The U.S Chamber of Commercial Construction Index – 2020 Q3 report says, “The Commercial Construction Index (CCI) increased by one point to 57 in Q3 from 56 in Q2. While the overall index score remained fairly steady, two of the three main indicators saw increases. Contractors’ confidence in new business went up six points to 56, and revenue expectations rose four points to 48 in Q3.”
It seems that the construction industry is preparing to slowly roll back into action. But change has come in some key areas.
The pandemic has asserted the importance of digital transformation to survive in these strange times and while construction is known for being the least digitized industry, the figures for the U.S don’t look that bad:
55% of U.S construction companies have adopted BIM
75% of construction companies use cloud storage.
75% of construction companies provide Project Managers and field superintendents with mobile devices.
There’s no longer any question that Building Information Modeling (BIM) can deliver a significant impact. We know that BIM applies across the design as well as the construction phase of a project. Of course, the life-cycle of a construction project doesn’t end at the handing-over of a facility; it is a continuing cycle. Many traditional construction projects accepted the project life-cycle to complete at the handing over process, but, in this era, facilities management is a part of the construction, and BIM plays a vital role in helping facilities managers in operating and maintaining a building.
So, the considered application of BIM ensures the efficient design, effective implementation, and the smooth functioning and maintenance of a building. BIM offers the seamless integration of information and ideas that help in mitigating clashes and streamlining communications during the construction phase. The objectives of cost, quality, sustainability, and safety can all be met. The collation and organization of large amounts of data on a centralized platform have made operations easier for all the stakeholders of a construction project.
Let’s focus on the fundamental role BIM plays across all the activities of the key function of Project Management.
BIM & Project Management
To a large extent, the success of a project depends upon a capable Project Management function. BIM aids Project Management in fulfilling these onerous expectations by providing support, intelligence, and data to make several key aspects of the function better and easier.
Let’s look into how Project Management can gain from BIM:
Effective Communication & Coordination in the Team
A successful construction project is a result of hard work and input of various involved teams. Traditionally, every team from architects, engineers, builders, electricians, and operations works independently. BIM brings all of them together and creates a centralized pool of information that is accessible to anyone from anywhere at any time. This facilitates effective communication between all the departments, resulting in perfect coordination in the team. The main task of a project manager is to ensure seamless coordination amongst the different groups, and BIM makes this tedious task more manageable by applying a robust framework to drive collaboration and communication.
Accurate Timelines & Plans
Achieving timeline and cost objectives play a crucial role in defining the success of any construction project. BIM allows project managers to create significantly more accurate timelines and cost estimations. The accuracy of the calculations during the project planning phase and on an ongoing basis thereafter helps improves financial planning and resource provisioning of the project.
Accurate Estimation of Raw Materials
One of the most challenging tasks of the Project Management function is deriving estimations for the raw materials required. Inaccurate estimates, either over or under, of raw materials, will create delays and over-expenditure. This directly affects the budget and timeline of the project. In the present situation, this has become far more important owing to the shortage of key construction materials and labor shortages brought on by the pandemic. BIM helps Project Managers deliver accurate estimations and reduces the burden of manual calculations. BIM also helps them schedule the material requirements better and optimize procurement and delivery schedules.
Phasing-out On-the-fly Redesigning
Every constructed building ends up different from its original blueprint. The design evolves as construction begins. Over time, these deviations tend to cause time lag and budgeting issues because of the impact on work that follows such changes. Plans end up having to be “worked around” on the fly, in response to the ground reality. This takes time, costs money, and consumes resources. BIM allows Project Management to document ongoing work better and curtail the cascading impact of such changes by baking them into future plans and schedules.
Besides, the clash-detection feature in BIM allows Project Managers to identify any issues in the design that could cause clashes between different teams before the construction begins. This helps in saving time and raw material required.
Handing-over and Facilities Management
The role of Project Management in today’s times doesn’t end at the construction phase. An effective construction project enables the efficient operations of the facility even after the handover. In that context, the Project Management function has to ensure that the incoming Facilities Manager has all the required information for operating and maintaining the building during its operating lifecycle. The comprehensive data in BIM helps make the PM’s handover to the FM easier and more complete. The BIM models, by virtue of being updated, also tend to reflect the as-built state of the structure better.
As is apparent, the application of BIM can play a vital role in all the aspects of management of the project and help deliver a successful construction project. In essence, BIM reduces the burden on Project Management by helping drive better estimates, robust plans, comprehensive project information, and tighter collaboration between teams while the project is underway. It seems clear that for a construction project to be successful today, Project Management with BIM could represent a powerful synergy.