design.
It’s so much fun. I think it’s so much fun because we are truly going back to being Master builders. As Architects we love to problem solve; that’s what we do all day long, but now it’s even more in depth and more dynamic.
Do you see ALDB as a way for Architects to take back “control” of the design and construction process?
For certain markets, yes. I have had the pleasure of working on projects with unlimited design budgets, having total control of the project as the Architecture firm. In reality, not every client is going to have an unlimited budget. The client relationship in ALDB is far greater than in a traditional design-bid-build method. We have found our clients to be so much more appreciate of our talents on our design-build projects vs. our design only jobs. Some of our design jobs have a 2-3 month duration, followed by phone calls and quick site meetings. In design-build, we have a much closer relationship with our clients; most of them feel like family before the project is over!
Why do you think that most Architects, Clients and Contractors shy away from ALDB?
For Architects, it is not necessarily something they ever thought about because they weren’t introduced to it. We are trained in (most) schools to be Starchitects with grand budgets. After school and our internship is completed, most architects find the niche they are most comfortable in. I cannot say that ALDB is easy nor is it for everyone to pursue. There is a more executive and dynamic role; there is a much more entrepreneurial mode to ALDB as opposed to running a boutique design firm. You can be a one-person design firm, but to do design-build you need to build a solid team. The daily tasks of designing, managing the office, managing the sites, and keeping finances in order is not for everyone, nor can one person do it all. It requires a great team, and we are fortunate to have that.
I have not yet met a client who shied away from ALDB. However, we do work on design only jobs. This usually happens when the client already has a relationship with a contractor. We are agreeable to this because we can only build so much, and we want our clients to be comfortable with who they are working with.
For contractors, there is a sense of losing the market. Good builders and contractors should not be concerned. They may choose to adapt, but to be honest I do not think this will be some sweeping trend in the AEC industry.
What are some of the tools you use (from AIA, NCARB, Insurance Company, Other Professional Organizations) to help you manage your firm’s performance and reduce risk?
I have read a lot of literature on ALDB; the AIA has a few great articles as well as a book on ALDB. There is an organization specifically for design-build called Design Build Institute of America (DBIA). This organization is geared more toward government and large-scale projects. There are also a few attorneys who have published articles on ALDB that have been very helpful.
My research has lead me to separate my design and construction contracts, but each project is unique. I treat each project differently. I cannot really say I have a set method because our scale of work differs so greatly, spanning a large spectrum. On one end, we have worked on small kitchen renovations, and on the other end we have done new construction on vacant lots.
What is the percentage of ALDB your firm is currently working on – what are the major differences between traditional project delivery vs ALDB projects?
Being recently engaged in a few large multi-family developments, we’ve found that we are providing more than the basic services on those scale projects. This is due to our experience. Developers are taking advantage of our management and construction background. Our role is much more than just producing design documents. I would say we are about 60% design only and 40% ALDB projects.
Is there anything you would like to see to make the ALDB even better for future projects?
I hope to see more architecture schools incorporating some type of design-build programs. If Architects played a larger role, communities would greatly benefit. It would be nice if ALDB gained more popularity so that clients can learn to appreciate Architects playing a larger role.
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We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!
I often compare working with adults to working with children. Here is a list of suggestions to getting something done, whether it is other colleagues at work or your kids at home.
Please share your comments and feedback below this post.
1. SHARE THE VISION
It’s never easy getting someone else to just “buy in” and do something — at least not unless there is some big reward at the end. So share your vision and get “buy in” from your team. If it is possible, allow the team to shape the vision of the project, task, or event.
Find out what motivates your team. My wife and I have been procrastinating about swapping out the kids play room with my office. By engaging my team (my kids) while my wife was out, I was able to have them help us jump start the small but arduous task ahead of us (since the two rooms are separated by two flights of stairs).
3. BREAKING DOWN A BIG TASK INTO SMALLER TASKS
Looking at all that needs to be completed is daunting, but when you break down the overall tasks into smaller, manageable tasks it appears doable. As things get done it is easy to keep the momentum going to complete the project and move on to the next one. Do not overwhelm the team — break down the activities into manageable tasks. Be realistic with the schedule to keep them motivated and on track.
Asking for and receiving continuous feedback helps the team see that their ideas matter. Integrating the team’s ideas into your overall project makes them feel vested in the project. It is easier to get things done when your entire team is on board with where things are headed. In my case, I asked my kids where they wanted to relocate some of the toy “stations” so they could be involved in the decision making process.
5. TAKE A BREAK
OK, playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors” and “Mickey Mouse Built a House, How Many Bricks Did He Use?” (throwbacks from when I was a kid), might not go over well at work. However, taking a break from a task will help recharge and refocus the team. Take this opportunity to encourage and bond with the team. Remind them of the vision.
6. TEAM BUILDING
Use the break to bond. Whether or not this project is as successful as you envisioned it to be it is a learning opportunity (try to “break the eggs” and learn on the smaller or less important tasks, if you have to). Having a solid team will help with the success of future projects. We can grow from our challenges and experience and learn to work with our strengths (and the strengths of our team).
Keep giving the team positive reinforcement (and yourself too). Telling the kids that mommy was going to be “so happy” when she saw what we had undertaken, kept the little troops motivated walking up and down those stairs carrying office supplies and toys on those countless trips up and down stairs.
8. OFFER REWARD
Ice cream after dinner worked in my case. Again, see what motivates the team and offer a reward. It doesn’t necessarily need to be money or a promotion. Something small like a gas card or tickets to the movie or ball game would be a nice token of appreciation for having your tea, finish the job. It makes them feel appreciated and keeps them focused on completing the tasks expeditiously.
9. NEXT PROJECT
Go back to the team and see what ideas they have for the next project. Also remember to ask what the best and worse parts of the project were so that the next project is even more successful. Make a list of “Lessons Learned” so you don’t forget!
10. MANAGEMENT & PASSING THE TORCH
If you can, avoid being a micro-manager; Next time be part of the team instead of being the leader. Let the others take the role of the committee chair, project managers, etc. What better way to teach leadership then to give someone else a turn to manage a project, task, or event? You can mentor each other (if you are willing to be reversed-mentored). They get a seasoned team member with a wealth of knowledge and experience. It’s a win-win for both and a fantastic way to build a strong, versatile team. It’s also humbling and a great way to see the project from the eyes of the guys in the trenches, which in turn, will make you a better leader for the next big thing.
We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments.
If you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!
Have a great weekend!
Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook
FC3 ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN, LLC
P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
Licensed in NJ, NY, PA, DE, CT.
Six Phases of a Project.
4) Search for the guilty.
5) Punishment of the innocent.
6) Praise and honours for the non-participants.
Copyright © 2010 Frank Cunha III.
Frank Cunha III – Architect & Visual Artist
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E-mail: fc3arch @me.com