Using BIM to Modernize and Enhance Business Operations in a Virtual World

  • December 29, 2020

Restrictions on business operations have forced owners, operators, and facility managers to rethink building design as well as overall business operations. From planning and building new facilities to selecting and renovating existing builds, owners and operators around the globe have come to realize over this past year –– primarily out of necessity –– just how much can be done virtually when you have the right technology.

Whether it was the sudden need to retrofit interiors to accommodate new health and safety protocols or to continue to fulfill upon expansion plans amid travel and in-person meeting constraints, owners, operators, and managers increasingly took to Building Information Modeling (BIM) to facilitate remote communication and collaboration, building inspection, site selection, and design planning. Now, even those who were previously apprehensive to adopt BIM are realizing how the process can be used to support the entire lifecycle of a building or infrastructure project –– all from afar. 

Planning with greater accuracy

BIM tools can serve an important role in site analysis and selection. Whether the team is having to make decisions remotely or not, site data collected in BIM processes can be used to analyze potential sites and if selected, position the building based on other important criteria. This allows for more calculated, informed decision making based on intelligent, contextual 3D models that are generated from reality capture and real-world data of natural and existing built environments. 

These 3D models allow owners, operators, and managers to gauge, with a high degree of accuracy, if a potential site meets technical, financial, timeline, and logistical requirements. The data collected can also reveal potential, costly issues before they become sunk costs.

Designing with data-driven details

With BIM, the design phase goes beyond conceptual design, incorporating analysis, detailing, and documentation. Using BIM data at this point in the preconstruction process is proving invaluable, as it can be used to avoid potential issues, inform scheduling and logistics, and optimize the entire operation. Taking this step will also often eliminate the need for rework, which typically accounts for the single most costly factor in construction. 

Finally, because BIM technology is cloud-based, teams can work collaboratively on projects from anywhere in the world. This eliminates the need to be onsite, saves time, speeds up timelines, and opens opportunities for owners and operators to work with teams regardless of geography.  

Building with increased efficiency

The data collected in BIM processes is being used by architects and engineers to create more detailed renderings than they’ve previously been able to do. This gives stakeholders across all aspects of the project a highly accurate single source of truth to work from. In other words, they leave nearly nothing to question. 

Not only do contractors and trades appreciate the level of specificity, but it also helps owners and operators realize greater returns on their investments. This is because BIM processes account for logistics to optimize timing and efficiency and reduce rework, and also allow for offsite and modular construction of various infrastructures.

Operating with maximized proficiency    

BIM data is also useful in the operations and maintenance of existing assets — even those that may not have been built using an integrated, 3D digital model. The data can be used to inform renovations and retrofits, efficient deconstruction, as well as building management and maintenance. This is key considering a majority of costs associated with built assets are not in the design-build stage but rather the ongoing costs of maintenance and energy use. For example, on a 30-year-old building, the average operating and support costs range from 60 to 80% of the total project cost.   

Data-rich 3D models can help reduce this expense by informing ways to better manage space and make buildings more efficient. And for many owners and operators with multiple facilities across the country or around the globe, assessing building conditions at scale can be difficult to do. BIM processes make it possible to make these decisions and monitor assets from anywhere in the world and allow multiple sites to be reviewed simultaneously, freeing owners and operators to work at a higher capacity. Additionally, models can also be useful assets in sales and marketing, particularly when trying to facilitate lease agreements remotely.

Now that much of the world is shifting to remote work indefinitely, owners, operators, and managers must look to more efficient ways of planning, building, and managing assets. BIM processes will enable them to keep pace with an ever-evolving world, but also creates assets that are more resilient.