Overview — Extending BIM Beyond Design

Overview — Extending BIM Beyond Design

Key Concepts

Extending the Use of the BIM Models Beyond Design

The use of BIM models to support all aspects of working with the information that describes our buildings—from project inception through the entire building lifecycle—is expanding and evolving daily.

As Marshall McLuhan observed in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964, “the medium is the message,” and BIM models (and the changes they enable) are a medium that is rapidly expanding and redefining what “design” and “construction” means.

As we start by coping with, then learn to use, begin to embrace, and eventually come to depend upon new technologies, we follow a natural progression:

  • First, replicating what we’ve done with previous technologies. For example, with the introduction of computers, we started with computer-aided drafting—focusing on the efficiency advantages and recreating our paper-based design systems.
  • As we become comfortable and familiar with a technology, we start to explore its boundaries, often finding ways to improve and innovate. We still focus on doing the same things, but we find better ways to do them. For example, when BIM modeling was introduced, much of the attention focused on the efficiency advantages of being able to use a 3D model to produce traditional 2D construction views. As BIM use has matured, attention has shifted to improving the design process to take advantage of the powerful visualization and analyses that the models enable.
  • As we fully embrace a technology, our fundamental understanding of what we are doing often changes. The technology becomes transformative as we fully realize and understand its potential to enable entirely new approaches to accomplish our goals. And this is threshold that BIM is rapidly pushing the entire building industry toward—moving from evolutionary to revolutionary—by enabling entirely new interactions and workflows that exploit the “I,” the information, in BIM models.

For a thought-provoking examination of this evolution and its implications for pedagogy, be sure to explore these resources:

  • Building Information Modeling and the Implication for Architecture Pedagogy—a webcast featuring Phil Bernstein, Vice President, Industry Strategy and Relations, Autodesk AEC Solutions


  • Videos from the presentations at Yale University BIM Symposium


The Shifting Boundary—Where Does Design End and Construction Begin?

Traditionally, design and construction have been thought of as two distinct and very separate phases of a building project. The process was design-bid-build, and the walls between the phases were viewed as important to maintain impartiality as well as providing checks and balances. But as projects became more complex, the problems inherent in this approach grew. So, new project delivery strategies that lower or remove these walls—for example, design-build and integrated project delivery—are being used today with many successes and advantages reported.

They key to these new delivery strategies is to get all of the stakeholders involved in project aligned with appropriate processes, as well as risk- and reward-sharing strategies in place to enable them to share information and decision-making in a way that improves the overall project outcomes. Using these delivery approaches, the project team works together from project inception through delivery and the boundary between design and construction is greatly blurred.

As the applications of BIM evolve and transform the building process, “designers” are adopting new roles—expanding their focus to include for digital fabrication of curtain walls and custom building elements, and even directing the work of the subcontractors. Some firms are even offering a Design-Build-Operate-Manage approach that completely removes the design/construction boundary and extends their influence and control into building operations. Their expanded focus on the total building lifecycle includes designing, fabricating, installing, and then operating systems for entire building portfolios.

New BIM-centric building approaches are collapsing the divide between designer and builder, and our understanding of the building process is being transformed. The roles of the players in the building industry are being restructured in ways that are evolving daily, and the boundary between design, construction, and even operations is being redefined.

While the stakeholders understand the implications and possibilities enabled by using BIM as a tool to facilitate information flow and support better decision-making throughout the building lifecycle, the best way to do that isn’t commonly agreed upon. Each stakeholder tends to view the problems and the potential solutions from their own unique perspective.

For the transformation to be truly revolutionary, we need to evolve and align all aspects of our building production environment:

  • Products (buildings, designs, models, analyses, and documentation).
  • Organizations (all of the stakeholders—owners, designers, constructors, fabricators, operators, and the external community—each with their own goals).
  • Processes (including the programming, planning, designing, constructing, and operating phases of the building lifecycle).

Using BIM to Support Better Decision-Making

We can use the information enabled by a BIM-centric building process to make better-informed decisions throughout the building lifecycle.  We can easily:

  • Create and explore options.
  • Assess and evaluate them.
  • Compare their performance to prescribed objectives.
  • Understand the impact of tradeoffs.
  • Use the feedback to iterate to find optimal solutions.

Using this method efficiently enables confident decision-making much earlier in the process and provides the foresight necessary to make better decisions with greater efficiency.

BIM Uses throughout the Project Lifecycle

Researchers and educators at Pennsylvania State University have developed a framework identifying 25 potential BIM Uses, organized by project phase, through interviews with industry experts, analysis of implementation case studies, and extensive review of literature.

These uses are summarized in Figure 7.01 below, and a detailed description, potential benefits, and many helpful references describing each suggested use is published on their BIM Execution Project website (http://bim.psu.edu/Uses/default.aspx).


Figure 7.0.1. Potential BIM Uses identified in the Pennsylvania State University BIM Execution Project (http://bim.psu.edu/Uses/default.aspx).

BIM Management Plans (BMP)

Many sophisticated building owners, including the U.S. Government Services Administration (GSA) and the Veteran’s Administration (VA), require project teams to develop a BIM Management Plan (BMP) outlining their modeling information and data management plans and explicitly assigning the roles and responsibilities for model creation and data integration at project initiation. This BMP creates a shared understanding and commitment to the products, organization, and processes that will be used to successfully delivery the project.

The intent of the BMP is to explicitly outline how the needs and requirements of the project will be mapped to technical standards, team member skills, construction industry capabilities, and the technologies that will be used. Through the development of this plan, the project team members and project management outline their agreement on how, when, why, to what level, and for which project outcomes BIM modeling will be used.

A single BMP covering both design and construction activities is appropriate for projects using Design-Build (DB) or Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) project execution strategies. When a Design-Bid-Build (DBB) execution strategy is used, separate BMPs are typically developed for design and construction activities, and the handover of the BIM model and building information from the design team to the construction team is a critical feature of the plan.

For maximum effectiveness, the BMP should be continually developed, updated, and refined throughout the project lifecycle.

Design BMPs typically address:

  • Project requirements
    • How the design BIM will support the project delivery activities and achieve the owner’s requirements.
    • Major building and operating equipment space requirements including clearances for operations, repair, maintenance, and replacement.
    • Operational workflows (for example, nurses’ walking distances, nurse-patient sightlines, patient queuing, pharmacy deliveries, etc.)
  • Processes
    • Proposed BIM software to be used by each technical discipline team member.
    • The strategy for hosting, transfer, and access of data between technical disciplines (use of model server, extranet, access, security, etc.).
    • File formats and protocols to be used for project submittals and file exchange.
    • Proposed schedules for integrating progress BIM models.
    • Strategy for importing existing building information and exporting BIM data for facility management.
    • Strategy for updating and coordinating design changes during construction.
  • Players
    • BIM qualifications, experience, and contact information for key BIM technical leads and coordinators for all major disciplines (Architect, Civil, MEP, Structural, etc.).

Construction BMPs typically address:

  • Project requirements
    • How the construction BIM will support the project delivery activities and achieve the owner’s requirements.
    • Proposed use and application of BIM tools for:
      • Constructability analysis.
      • Utilization of 4D scheduling and construction sequencing technology.
      • Trade coordination and clash detection.
      • Digital fabrication, including the list of subcontractors using digital fabrication.
      • Updating as-built conditions in As-built/Record BIM.
    • Processes
      • The proposed BIM software to be used by the builder and fabrication modelers.
      • The strategy for software compatibility, hosting, transfer, and access of data between all project team members (use of model server, extranet, access, security, etc.) including subcontractors and fabricators.
      • The strategies for:
        • Reuse of the Design BIM model.
        • Modeling and coordinating all trade information.
        • Integration of construction changes and commissioning data into the As-built/Record BIM.
      • Players
        • BIM qualifications, experience, and contact information for the Construction BIM Manager and Lead Fabrication Modelers for all trades.

Owners Leveraging the Value of BIM

The U.S. Government Services Administration (GSA)—an owner of over 300 million square feet of space—created a National 3D-4D-BIM Program to promote value-added digital visualization, simulation and optimization technologies to increase the quality and efficiency of GSA project delivery and operations. Focusing on the use of innovative 3D, 4D, and BIM technologies to complement, leverage, and improve existing technologies, its long long-term objective is to achieve major quality and productivity improvements on GSA projects during the project lifecycle and beyond.

The GSA has created a BIM Guide Series for its employees and consultants engaging in BIM practices for the design of new construction and major modernization projects. This series provides a reference guide for GSA members and associates when determining what BIM applications would be appropriate for their specific project.

Some of the key applications highlighted by the GSA in this guide include:

  • Spatial Program Validation—all major projects that receive design funding from the GSA are required to submit a spatial program BIM prior to final concept presentation. GSA design teams use BIM to validate spatial program requirements (e.g., area, efficiency ratios) and evaluate proposed designs at the conceptual design stage is an important step towards better managing space.

3D Laser Scanning—the GSA is encouraging, documenting, and evaluating 3D laser scanning technologies as a means for acquiring building spatial data in three dimensions with high fidelity and low processing time. This application serves several GSA purposes, including historical documentation, facility condition documentation, and construction as-built development.

4D Phasing—the GSA uses 4D models to support the understanding and communication of the proposed project phasing to all stakeholders.  With 4D modeling, these stakeholders are able to better understand how the project affects them and the GSA is able to better understand projected construction schedules for funding purposes.

Energy Performance and Operations—the GSA is executing on a national initiative (Executive Order 13123) to reduce the average annual energy consumption of the GSA’s building inventory. Through the analysis of BIM models, the GSA is striving to strengthen the reliability, consistency, and usability of predicted energy use and energy cost results. This BIM application will enable more complete and accurate energy estimates early in the design process, improve life-cycle costing analysis, facilitate measurement and verification during building operation, and provide a framework for gathering lessons learned in high performance building.

Another example of a progressive owner leveraging the full value of BIM is the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), which has outlined a series of applications in which BIM will be utilized on all projects to provide stakeholders with a greater understanding of how a building is to be used, designed, and constructed.  Examples of these applications include:

Pre-Design and Programming—as-built records of existing facilities are provided to project teams in a BIM format and are expected to be incorporated into their design processes for reference and verification purposes.

RFP Competition—competing project teams participate in a BIM charette where teams incorporate as-build design information into a conceptual design model. Final submittals must be delivered in a BIM format with massing studies, design visualization renderings, 3D models, and preliminary building performance and cost estimating analysis.

Documenting Existing Conditions—for all areas directly impacted, altered, or demolished by a proposed renovation, the project team must model existing conditions and clearly demonstrate the design intent and impact of the project to all stakeholders.

Architectural Modeling of Design Features—the district requires architectural BIM models at all phases of the project, starting with simple massing models to validate program requirements, and later documenting and illustrating proposed design options. As materials and components are selected, detailed information about the building features is continuously updated in the model.

Systems Modeling of the Structural and MEP Features—separate BIM models are created for each discipline, then linked for efficient and accurate coordination. The level of detail in the structural and MEP models evolves as design progresses, and the BIM models ultimately include information about component performance, required clearances, and LEED requirements.

Internal Cost Estimation—internal cost estimates are generated from the BIM model by the project team at key project milestones. The design team provides potential bidders with a copy of the fully assembled and coordinated BIM model to assist with estimating.

4D Simulation—is used to verify the planned sequencing of tasks relative to space and time constraints and evaluate the impacts of procurement lead time/logistics, resource availability, and other factors that could impact the construction process.

Energy Consumption and Life-Cycle Cost Analysis—energy simulations and life-cycle cost calculations are performed based on information extracted from BIM models and validated by energy modeling, whole building commissioning requirements and LEED Certification.

Design Visualization—design teams must provide design visualizations (for example, animations, fly-throughs, 3D renderings, 4D simulations, and physical models) to illustrate the proposed building spaces and assist stakeholders in making decisions throughout the design process.