Due to the benefits of using 3D virtual models to guide real-world processes, BIM has gradually grown from its origins in BM (Building Modeling) into BI (Building Information) with various combinations of model and data in between. A Building Information model can be viewed as a collection of BIM ‘atoms’ of information in a context of project information. Over four generations - BM, BM+I, BIM, and BI(m) - the composition of the atoms has changed but the essential nucleus of information is preserved. We are now entering the phase where BIM is valued as much for the information it can contribute beyond design and construction, and there are clear use scenarios, such as COBie, where the information within the model is transferred even when the model itself is not.
John Tobin, LEED AP
BIM is the creation of "virtual buildings," using 3D digital models that contain data that can be harnessed for design purposes, but also for potential downstream uses by other partners.
The technical challenges facing BIM adoption today and in the future, are largely the result of legacy workflow protocols triggered by current software. Though our current BIM solutions have served us well over the last decade, they may not be built to lead us for future success. In particular, they have not created scalable, open or granular access to the information we create during design activities. To be most effective, future BIM implementation needs to consider the entire lifecycle of BIM data, including its consumption by downstream users. Current BIM applications create massive datasets, often within a single file. Given that we will have more – and more widely distributed – BIM teams in the future, greater granularity of BIM data will be vital for the collaborative consumption of information. Instead of continuing to create ever larger files, we need to conceptualize and structure the BIM environment for quick and easy access. We imagine an arrangement where BIM is comprised of many tiny pieces of data we are calling atomicBIM – i.e., BIM in small, discrete pieces of data. An atomized information structure would provide granularity and rapid access so that subsets of BIM information could be more easily accessed without a massive download.
While we currently operate largely within the 3rd generation of BIM, we increasingly see owner requirements that suggest the next generation of BIM is fast approaching. In the 4th generation of BIM – BI(m) – the information contained in the model becomes more important than the 3D model element itself. One of the more concrete examples of BI(m) is the COBie (Construction to Operation Building Information Exchange) requirement, where design and construction-phase information is transferred to an owner for the operation of the building. Instead of creating a mountain of paper, all the information on equipment within the BIM model – color, model, manufacturer, links to PDFs on the component - is extracted into a spreadsheet format so that owners can easily access information for the future maintenance and operation of building equipment. In this newest generation of BI(m), the owner is able to benefit from the information in the model without actually having to deal with the model itself.
EYP currently uses BIM software in all disciplines and for all new projects. Certain projects stand out from the scores of BIM projects we’ve completed over the past 10+ years: modeling a large historic structure; using BIM files to expedite steep procurement; and assisting asset coordination and management using custom BIM components. Recent projects, such as ZEN and Penn State’s Agricultural Engineering Building, pivot on the use of BIM in an integrated "Big Room" setting where owner, contractors, and design teams all use BIM as the locus of discussion. Increasingly this "Big Room" approach is considered the future of BIM use by collaborative teams. From lean documentation and design review to phase planning and more, this article discusses the many ways in which EYP continues to lead the industry in leveraging the power of BIM.
Integrative Design Process
The design of buildings and workplaces plays a major role in helping organizations achieve their mission. Clients need teams who can effectively communicate and trade off ideas and technologies for their combined benefit to reach an optimum solution. Design that truly performs for the client arises from a collaborative, integrative design approach that leverages the knowledge and experience of all team members.
At EYP, the integrative design process can generally be divided into three sequential parts:
- Discovery begins with the gathering of essential design drivers such as site geology, climatic considerations, local codes, design standards, and programmatic requirements. This is also when the team identifies the client’s key issues, crystallizing often lengthy descriptions of expectations into clearly defined goals, so that it can develop concise, complementary strategies that together address all concerns.
- The team, including the contractor, is now ready to engage in an intense exercise in early decision setting that we call “Day One Thinking.” This is when certain critical early decisions are proposed, examined, and pressure-tested – for building optimization, site improvements, indoor environment, and personalized environment – and strategic tradeoffs are made.
- The final phase entails making decisions that will stick to consistently guide the project through the turns and variables inherent in the journey from concept to construction.
Integrated Project Delivery is a highly collaborative team-based delivery model built on two important and related concepts – trust, and identity. While trust is the more obvious issue, I would argue that identity is a sleeper and one where many teams who struggle with IPD falter. It is useful to have a discussion at the outset of the project that everyone needs to check their previous identities ‘at the door,’ and adopt a new shared identity where designers think like owners, contractors think like designers, and owners think like subcontractors. It is through this new, shared identity that true collaboration emerges.
Every design project is a collaborative journey. Penn State is an especially active partner who uniquely integrates their sustainable building projects into its research, teaching, outreach, and operations. Now, the University has created a spectrum of new learning opportunities by opening its first IPD project to its students.
While the modernized building will house the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, any student can visit the team's "Little Big Room" to see a workspace designed for collaboration and learn about project progress. Those interested in seeing collaboration in action may attend interdisciplinary workshops and even propose independent studies inspired by the project. And a few lucky PSU students earned summer internships at EYP, DPR Construction, and Penn State. Follow the project on Penn State’s website.
Design-Build with BIM
When State of Texas requirements for design-build projects precluded an IPD tri-party contract, we collaborated with the contractor to adjust the contract and equitably share risk. Traditional elements of design and construction responsibility were adjusted to meet the client’s ambitious schedule. For its part, MD Anderson streamlined its decision-making process to facilitate the fast-track project, quickly establishing design standards and minimum requirements. They also authorized early procurement of precast and structural elements; and allowed certain trades to be engaged in a design-assist role to expedite construction of the pre-cast exterior skin, curtain wall, and mechanical duct work.
To meet the client's critical goals for a 1.4M GSF office building collocating 78 departments previously dispersed throughout the Texas Medical Center campus, we used BIM to:
- Track and modify 4,000+ spaces during design, documentation, construction, and occupancy
- Track 27 fields of data associated with each room, including department, division, and lease expiration
- Enable continuous area-efficiency monitoring throughout the design process
- Develop a database of spaces/fields tracked in BIM to facilitate building management
We developed a 3D room-by-room space program by creating virtual, color-coded “jelly cubes” representing various space types. Each cube contained unlimited data fields for each unique line item in the space program (finishes, number of electrical outlets, door hardware, furniture layout and equipment and shelving needs, etc.). Once the program has been inserted into the color-coded BIM cubes, they could be arranged on a stacking/zoning diagram, master plan, or floor plan.
After project close-out, we exported the as-built space program for MD Anderson to use in occupancy planning, future capital planning, renovations, and reassignments, and to monitor utilization, efficiency, or apply for federal research grants.
For many of us who have participated in the rapid growth of BIM, It is tempting to see it as just one more technology development in the project delivery process, but its real impact is quickly accelerating beyond that. More accurately, the growth of BIM is heralding a true disruption in the construction industry. It is transforming markets, and revolutionizing expectations. In fact, it is increasingly apparent that BIM fits a well-known pattern familiar to business scholars, a pattern known as disruptive innovation and made famous by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen in his best-selling book The Innovator’s Dilemma.
You’re a healthcare project manager responsible for constructing a new building in your system, and it’s time to review and make recommendations to your leadership on the project delivery approach.