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Although BIM is not particularly new, it is still in its early stages of development. Since it is so broadly applicable, Brett Stefanko, manager of innovation for infrastructure at Bechtel, said that the successful implementation of BIM depends not so much on the type of project in question but on the surrounding conditions that determine whether BIM could be used effectively.

“The first condition is timing. BIM is best implemented at the beginning of a project, during its conceptual and development stages. Collaborative development with all key stakeholders is crucial. The process isn’t easy, as BIM development is still in its initial stages, with the technology and its sophistication changing rapidly. However, thinking through the data needs and requirements for the full lifecycle of the project will reap great rewards,” said Stefanko.


Magdalena Pyszkowska, global head of BIM development at Bouygues, echoed Stefanko’s thoughts, saying, “BIM is applicable whenever you have an environment that is open to collaboration. The appropriate IT infrastructure, tools accessibility and understanding of common BIM targets allow a project’s teams to apply BIM correctly.”

By better connecting the various teams working on a project and offering clear visualisations of constructed objects and work sequences, BIM makes the construction process more transparent. In this way, it allows for quicker and more effective decision-making at each stage of the project.

Stefanko said, “Without BIM, projects move at the pace of a document. Quality and control are managed through multiple handoffs between functions and layers of management. Each step creates an opening for errors to be introduced, delays to occur and accountability to become clouded.

Andy Dickey, business development manager at Trimble, added that up-to-date machine-readable information can be used throughout the process. “Information does not die in one stage of the project but rather lives on to the subsequent stages,” he said.

BIM does have some teething problems though. Although there appears to be positive momentum in the uptake of BIM within the engineering, procurement and construction industry, there are barriers to using BIM. Dickey commented, “BIM’s greatest weakness is in the ability of applications throughout the process to utilise BIM data.”

Stefanko said, “Creation of a strong object library, with mature attributes, and a robust Level of Design (LOD) that will serve the project from conception through design, construction, operation, and decommissioning, requires foresight and experience.

“A poorly-developed BIM concept, with weak requirements and limited vision, will create confusion and inefficiency, and lead to poor or improper decision making. Integrating multiple suppliers, design partners and key stakeholders in a dynamic and evolving environment is not easy.”

“Bechtel’s solution is built on a Project Delivery Matrix (PDM), which visually represents the scope and links the design, construction, commissioning and handover phases. Inputs from different disciplines are captured in the PDM, linking a geographic project breakdown with the function or purpose of each asset.”

“As the supply chain becomes more sophisticated and comfortable with BIM, I believe we will see rapid improvement in project efficiencies and productivities. Rapid and effective design change able to capitalize on shifts in the markets will become the norm,” said Stefanko.

“Owners and operators will be able to integrate their assets more fully and easily into the asset environment, leading to more efficient operations, maximising output and profitability, while minimising downtime. Upgrades and maintenance will be more effective and less time consuming. Also, operational data could be consumed and mined across the fleet of assets for valuable insights.

With the aim of achieving paperless design and construction, software company Tekla – owned by Trimble – created new practices for transferring BIM data from one project party to another. Tekla wanted to make its software easy for the contractor Kreate to use, since the firm was new to using the technology.

Aki Kopra, project engineer at Kreate, said, “In the bidding phase of this project, the building information model was an official and binding document. I think that this type of method is becoming more common, but for me this was the first project in which we had a fixed model to support our estimation calculation during the bidding phase.”

Jarkko Savolainen, building information specialist at A-Insinöörit Oy, the project’s BIM consultants, said, “The planning process is easier and clearer with BIM. It also provides more transparency for all the different parties of the project. BIM allowed the site crew to see and understand the structure of the bridge. This makes planning work, as well as the entire project, more fluent, quicker and flawless.”

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