BIM and Construction Admin

Posted on May 3, 2010

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I am currently in the construction administration (CA) phase of a project, and let me tell you, BIM makes all the difference with this task. BIM is interpreted as a design tool, but one of its less understood strengths is in construction coordination, well after formal design is complete. At work I use Revit, and I find it helpful in five specific ways for CA. 

First, it provides greater confidence in my responses to field conditions and RFIs. With the ability to dissect the model any way necessary, I can check on the guts of the building (structure, HVAC, electrical, plumbing) and know where everything is in space. I know I can adjust a soffit threshold or realign a light and not inadvertently create a larger problem. Unlike 2D programs, dimensions are always true. In addition to Revit, our team uses another software program, Navisworks, to further visualize the Revit output and clash detection.

Second, BIM makes pre-construction meetings so much more productive. Prior to the HVAC pre-con, the sub explored our model, or at least saw 3D screen shots of certain tight spots in the design, and can see where everything needs to go. When everyone with above ceiling items can see the completed design really does work in the model, you get buy-in instead of the ‘every man for himself’ attitude where the sub who installs above the ceiling first dictates where everything else gets shoehorned.

Third, our submittals are higher quality. Our Revit model can be shared so the steel connections are spot on. Mechanical is better. Sprinkler pipes are hung with greater accuracy, which avoids things like last-minute ceiling height drops. Switches and strobes do not end up in weird places.

Fourth, BIM is able to track work sequence so the office can understand progress status in the field (supplemented by progress photos). At a minimum, staff in the office receives a graphic, weekly update of progress utilizing BIM. We know what work was done last week and what is slated for this week. We know how quickly one trade is moving in relation to another. This helps prioritize urgent decisions for the owner as well as unforseen issues and potential consequences in the field. Building Explorer, another program that interacts well with Revit, helps us identify sequence (4D) and cost information (5D) throughout the project.

Fifth, BIM is a huge help with as-built drawings.  Although technically project close-out, as-built drawings are really a product of CA changes. To that end, making a change real-time in the model as each issue comes up, and understanding its ripple effect throughout the documents, is the best way to get an accurate record of what is turned over to the owner at the end. No more collecting RFIs and ASIs at the end and trying to recreate the past twelve plus months of CA.

BIM is a visualizing agent, which helps the team move from concept to reality. No other time is this as crucial as during construction administration, when everything seems to be in the critical path.

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