Building information modeling (BIM) has been a major value driver in the nonresidential design and construction world for a long time. In fact, as far back as 2012, a McGraw-Hill Construction study of BIM adoption in the North American nonresidential construction industry found that 70% of contractors were using BIM in their businesses. On the residential side of the ledger, however, neither single-family detached nor multifamily developers and builders have yet to make the transition.

But now’s the time to get with the program! The benefits of BIM greatly outweigh the risks. In fact, a deeply ingrained human flaw may be at the root of the reluctance of many to get started: Most of us tend to underestimate the risk of not changing our habits, behaviors, processes, strategies, and the like. At the same time, we overestimate the risk of change.

Yet, BIM will be essential for future design and construction effectiveness. Here are seven reasons why:

  1. Virtual reality and augmented reality are here. While these powerful tools are in their infancy, it won’t take long for consumers to catch on and for operational uses to expand and become standard. With traditional drawing practices in two dimensions, designs must be converted to 3-D to be used in virtual reality, but with BIM they can be delivered to the visualization system directly.
  2. Even without going the extra mile to full virtual or augmented reality, practitioners in the general construction world have been using BIM to conduct 3-D on-screen “site walks” that allow the design and construction teams to identify inefficiencies, problems, and construction issues for a long time. With all the information loaded in the models, changes are made with very little design rework. With BIM and the virtual tour, you can see construction errors before they happen. Modeling ducts, pipes, and chases in 3-D and “virtually” building on screen using clash-detection tools can eliminate these problems before they become extremely costly issues on-site.
  3. Eliminating downtime associated with requests for information (RFIs) when clashes or other design problems come to light during the build phase saves significant time, money, and—of particular interest in our current supply-constrained labor market—construction labor! Building it right the first time has never been easier than with a robust and fully developed BIM model, supported by excellent project team collaboration and communication.
  4. The BIM value proposition shows benefits to all parts of the process.
    Continuum Advisory Group The BIM value proposition shows benefits to all parts of the process.

  5. When integrated with strong collaborative project team management, robust communication, and construction schedule management, BIM can help drive cycle time management and even reduction.
  6. Integrating BIM with the purchasing and estimating systems allows the developer, builder, or general contractor to develop very accurate, automated bills of materials for each building. While improving material management and reducing material waste are always the marks of well-run building and construction organizations, in a supply environment of high material costs with additional upside risk, the savings opportunities are even greater.
  7. While information exchange between BIM models and modular construction systems can be a challenge, there is significant opportunity in the future for BIM to facilitate implementation, particularly with respect to multistory, complex buildings that aim to use modules as a key element of their structure.
  8. This final point illustrates well the psychological blind spot regarding how we tend to view risk. In today’s architectural, engineering, and drafting schools and programs, students are largely learning the trade by using 3-D and BIM tools. Looking forward five to 10 years, it isn’t hard to conceive of a situation where companies that continue to operate exclusively in the old, 2-D world won't be able to attract talent as either employees or third-party consultants. This is as clear an example of the risks associated with not changing as one in our industry could imagine.

These seven reasons clearly illustrate the benefits that accrue relatively early in the transition to BIM. They also demonstrate that BIM is becoming an operating standard for the construction industry. It’s only a matter of time before the residential sector comes to the party.

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