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HD BIM: A New Way to See Construction

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high definition building information modeling, HD BIM, Gregory P. Luth & Associates, University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, Department of Structural Mechanics and Computer Aided Engineering, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Warsaw University of Technology, University of Technology Sydney
Samsung Headquarters in San Jose; Image courtesy of NBBJ

BIM technology gets more detailed and granular, allowing for complex end-to-end design and implementation, but too much tech is slowing adoption

By Brittan Jenkins

The construction process can be long and difficult, often coupled by a whirlwind of city processes. Offer developers and builders the promise of reduced cost and less wasted time, and there’s sure to be lots of interest. An innovative way to bring those elements, as well as a number of others, into the everyday construction process is what high definition building information modeling (HD BIM) aims to do.

HD BIM is one of several lean construction trends that are shaping the architecture, engineering and construction industry. Along with performance-based design, virtual design & construction and integrated project delivery, HD BIM looks to transform the way building structures are done and provide a detailed guide to every party involved in the project.

“HD BIM is a process that instills credibility back to the design process and predictability into the construction process,” said Greg Luth, head of Gregory P. Luth & Associates, a structural engineering and building company based in Santa Clara. At its core, HD BIM exists to add value to a project and is a blend of technology and team conduct.

Using the technology can save as much 30 percent of the schedule and 20 percent of costs in some cases, according to Luth. However, some of it’s most valuable attributes is that communication and collaboration of all data is on one platform and one model at all times. One model is a federated model of all trades that shows graphically what is intended in the project delivery and can provide data on each individual part of a project during design, construction and through its life cycle. In essence, with one model, before construction ever starts, the design is complete. This helps cut down on waste during the construction build-out phases and allows for teams to run more efficiently, effectively and correctly. Through this technology, there’s inherently significantly less risk in the project.

The process for HD BIM typically starts with a digital mock-up, which then moves to design review, process simulation, project management and finally, facility management. The goal is to have HD BIM and one model improve predictability, sustainability, quality, reduce waste, risk and cost.

Current industry tools could inhibit coordination between teams and create siloed information and detail about a certain portion of the project. End-to-end collaboration is nearly impossible with numerous industry standard systems, causes potential problems and presents opportunities for human error.

Manufactured systems, such as curtain walls and facades, are often one of the most expensive and complex elements of any construction project. The facade can easily account for 15 percent of a budget, and models don’t typically include data on the fabrication process. Luth worked on a project at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, which was conducted in three phases over the course of four years. He utilized HD BIM in the process and was able to reduce the installation time of the facade by 116 days or 30 percent of the predicted schedule. This also reduced costs of development through fewer transports for the components of the facade along with the crane time cut in half.

“When designers work with building product manufacturers to ensure the design intent is realized and improve supply chain efficiency, the entire project sees a lot of added value,” Luth said.

In some cases, the process has been exported to other countries, as well, where the builders are looking to utilize the process. HD BIM has taken their work to another level, allowing for clash avoidance, virtual design and construction as well as a development of a database of information.

In Poland HD BIM is viewed as an extremely useful tool, but its benefits are predominantly seen in projects of scale. “BIM allows for simplification of many tasks and considerable savings both in terms of money and time. However, the successful implementation of this technology requires a skillful design team who acts exactly in accordance with BIM system procedures. Nowadays, given the high cost of implementation, application of BIM is profitable mostly for large projects. As the software and hardware become cheaper, the accessibility of BIM would spread over smaller projects. Doubtlessly, BIM is the most complete designing tool which can change radically the designing process in the following years,” according to a 2014 paper written by Ireneusz Czmoch and Adam Pekala with the Department of Structural Mechanics and Computer Aided Engineering, Faculty of Civil Engineering at the Warsaw University of Technology in Warszawa, Poland.

The limited adoption of this technology given its complexity and cost have been recognized by one researcher in Australia, as well. Dr. Peter Smith at the University of Technology Sydney found that North America, the United Kingdom and the Scandinavian region are generally leading the way in its adoption. And while the “technology underpinning BIM has been around for well over a decade, BIM implementation and take-up has been relatively slow in the construction industry compared to industries such as manufacturing and engineering.”