Avoid Extended Renovation Downtime: How BIM Aids in Schedule Compression

  • January 11, 2021

Renovation-related downtime on any operational building can put a tremendous financial strain on the stakeholders involved. In the private sector, that strain is typically limited to owners of the building, but with structures reserved for public use, the implications can be far more pervasive. 

Take convention centers, airports, hospitals, and sports stadiums for instance. These are major economic drivers for communities, cities, and states, and in some cases, the lifeblood of the region’s culture. The Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans is a prime example. 

The iconic structure hosts roughly 400 events annually, drawing millions of attendees, creating thousands of full-time jobs, and generating an economic impact of approximately $585 million for the State of Louisiana. When it’s out of commission, the effects can be felt fast. So, when these types of public-use facilities require significant renovations to stay current or accommodate growth, efficiency is critical to avoid drastic hits to the local economy. 

This is where Building Information Modeling (BIM) is proving invaluable. Now, more in the AEC community are using BIM and data-rich as-built BIM models to compress schedules, reduce rework, and deliver on stakeholder expectations. In fact, BIM is being used to account for nearly every aspect of the construction process, enabling project teams to work more collaboratively and with greater accuracy and efficiency. 

Going beyond dimensional characteristics

While 3D models are often considered the foundation for BIM, the graphical representation can go far beyond just dimensional characteristics, providing an understanding of the time-based processes involved in the renovation. Known as BIM-4D, it helps detect potential conflicts by applying the time factor of the construction schedule to the 3D model. 

The primary purpose of 4D is to enable the construction team to visualize logistical issues or inefficiencies. It can bring to light important details like out-of-sequence work, lead-times, construction and installation periods, scheduling conflicts between multiple trades, and interdependencies with other areas.

Having access to this integrated information within building models allows planners, architects, and contractors to develop a more accurate project timeline than traditional planning methods. Project stakeholders can mitigate the risks of delays and rework through sequencing and coordination optimization. 

Minimizing inventory delays and inefficiencies

Material shortages and supply chain delays are arguably two of the biggest contributors to project delays. Naturally, construction teams strive to avoid this by getting the right materials in the right quantities at the right location at the right time, but this often isn’t the reality especially when conventional estimating techniques that rely on 2D models are used. These leave too much room for ambiguity and error. 

BIM models can be used to eliminate this ambiguity by automatically generating material estimates based on the data in the model. It allows stakeholders to see what materials are needed and how much is needed for a given project. And when designs change, material estimates can be automatically recalculated in real time. Without BIM, it’s difficult to communicate procurement information across the construction team at the same time, which can lead to procurement of the wrong materials, and miscalculated quantities and timelines.

For public use structures, or any operational space for that matter, materials planning and procurement is often a challenging aspect, particularly if facilities remain partially open during renovations. Construction site conditions are dynamic in nature, involving numerous activities and resources scattered on a usually congested site, so it’s no secret that repositioning misplaced materials wastes significant time and reduces construction efficiency.

The use of BIM data allows contractors to order supplies more accurately and timely, while optimizing on-site material storage, saving time, and maximizing efficiency. 

Maximizing fast-track scheduling

The demand for shorter construction timelines has led to a variety of schedule-compression techniques. Fast-track scheduling isn’t a new approach to project delivery, but now it’s being refined with BIM. 

Fast-track scheduling has historically had its share of challenges, primarily due to the high level of detail needed in planning and coordination of projects. However, as data-rich BIM modeling becomes more common, stakeholders can coordinate at a higher, more accurate level than ever. This accuracy helps mitigate clashes in areas where one model overlaps or makes the other impossible. BIM makes finding these clashes easier in the planning stages and subsequently makes overlapping construction activities more feasible, leading to reduced project timelines. 

Unfortunately, the construction industry has become synonymous with schedule delays, and while frustrating, many have come to accept it as part of the process. But, expectations are quickly changing as technology and data become more pervasive, bringing greater efficiency to the way we experience nearly every facet of life. This expectation is carrying over to the construction industry –– soon delays will no longer be an acceptable part of the process. BIM will serve as a powerful tool for meeting these new expectations.