This week’s workflow discussion is focused on how Contractors can get started using the Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. This article was prepared by Josh Bone who works with Graphisoft as the Eastern Regional Sales Director.

Building Information Modeling is changing the game for many companies in the construction industry here in the U.S. Projects are experiencing increased efficiencies and decreased downtime with fewer RFIs in the field. With all the advantages that BIM adds to a project there are still many general contractors that have not yet made the move due to various reasons. I am asked frequently by companies of all sizes how can we incorporate BIM into our approach?

There are a lot of factors that come in to play when it comes to implementing BIM. The AGC of America BIM Education Program has an entire unit dedicated to process, adoption, and implementation. I have taught these courses for more than 3 years and if you have the time I would suggest reaching out to your local chapter and registering for the next series of courses. If you are like a lot of companies, these days it is hard to find time away from the field or office due to increased workloads so here is my plan for you.

Step 1:

Find the best authoring tool for you. Authoring tools give you the ability to model different aspects of the building. Depending on your budget and level of skill when it comes to learning software; it is imperative that you choose the right tool to get started. Unfortunately, the term BIM and Revit have become synonymous and that is one of the reasons general contractors have delayed making the move to BIM due to cost and learning curve. You can start by looking at SketchUp first. The professional license is only $700 and it has a minimal learning curve. If you find SketchUp to be too loose and more of a design tool, then take a look at Revit LT or ArchiCAD Star(T). These are limited versions and they come with a lower price tag to help ease cost concerns.

Step 2:

Make sure that you take time to get trained on the software. You can learn a lot by heading over to YouTube but I suggest that you take a little time initially to learn from a professional trainer. It is important to understand how to communicate with the software. Depending on your experience with software I would recommend at most a full day initially. I have found in my experience that it is best to break up the training into 2-4 hour segments to minimize frustration and improve retention. If someone suggest you enroll in a 3-5 day course pass on the offer and find an individual that can work with you one on one. Then you can use YouTube to search out specific features.

Step 3:

You need to manage expectations. Hopefully, you’re not making the leap into BIM directly onto a project with a BIM deliverable. This is where a lot of people fail initially with BIM. If possible you want to ease into BIM. The software learning curve is a fraction to learning how to manage a successful collaborative BIM project. Start with the low hanging fruit. I suggest building models initially to help you in pre-construction. One of the most impressive uses of BIM is to build a model and take snap shots of the model at different stages of construction. Then you can place those images into PowerPoint and along with using lines, text, and fills tools you can simulate a timeline of milestone events. I also suggest doing virtual mock-ups of your projects and modeling areas of the project that could use additional clarification.

Step 4:

Share your models in the field. Where you really start to see the benefit of having a model is in the job trailer. I am frequently asked when moving through a model for dimensions, angles, quantities, and sizes that can help reduce the work for installers. Sharing the model and using it as a tool to enable communication helps everyone on the jobsite get a first hand experience to the benefits of BIM. I have learned if you can save someone time and make them more efficient they are going to be less likely in the future to push back on BIM when you raise the expectations.

Step 5:

Ease into collaborative BIM. I do not recommend that your first collaborative BIM experience be everyone’s first venture into BIM. This often is too steep of a hill to climb especially on a project that has a condensed schedule. I would recommend one of two paths…

1. The General Contractor lead the modeling activities but work with the different trades to develop their models. In this case you could focus on the areas of the project with the most risk.

2. If you do decide to let everyone develop their own models then hire a BIM consultant that has experience coordinating projects and ensure that you have a BIM execution plan in place and this is communicated to all parties in a kick-off meeting.

Each company culture is unique and that must be considered when adopting new workflows. I always recommend first looking inside your own organization when it comes to finding someone to take on these new responsibilities. A person that has earned respect from their colleagues and understands the chain of command will lessen communication issues. If you decide to hire talent from outside your organization, I would recommend finding someone with construction experience. I have found over the years that it is much easier to teach someone software than teaching someone construction.

Owners are increasingly requesting BIM use on their projects and making the transition in a timeframe that is more manageable for your company can play a critical role in your success. How you you decide to implement this process will impact your ability to compete for work on future projects. Making the move now and managing expectations within your company will lessen frustrations and generate more buy-in to the process. 

About the Author

For more than a decade Josh Bone  been implementing, training, and presenting construction technology solutions to AEC&O professionals.  During that time he has had the opportunity to work with some of the top technology leaders in the industry. This experience has helped him define best practices and methodologies for integrating BIM and mobile applications into everyday workflows. Starting with design, then moving into trade coordination, and finally working with teams generating schedules (4D) and quantities (5D) from models Josh has delved deep into the BIM process.

Josh Bone is the East Region Sales Director for Graphisoft. Graphisoft is recognized as developing the original BIM software solution ArchiCAD.