More contractors building on their BIM expertise

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is prompting model practices among growing numbers of builders, including subcontractors involved in major building systems from mechanical and electrical to plumbing and structural systems, according to Michael DeLacey, CEO of Global Consulting Company, Microdesk, one of the industry’s leading consultants for BIM projects.

“BIM began gaining greater traction among contractors and subcontractors when studies performed eight to nine years ago indicated that, on average, usage resulted in a 10% cost reduction and 7% schedule reduction,” said DeLacey. By 2012, a study issued by Stanford University indicated BIM usage rates among contractors outpaced those of architects and engineers, he noted. Further, builders are deploying BIM in increasingly sophisticated ways.

Michael DeLacey
Trading Up: More sheetrock, painting and other finish-oriented subcontractors are joining mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural trades in implementing BIM as the technology emerges as a road map for managing and maintaining operations once a building is complete, says Microdesk CEO Michael DeLacey “We’re seeing more BIM protocols in owner contract language,” he said.

Among them is New York City-based Microdesk client TDX Construction Corp. a New York City-based construction management firm currently implementing Autodesk’s BIM 360 Glue, a cloud-based management and collaboration system, to construct a 230,000-sq.-ft. Inpatient Center for South Beach Psychiatric Center in New York City’s Staten Island. TDX and other project team members, including multiple prime contractors, each staffed with a BIM manager, began executing BIM 360 Glue during the project’s coordination phase to create trade models, shop drawings and as-built models, according TDX senior project manager Dominick Tucciarone and TDX project manager William Goodman. Results included a single repository for files, allowing all stakeholders, including field superintendents, to view a model, save locations, add mark ups and send feedback from either their computer or i-Pad. In a nutshell, BIM 360 Glue combined the functions of several programs to streamline the process and avail the technology to all parties, Tucciarone and Goodman noted.

Models typically are organized by associated bid package, with an area for design intent models and project standards. Activities involve uploads of Autodesk Revit and Autodesk Navisworks design-intent files within BIM 360 Glue and creating file-based merged models for stakeholders to review at the start of construction. BIM 360 Glue additionally is used to upload trade models and coordination models in their respective folders for other project team members to download or review within the Glue platform, Tucciarone and Goodman said.

With construction of the Psychiatric Center well under way, TDX is using BIM 360 Glue to review and store LOD 500 models. Meantime, the firm has deployed a BIM 360 Glue i-Pad app to reference models in the field with trades and create screenshots with mark ups to share with the team.

Millennial Momentum: After studying and working with BIM while attending school, more construction-oriented Millennials fully expect to leverage the technology once they join the workforce, DeLacey said.

Field Barriers Falling

Likewise, other builders accustomed to implementing BIM during preconstruction are extending its usage to the field, the result of new mobile devices that can capture information pertaining to quality, budget and schedule and share it with other stakeholders in secure, cloud-like environments. “Field performance applications and usage rates certainly are improving,” DeLacey said. “Field-based BIM tools, including the cloud, WiFi, smart phones and i-Pads required time to develop. On the software side, apps such as Autodesk’s BIM 360 Field, a program that supports field operations, weren’t available two to four years ago. Finally, you had a field-based workforce accustomed to operating the same way for 50 years with no desire to deviate from those practices.”

Not so with construction-oriented Millennials, whose members are clamoring to implement BIM in real-world applications, having learned the technology while studying architecture, engineering and construction management in school.

Going Mobile: In recent years, mobile devices and related apps promoted seamless transition from BIM-based project planning to BIM-informed execution in the field.

Post Occupancy: Operations, Maintenance and Repairs

Look for additional rate increases among subcontractors involved in finishes ranging from sheetrock to ceiling to paint as the BIM model emerges as a digital road map to managing operations, maintenance and repairs once a building is occupied. “We’re seeing more BIM protocols in owner contract language, DeLacey said, “particularly among universities, government agencies, hospitals and other institutional owners intending to occupy the facility over extended periods.”

South Beach Psychiatric Center on New York City's Staten Island
Advanced Applications: More sophisticated software programs, including Autodesk’s BIM 360 Glue, allow contractors such TDX Construction Corp., a Microdesk client, to more smoothly manage, streamline and collaborate on modeling for projects such as South Beach Psychiatric Center on New York City’s Staten Island.

New Methods, New Frontiers

To date, DeLacey hasn’t seen studies demonstrating greater ROI resulting from field-related BIM activities, though he suspects they will be forthcoming. Evidence to date is largely anecdotal. “Take the air-handler that doesn’t arrive on site on a designated date,” DeLacey elaborated. “Autodesk BIM 360 Field immediately communicates the problem to the project team, prompting the mechanical contractor to contact the manufacturer,” DeLacey said. “In a nutshell, programs such as BIM 360 Field place all project data involving building components and scheduling in a cloud-based environment immediately accessible by i-Phone or i-Pad. As a result, I don’t have to leave my office and drive to the site to fix a problem. I also can use that software to address RFIs or simply answer a question.”

Although photo documentation of site conditions isn’t new, new tools are driving more meaningful use of it, DeLacey pointed out. “Photographers transmit imagery to the cloud that users can download and compare to models created by programs such as Autodesk Revit and Navisworks,” he said. “Prior to that, laser scanning provided a higher level of accuracy, but was expensive. As prices come down, I believe we’ll find it required for purposes of field verification.”

“Having worked from the vantage points of owner, designer and contractor, we have a pretty good idea of what’s required to execute BIM and the supply the required to meet the desired ends.”

– Michael DeLacey, CEO, Microdesk

Consulting: A Multi-faceted Approach

Continually evolving BIM applications keep Microdesk busy consulting owners, designers, contractors and subcontractors, its approach varying among disciplines and tailored toward imparting both general and project specific guidance. When teaming with designers, “We’ll assign a BIM coordinator to ensure smooth delivery of design, budget and schedule components required by the owner,” DeLacey said.

On behalf of contractors, “We assume responsibility for the BIM model in the capacity of BIM manager, working with subcontractors to ensure they are developing appropriate schemes, then aggregating models in Navisworks, performing clash detection, and attending construction meetings, all in service of meeting the owner’s objectives,” DeLacey explained.

For owners, Microdesk develops BIM protocols to ensure the contractor is meeting project requirements. “Having worked from the vantage points of owner, designer and contractor, we have a pretty good idea of what’s required to execute BIM and the ability to supply the guidance required to meet the desired ends,” said DeLacey.

This article was sponsored by Microdesk. To learn more about Microdesk, click here.