Should I invest in a Building Information Model (BIM)?

Why do I need a model for my project?


“Working in a 3D environment is quickly becoming a base level requirement,” said Les Jeter, PE,  Draper Aden’s Structural Team Leader.


In general, working with any kind of 3D model offers many benefits. On new projects or adaptive reuse projects, models can help identify construction issues before they occur. “All too often, it’s discovered that ductwork won’t fit between the ceiling and structure, that plumbing needs to run in the same space as ductwork,” said Jeter.


“From a contractor’s perspective, and to the owner’s benefit, cleaner construction is going to be more efficient and cost effective,” Jeter added. “[For example] having conflicts in the way once your subcontractors are on site and have begun installing can result in delays, extra costs, and those things can be prevented upfront.”

What’s the difference between a Model and Building Information Model (BIM)?


“A deliverable of a BIM is beneficial to the lifetime of a facility for maintenance, upkeep, and repairs. A model is very useful and almost a requirement for construction now,” said Jeter. “It’s certainly on our end at Draper Aden in the structural department, necessary for the design.”


A model is a 3D representation of a structure that shows all of the pieces in the correct size, location, and orientation.


A BIM takes a traditional model a step further by incorporating detailed information about each piece of the structure, for example, the make, model, and part number. In a full BIM, you could click on a pipe and not only have what size and location it’s in, but what material it’s made from, what it carries, and other pertinent information.

example of a beam showed in a Building Information Model (BIM)

Should I invest in BIM over a standard 3D model?


For owners of complex facilities, a BIM may be of interest in place of a simple 3D model.


A BIM can be an extremely valuable tool for the savvy facility manager, but they do require coordination from your architect and all engineers and subcontractors, and subsequent upkeep following the construction to be effective.


A properly updated BIM can save a facility manager ample time on repairs or routine maintenance. “You can see a heating or cooling unit when the filters were last changed and what size filter is needed,” said Jeter. “If repairs are needed, you can click on that item and it can be documented when it was last serviced. You can even identify repair parts or service types that might be needed in the future.”


If you don’t have the staff to benefit from or update the maintenance aspects of a building information model, then it most likely is not worth the additional costs and coordination for your project. For some owners, a hybrid model with some BIM components is the best solution.


When in doubt, consult with your design team to find the best fit of construction deliverables for your project.


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