Blog / BIM & Construction Management

The small and medium construction company in the BIM life cycle (Part 1)

In this two part article, Rafael Marin, student of the Master's in BIM Management, explains how small and medium construction companies can benefit greatly from a complete BIM life cycle.



In this article, arising from the question of a colleague, I will offer my opinion about how a small or medium construction company should prepare, train and equip itself to establish a BIM life cycle successfully and economically. Without pretending to create a literary subgenre, which would be called something like "reasoned responses to BIM dramas of everyday life", I often receive questions from friends and colleagues. After spending time advising them I have chosen to publish my conclusions and to contribute my honest opinion. Although the BIM implementation rate in Spain has ample room for improvement, it is no less true that, fortunately, that recently more studios and architecture/engineering companies "are transitioning to BIM." Whereas those that have not yet done so, are planning to implement it soon.

The Phases of the BIM Life Cycle

  "The project phases are only a reduced temporal scope and small economic weight within the entire BIM life cycle of the building". Even if we represent this good news, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the phases that go from the conception of the asset to the project execution are only one aspect, although important, are of reduced temporal scope and little economic weight within the whole life cycle of the building and the associated information exchange. Let’s not forget the I in BIM-, which is completed by the construction, commissioning, work completion, delivery and use phase and management of the asset, as demonstrated by this illustrative graphic obtained from the British regulation PAS 1192-2: 2013. bim-life-cycle It is obvious to mention that the end of any project is to end up being built, and ultimately, enjoyed by its users. Therefore, once the design phase has been completed successfully, the project, in the form of a BIM model, will reach the hands of the construction company, who will analyze it formally and economically and will ultimately propose and undertake the phase of building. At this crucial moment, we find that two operational options open up to any small or medium-sized construction company: The comfortable and counterproductive option: ignore the BIM model made by the designer, ask the designer to design as its always been done, export the plans to PDF, print and measure them based on scale, or even deliver it in CAD and measure it based on wonderful polylines and polygons. This would be a BIG MISTAKE. The only logical choice for me: to assume that BIM is the right choice and integrate it as a full member of the information cycle of the building and that our work as a contractor will make a valuable contribution to the life cycle of the building, and thus to the quality and sustainability of it. But BIM is scary, definitely. Everywhere there seem to be uncertainties, unforeseen expenses, fear of delays in planning, etc. We all know of the limitless possibilities both economic and in manpower that large construction companies possess. The first thing that a construction company has to think about is why they will be using BIM in their company. That is, what BIM uses will be of interest and how to obtain more information in the BIM Project Planning Execution Guide, as well as in the uses of the BIM document (represented in the following graph from Penn State University). bim-life-cycle Since I am dealing here with a general assumption, we will assume the usual and more basic uses for which a small or medium construction company could use BIM. In this way, making a minimum selection -although perhaps suitable as a starting step to work in BIM environment- would be:
  • 3D Coordination - 3D Coordination.
  • Cost estimation (quantity takeoff and budgets) - Cost Estimation.
As indicated above, and as it was expected, as builders we do not model, that nice job is the responsibility of the design team. Therefore, we already have something clear that we do not need. We do not need pure BIM modelers. What will be necessary within our organization will be to have specialized profiles for specific tasks that adjust precisely to the needs actually required.

BIM Roles

In my experience, and always as a reference of minimums, it will be essential to have three professionals or BIM roles: The Quantity Surveyor It will be interesting to conveniently train the person or persons who have usually been responsible for the quantity takeoff in our construction company in the interoperability of the BIM software with the quantity takeoff program that we have been using in the company, before opting for the hiring of a professional specifically for this end. Their relationship with the model will only be essential for the extraction of quantity takeoff, since this will have been previously checked, optimized and prepared for manipulation by the BIM Auditor. Over time it will be desirable for this professional to acquire the necessary skills to associate elements with the codes of the items we use in our budgets. In general, budget execution programs offer greater interoperability and even plug-ins for the main BIM platforms on the market, which is why it will probably be unnecessary to vary the program already being used in your organization. The BIM operator This role requires some training and desirably experience in BIM itself. However, with the right attitude, it would be a good idea to offer training to the person who until now has been in charge of operating in CAD within your small construction company. Their main functions will be: to make small adjustments in the model received from the design team (as we will see, at the request of the BIM Auditor) to adapt it to the construction systems and solutions of our contract, such as changing a wall modeled basically for another properly characterized for the constructive solution chosen; On the other hand, the BIM operator will be in charge of configuring visualizations and obtaining planimetry and 2D information issued for construction; Finally, that persona will have the capacity to obtain listings of quantity takeoff from the model. It will be under the supervision of the BIM Leader. The BIM Leader and Auditor It is the definitive and most important BIM role within the organization, this person would exercise the functions of BIM Manager within the small construction company. As such, this professional will be the Technology Manager and his/her training should be that of a BIM Manager, with attributions and knowledge of both BIM software and design of local computer networks. This person will have the goal of progressively making the construction more BIM organized, covering more BIM uses every day. However, their most daily function will be that of BIM Auditor. This professional will be responsible for checking the inconsistencies and possible errors in the model received from the design phase, in a way that ensures a correct geometric model that is conveniently coordinated. For example, avoiding overlaps and collisions. This would be aided by specific software for that purpose. On the other hand, the BIM Manager will be responsible for characterizing the different construction elements of the model (floors, walls, conduits, terminals of facilities, pillars, etc.) according to the catalog of constructive elements of the organization and the "language" of the small or medium contract. This person would work in direct collaboration with the Quantity Surveyor. Finally, they will be in charge of keeping the model updated "according to the work status", receiving the information directly from the team that works on site, and updating the model either personally, or collaborating with the BIM operator.   Read Part 2 

Rafael F. Marín

Arquitecto por la Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de la Universidad de Sevilla. Alumno del Máster Internacional BIM Manager de Zigurat Global Institute of Technology. Ha trabajado en proyectos internacionales BIM de gran envergadura, recientemente en la Planta de Fabricación de Cemento en Colombia, con OHL Industrial.