Can we significantly improve the efficiency in the AEC industry through BIM?

I’ve involved in various projects in the U.K. and Middleeast from working with Blueprints, CAD and the BIM. Since I had the first project with BIM in 2009, BIM became the most important tool for many projects to improve efficiency throughout the project life cycle.

Low productivity in the construction industry

Although the long history of construction is incomparable to other industries, the AEC industry is indifferent or intolerant of change compared to other industries where innovation and reform occur rapidly and constantly transform. This topic was studied and published in a form of articles or reports for the past years.

Illustration of construction of the Great Pyramid that was built between 2560-2540BCImage source: https://medium.com/@sherif.agnaby/what-if-we-thought-about-building-the-great-pyramid-today-how-much-will-construction-cost-be82fddc61cc.

The 21st-century construction project still largely relies on labour-intensive work on the construction site by dealing with largely varied low to high skilled labours and the level of skills is often difficult to verify. The labour productivity in the construction industry is far below than manufacturing labour productivity and the total economy productivity globally.

According to the McKinsey & Company report in 2017, the average value added by employee per hour worked in the Global construction sector is $25/hour while the Global economy is $37/hour.

Source: Reinventing Construction: A Route to Higher Productivity, Feb 2017, McKinsey Global Institute

Rethinking Construction 1998 by Sir John Egan, United Kingdom

Egan Report “Rethinking Construction” released in 1998 by a construction task force commissioned by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, which was an influential report to improve the efficiency of the UK construction industry. The report contains a benchmark of the production process of other manufacturing industries such as the car industry to improve the constitution of the UK AEC industry.

Even it has been over 20 years since the report was published, the messages are still valid and promoting the BIM implementation to the construction project. According to another report in 2007 measuring the improvement of the Egan’s seven commandments, the results were still disappointing and there were large gaps to meet the target set for 10years. The agendas were still going on by sectors.

“In our view, there has to be a significant re-balancing of the typical project so that all these issues are given much more prominence in the design and planning stage before anything happens on site. In other words, design needs to be properly integrated with construction and performance in use. Time spent in reconnaissance is not wasted.”

– Design for Construction and Use, Chapter 4, Enabling Improvement

Advantage of BIM implementation: from my experience

BIM process can hugely improve the quality of design information that beneficial for a project owner to all stakeholder. I used to hear that some hurdle issues can be left for the contractor (in particular, their site team) to solve during the actual construction on site. While we know that contractor has a construction engineering as a part of their scope of work for construction execution however poorly prepared design documents such as miscoordination, mistakes, ambiguity in design, missing information will be all converted into the “COST”. The design change cost impact will be over 10times at the construction stage and much more at the building operation stage. (cf. https://www.archdaily.com/262008/the-future-of-the-building-industry-bim-bam-boom)

My first project with BIM was a high-profile hospital project as a contractor, we found a number of design errors in the design documents during project BIM modelling. It was clearly the first benefits from the BIM implementation to the project at the pre-construction stage. Our BIM team then carried out a significant amount of interdisciplinary BIM coordination followed by supports for shop drawings, construction logistic, engineering.

“One area in which we know new technology to be a very useful tool is in the design of buildings and their components, and in the exchange of design information throughout the construction team. There are enormous benefits to be gained, in terms of eliminating waste and rework for example, from using modern CAD technology to prototype buildings and by rapidly exchanging information on design changes. Redesign should take place on computer, not on the construction site.”

– Technology as a Tool, Chapter 4 Enabling Improvement 

While there are criticisms that the AEC industry lags other industries in an adaptation of the new technology and up to date the way of work. It is not clear whether the author(Egan) widely refers to the BIM technology as “modern CAD technology” however the agendas are still valuable for what we are trying to achieve in our on-going projects with BIM.

The current BIM practice is technologically supported by the design authoring software, Electronic document management system, BIM collaboration platform, workstation, and various supporting devices. We use the VR technology for our BIM project to maximise user and customer experience to explore the complex building components and the problems identified through the BIM process.

BIM as a “WORKING PROCESS”

However, let me emphasis again that BIM is not only the technology or additional deliverable to the traditional project submission. BIM as a “WORKING PROCESS”, we need to rethink how to bring fundamental change to the culture of work with adequate investment and supports of top management in the organization.

North America Market BIM ROI survey in 2012, the figures clearly show the benefits of BIM in the table below and Noticeably, the percentage are higher for highly engaged BIM user group.

Source: The Business Value of BIM in North America, McGraw-Hill Construction

So, Can we significantly improve the efficiency in the AEC industry through BIM?

My answer is Yes, BIM takes one of the very important roles to improve the efficiency in the AEC industry. We work closely with our project team what we can do now then try one step forward so that our project team earn BIM maturity progressively.

BIM is responding to the latest technology, Augmented Reality/ Virtual Reality, 3D printing, 3D scanning, Drone and Cloud-based collaboration. I believe that BIM coverage in the construction project will be widened with the practical readiness of new technology.

charlie.yoon

As Technical Director, mainly responsible for BIM-related works. After the professional carrier at the internationally recognized architect firms in the U.K. and Contractor, Project Management company in Middles East, he joined Syntegrate in 2020. Using his international experience and exploring the practice in Japan as a newcomer, he will write about "BIM as a working process".

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