Building Information Modeling

January 1, 2010

Proponents of Building Information Modeling methodology say that, by using BIM objects and virtual design/construction methods to design, manage, and store and update all the files related to a construction project, companies can save time, improve efficiencies, and keep better records. Here’s a look at how the technology offers benefits to several of the key participants in the construction process: building owners, architects, building product manufacturers, and, of course, general contractors.

According to a January 13, 2000, article in the Economist titled “New Wiring,” the estimated annual cost of inefficiencies and delays in the U.S. construction industry is about $200 billion. That’s almost one-third of the more than $650 billion spent on construction each year in the United States.

At the Construction Management Association of America’s Web site, the numbers are similar. The association claims that 30 percent of the money spent on construction in the U.S. each year goes to cover delays and inefficient work processes.

So what does all this talk of wasteful spending have to do with Building Information Modeling or BIM?

Proponents of the methodology say that, by using BIM objects and virtual design/construction methods to design, manage, and store and update all the files related to a construction project, companies can save time, improve efficiencies, and keep better records. The entire scope of a project—from design, scheduling, and costing to contracts, purchase orders, change requests, as-builts, and completion—is all reliably and digitally coordinated.

BIM for building owners

It’s not hard to see why building owners have much to gain from these new methods of digitally managing the construction process:

  • Better informed decisions regarding specifications and costs at the design stage
  • Fewer design changes as construction gets underway;
  • Less waste and fewer delays;
  • Better scheduling of trades and materials;
  • Accurate as-builts for future facility management
  • Improved communication throughout the process
  • Better documentation for LEED accreditation.

In an article from U.S. Construction Management Association of America on the Daily Commercial News website: “Use of building information modeling accelerates: CMAA study,” the author points out that “more than a third of the construction project and program owners responding to the Eighth Annual Survey of Owners…say they have used Building Information Modeling (BIM) on one or more projects.”

BIM for architects and building product manufacturers

For architects and building product manufacturers, the push is on right now to create data-rich 3D BIM objects for every building product, in order to make specifying products for large institutional, commercial, and industrial building projects faster and more precise.

To meet that need, Reed Construction Data introduced software to the market that has the potential to be the best and only bridge between the designers/specifiers who choose building products and the people who sell those products.

Of course, building modeling and 3D visualization isn’t new, but Reed’s platform takes BIM to the next level. In short, the system allows designers to use BIM objects in their workflow, then manage and store them in a conveniently accessible way. But it’s the information that platform can attach to the objects—specifications and costing, for example—that marks a huge leap forward for the North American construction industry.

The Reed BIM software means that building product manufacturers are able to create “virtual” versions of their products—a floor or a lighting system, for example—with all of the specification data attached, including standards, dimensions, costs, etc. The system works seamlessly with Autodesk Revit, too.

Because architects can create a BIM library of the products they use in their drawings using the software, building product manufacturers who have BIM models of their products available on the platform should have an advantage when it comes to being sourced, selected, and specified.

There’s more—once a building product is specified, the specification can be used to create quantity take-offs and pricing schedules. That information then becomes part of the contract documentation with the general contractor, ensuring that the specification does not change down the road and substitutions are not made without communication.

BIM for general contractors?

Expertise with BIM will give general contractors a competitive advantage in the marketplace, particularly in the early stages of its adoption.

Many of the advantages to the building owners also apply to the GCs, too. In a Construction Management Association of America white paper called “Building Information Modeling and the Construction Management Practice: How to Deliver Value Today” (, authors Soad Kousheshi, P.E., and Eric Westergren, write:

“The potential advantages (of BIM) span a wide range of outcomes including a better tool for design and engineering documentation and analysis, more robust cost estimating, improved trade co-ordination, optimized means and sequence of work, a powerful communication tool for design intent and construction plan, and an information rich as-built model for facilities management.”

General contractors who get in on the ground floor have much to gain from understanding and applying this new technology.

For an analysis of the potentially far-reaching impact of Reed’s BIM platform on the construction industry, read Tectonic Purchase Creates a New Direction for Construction by David Worlock, Chief Research Fellow with Outsell, Inc., of London, UK.

Source: Construction Management Association of America, March 2008.