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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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The discipline being portrayed in this report is that of an architectural practice. Construction projects appear to be rapidly becoming highly complex and more difficult to manage. This created an opportunity within the building industry for information and communication technology (ICT) to develop a revolutionary new methodology to solve this problem which came to be Building Information modelling (BIM). BIM is gradually becoming the prominent building design process to address performance/information problems that currently hinder the construction industry throughout the project lifecycle. BIM and Parametric Design present the opportunity to increase profitability, increase efficiency, reduce inconsistency and increase predictability. It is a revolutionary development in building design that is quickly changing the Architecture Engineering Construction (AEC) industry. As BIM is in constant change throughout its development, it has no universally accepted definition therefore for the purpose of this report BIM is defined as a group of interconnected technologies, policies and processes that create a methodology to manage, store, generate, exchange and share project data and building design in an interoperable and reusable digital format throughout the buildings lifecycle The technologies of BIM require the use of an information rich virtual 3D integrated database which is constantly developed to reflect the lifecycle of a project and allow the project stakeholders to envisage the design and identify issues. The policies required for the use of BIM are inter-organisational, and require changes in standard workflow and project delivery processes. The processes required allow for collaboration, communication and data management while integrating all stakeholders on a project. BIM uses evaluation programmes to effectively produce and coordinate designs along with conducting analysis which can address performance/information issues as a source of feedback. Typically, non-BIM Software Developers try to portray their digital models using the BIM buzzword to describe their models capabilities, essentially trying to portray BIM’s benefits on their products. Although the drawbacks typically outweigh the benefits. According to  there is four types of Digital models that do not categorise under BIM, ‘models that contain 3D data only and no object attributes, models with no support of behaviour, models that are composed of multiple 2D CAD reference files that must be combined to define the building and models that allow changes to dimensions in one view that are not automatically reflected in other views’. This report intends to examine the question, do BIM processes implemented in an architectural practice have the potential to improve on non-Bim practices throughout the design, construction and operations phases of a buildings lifecycle.

Per the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 (Appendix A), the design phase is divided into three separate sub categories – concept design (also known as pre-design), developed design and technical design. According to BIM is used primarily in the concept and development Design (54.88%) and the Technical design (51.90%) stages.

One of the main benefits using BIM throughout the concept design for architects is the ability to produce design options and rendered images through the virtual 3D model while 4D sequencing and 5D preliminary costing and quantifying is taking place (Appendix B). The production of these design options is a time-consuming process and will include proposals for structural design, building services, simulation studies and renders at an early stage of the project lifecycle which allows the client to conduct an early design assessment by conducting virtual model walkthroughs and the review of plans, sections and elevations to assess each design option taking into consideration simple cost estimates. BIM allows Contractor input here which is essential to ensure buildability; optimising costs and reducing risk. Therefore, BIM allows the client to make a swift informed decision and encourages minimal financial risk due to the initial cost estimates, overall reducing the number of design changes. The collaboration along with the use of the virtual 3D environment and the costs obtained from it at an early stage were influential. Concept design conducted through traditional processes may also allow for design options and images and may take a similar amount of time to produce, but these contain no significant information within the digital models that can be costed or quantified. Costing and quantifying would traditionally be done after the concept design is decided. Therefore, if the cost estimate was above the client’s budget then the architects would have to revert and re-design causing additional costs and project delays. Communication during concept design is essential and the review of office standards as set out in the BIM Execution Plan (BEP) is advised to ensure consistency. This part of the BIM methodology sets it apart from non-BIM practices as they have no form of standardisation. Because of this, any alterations made throughout concept design using BIM may be inexpensive and have a bigger influence throughout the project. According to MacLeamy Curve BIM allows for further analysis by moving the design process back to the concept design stage where the impact of changes are high and costs are low.

According to a case study conducted by , a client’s review (over a 14 day period) of BIM based design options, achieved a cost saving of $1,995,000 during concept design.

The Developed Design stage for architects is the process of developing the initial concept design into a significantly higher level of detail (LOD) for the creation of construction drawings (RIBA, 2013). By using BIM, updated 3D virtual models from the structural/MEP engineers can be federated and coordinated by the BIM coordinator. Coordination through clash detection is necessary here and if conducted through BIM is very efficient. Traditionally non-BIM using practices are inconsistent with clash detection which impacts on the construction process, causing design changes, delays, material costs. Clash Detection if conducted through BIM has the potential to improve on non-BIM processes as it reduces inconsistency and puts an additional value on the cost savings made from eliminating clashes found during the concept design reviews. According to a case study conducted by on the Aquarium Hilton Garden Inn, ‘throughout the design development stage, 55 clashes were identified, which resulted in a cost avoidance of $124,500’. The enhancement of drawings and specifications through collaboration with engineers and consultants creates an information rich BIM model containing product data sheets, fire rating and acoustic rating etc. This significant information can be used by 3D parametric objects to portray information in 2D format on drawings if required essentially removing the need traditionally to have large amounts of specification documents in hard copy format. Both benefits outweigh the traditional processes of clash detection here. Due to the ability to conduct efficient clash detection and coordination, further reductions in costs can be achieved than previously outlined in concept design.

The technical design stage for an architectural practice requires further development of the developed design model towards a completed BIM model that is fully coordinated, including specifications, schedules and manuals. Architectural practices using BIM tend to find the technical design stage a lot more convenient in comparison to non-BIM based documentation (Kensek, 2014). The documents produced here are used through the bidding process and eventually as construction drawings for the building. Specialist subcontractors and suppliers can now conduct quite accurate quantity surveys and produce thorough estimates. According to a survey was conducted over 32 major projects which states that by using BIM based quantity estimates, the accuracy was within 3% of the actually amount required. This allowed over 80% reduction in time over the traditional methods of producing quantities. Therefore, the more comprehensive of drawings that architects can produce allow for further benefits throughout the other project stakeholders. Inconsistencies throughout traditional non-BIM practices drawings tend to increase costs as RFI’s and design changes are requested. As each of the models are coordinated, contractors can develop safety protocols outlining possible hazards along with site logistics and traffic layouts using 3D and 4D BIM methods as the project moves towards the construction stage.

The architect’s construction documents produced in RIBA stage 4 along with the design models are sent to the project contractors, this allows the contractors to conduct initial clash detection, cost estimates, constructability analysis, site safety plans and implement lean construction techniques. If the contractor is involved with the project stakeholders during the design stage, quantities and an accurate cost estimation is already available. The 3D virtual design model can be implemented into the construction schedule to increase the optimisation of the construction phase (Ciribini, Ventura, & Paneroni, 2016). BIM can play a key role in the construction phase of a project for an architectural practice. As of 2014, the option to opt out of the Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR) and to act as an assigned certifier came forward, this meant that some architectural practices now had to monitor on site construction through 4D phasing plans (Azhar et al., 2012). The BIM federated model allows for this, while traditionally non-BIM practices can monitor construction easily. The contractor begins to produce the as-built BIM model towards LOD 500 as the building is constructed. Site coordination meetings happen regularly to discuss progress on site and any construction queries that may arise. The advantage of BIM in coordination meetings over non-BIM practices is its ability to use the design team 3D virtual federated model and compare it to the as-built model to examine these potential construction queries and outline the best way to overcome them. Traditionally, non-BIM architectural practices would review drawings where the problem occurs manually on each drawing which would cause delays on site. Hence, through the BIM coordination meetings contractors can achieve increases profitability, reduction in overall project scheduling, superior construction quality and improved safety management. Although there are many benefits to the use of BIM in the construction phase, only 34.67% of the industry implement it (Refer to Figure 1). BAM contractors, promote the use of handheld devices throughout the construction phase. The devices allow the different trades foremen to upload and assign problems on site back to the virtual as-built model as it is being produced. These problems may require the production of DCN’s, RFI’s or submittals to the architectural design team. This method is not available to non-BIM architectural practices.

The operations phase of a building typically represents 80% of the building lifecycle cost. Traditionally during the operations phase, the non-BIM architectural practice would have produced hundreds of manuals, specifications, drawings and schedules. Typically, the data would be stored on site for the facility manager, whereas through BIM, the as-built model is handed over and all this information is integrated into the virtual model. Traditionally, there was no incorporation of information virtually that could be used efficiently throughout the facility. This is where the benefit of BIM to a facility manager becomes prevalent. BIM allows for a paperless environment and any problems throughout site can be captured using a handheld device directly feeding into the 3D BIM model. The architects produce asset tags that every element of the building has, which directly relates to the same element in the 3D virtual model. The asset tag relates to parametric significant information rich components in the virtual model which contains information on the building element such as instruction manuals, maintenance records and links to the original manufacturer’s website (Aziz, Nawawi, & Ariff, 2016). This increases actual operations and facilities maintenance. BIM allows for quicker decisions, better documentation, effective operation and increased collaboration. According to case study conducted by (Aziz et al., 2016), 98% of a time saving is achievable through the use of BIM when updating and creating data in the facilities management database. Facilities management staff find it difficult to maintain facilities when relying on traditional non-BIM paper based information. By using BIM instead of traditional drawings, the facility workers can find find problematic elements in the facility through the virtual model and promptly prepare a plan of action. Referring to Figure 1, only 8.82% of facilities managers use BIM in the operations phase

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