The National Institute of Building Sciences is working toward a U.S. building information modeling (BIM) standard. The organization met Feb. 4 with about 40 leaders from public and private organizations to discuss the need for a coordinated program to advance collaboration and innovation in the building industry.
As defined on buildinginformationmanagement.wordpress.com, BIM is:
A business process for generating and leveraging building data to design, construct and operate the building during its lifecycle. BIM allows all stakeholders to have access to the same information at the same time through interoperability between technology platforms.
The process can save money on large infrastructure projects and build synergy among all parties involved in the project, said Chris Ring, of NACM's Secured Transaction Services (STS). Project managers for certain trades such as HVAC, structural steel and elevator escalators might find it useful, Ring added. "For example, in HVAC, tonnage calculations per square foot are required. If the HVAC manufacturer is part of the BIM process, any change orders that alter tonnage calculations should be more transparent and harder to miss." As an aside, Ring pointed out HVAC manufacturers would benefit from a clause in their contract that change orders may affect the final contract price. "If the HVAC manufacturer does not have this type of 'change order' clause in their contract, the HVAC manufacturer may be held to the original contracted price."
Although NIBS has already developed a national BIM standard through volunteer efforts, it is not a comprehensive standard. Adoption across delivery and management processes as well as education and training has been at varied levels, and the U.S. faces continued challenges with data interoperability. To address these issues, NIBS is leading the effort.
Road to a National BIM Program
Its goal is to create a solution at a national scale to enable digital process standards that will streamline business, accelerate the effectiveness of the supply chain, provide predictable processes, improve project outcomes, drive efficiency and foster innovation.
At least three larger general contractors have been using this type of software, said Connie Baker, director of operations, NACM Secured Transaction Services (STS). "It helps improve build quality, which would be a great benefit to suppliers. If the quality of product and work is improved, that could mean fewer disputes and fewer disputes would mean faster payments." It will be interesting to see if the U.S. can mandate BIM, Baker added.
Adam Matthews, of the Centre for Digital Built Britain, spoke to the United Kingdom's BIM program that is viewed as a model for what can be done in the United States. The program cost about $5 million pounds and has led to 33% lower costs through a reduction in the initial cost of construction and the whole life cost of built assets and 50% faster delivery. "We started off looking at how we can drive savings," Matthews said, mentioning that part of the goal was to drive better procurement practices and construction. "This was not a program just for the sake of technology."
"NIBS has been working closely with CDBB and plans to use the UK program and materials they have developed as a guide with adaptations to fit the need for a collaborative public-private partnering approach needed to be successful here," the organization states in a blog.
Roundtable participants included partners from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. General Services Administration and U.S. Federal Highway Administration, along with private sector partners from Google, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Autodesk, Bentley, Epic, ESRI, HDR, Kieran-Timberlake and WSP.
Diana Mota, NACM managing editor