When it comes to construction projects, managers probably have the most difficult job out of everyone involved. Architects and engineers might be in charge of the building’s appearance and functionality but project managers are responsible for every step of the process, ensuring that it runs smoothly. And not just that — they create schedules, handle the budgeting, facilitate communication between sectors and so on.
Building information modelling (BIM) has the potential to transform project management for the better and will most likely do so in the near future. Given that it brings never-before-seen efficiency, more and more architecture, engineering and construction industry professionals have been adopting it recently. Thus, managers should get to know BIM in order to adapt to these inevitable changes.
What is BIM?
In essence, BIM is an intelligent model-oriented approach that follows the whole lifecycle of a building, from its conception to eventual demolition. That also includes maintenance, renovation, monitoring, or any kind of intervention for that matter. All in all, BIM has brought about efficiency in every sense of that word.
For one, BIM allows for accurate contextual 3D visualisation. And despite the common misunderstanding, BIM has much more to offer than just that. The 3D model also represents a single-source-of-truth (SSOT). In other words, it’s an up-to-date dynamic database that everyone in the construction process, from architects and designers to construction workers and managers, can base their decisions on. What’s more, the model is parametric and instantly adjusts itself to changes.
A brief history of BIM
It all began back in the 1950s, before computers were compact and personalised. In 1957, Patrick Hanratty created Pronto, a numerical control machining software and the first commercial computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technology. A few years later, he also developed a Design Aided by Computer system. Although not entirely successful, these two programs were the forerunners of CAD and CAM as we know them today.
After that came the Sketchpad in 1963, which introduced the graphical user interface. Then, in 1975, Charles Eastman came up with the concept of Building Description System and designed a corresponding program. The words he used to describe his concept back then can easily be applied to today’s idea of BIM.
The 1980s saw the emergence of numerous similar programs, such as RUCAPS, ArchiCAD, Vectorworks, etc. However, it wasn’t until 1992 that the actual term ‘BIM’ was coined. We can attribute that to Sander van Nederveen (credited as GA van Nederveen) and Frits Tolman from The Netherlands’ Delft University, and their paper in the journal Automation in Construction. BIM software has seen many changes since. Today, it is incredibly complex but also more accessible, intuitive, and easy to use.
Benefits of using BIM for project management
Although BIM has had a major impact on all sectors involved, project managers might have to do more adjusting than others involved in the process. Still, the level of efficiency that we can reach with BIM is well worth the effort.
For one, BIM can help managers get to know construction projects better than they ever have. Besides that, here are some other advantages of applying BIM to project management:
- Initiation and planning. Thanks to BIM, it has never been easier to start a large-scale construction project. It allows managers to lay the groundwork, set goals, determine the feasibility of each idea, and implement recommendations from previous projects.
- Documentation. Project managers no longer have to deal with an abundance of paperwork and files, as everything is in one place.
- Time and cost management. BIM allows for effortless yet accurate planning and tracking of resources. That will help managers ensure that every project is delivered within the promised time, and without any costly setbacks.
- Monitoring and execution. With BIM, managers can easily assign and supervise all tasks, throughout every phase of the project. In addition, the latest, AI-endowed BIM software can detect discrepancies and other points of failure.
- Communication. No more ‘he said, she said’; BIM provides a single reliable database for everyone in the process to use.
- Improvement. After the project has been completed, BIM can help analyse the data and learn from it to improve similar future projects.
BIM has become the new standard for many and will most likely take over the whole world soon. Although it will eliminate some of the tedious tasks involved with construction project management, that doesn’t mean that project managers will become redundant. Quite the contrary — they are still vital to the process, making sure each piece of the puzzle comes together. As a matter of fact, project managers can even facilitate the adoption of BIM and help others learn how to use it.
All in all, if we want to push the limits of construction and improve workflow efficiency, we should be quick to adopt BIM. However, that won’t be possible without the help and engagement of project managers.