Structural engineers who use constructable BIM models add value to projects by providing bottom-line benefits for their firms, as well as the project owner.
Historically, architects use Building Information Modeling (BIM) to communicate the concepts of a project in a 3-D visual form. They then pass the BIM to the structural engineer who adds 2-D drawings that provide detailed information about the structural elements of the design. While this process is considered standard practice, as evidenced by its inclusion in contracts section Lead of Development 300, many structural engineers find it problematic because they have to do more work adding missing object attributes to the BIM. Additionally, the 3-D model does not usually have sufficient detail for use by subcontractors. In a recent article published on Structure, Stuart Broome, a structural engineer with 21-years of experience, argues that using constructable BIM eliminates these inefficiencies, which benefits both structural engineers and project owners.
The Difference between BIMs Designed for Architects and Those for Engineers
BIM software developed for architects produce 3-D visual models to communicate the conceptual design for a project. These models are not useful for tradesmen and subcontractors because they do not have the details about the type and quantity of the materials used to construct the structure. In contrast, constructable BIM models include accurate and detailed object attributes that the downstream design-build professionals can use to create their own models.
BIM applications for structural engineers differ from architectural BIM software programs in the following ways:
• The program creates 3-D visual models with object attributes for structural elements and then generates accurate 2-D drawings with measurements and data about the materials needed to construct the structure.
• The engineering BIM program integrates with existing structural analysis design software.
• The BIMs created have sufficient accuracy to permit use by project detailers downstream.
• The BIM provides the engineer with the capability to add detailed information to the model without investing a significant amount of extra time.
The Benefits of Constructable BIM for Engineers and Project Owners
Some examples of the ways constructable BIM adds value for structural engineers and their clients include:
• Facilitates communication and collaboration among professionals, tradesmen, and project stakeholders
• Improves the accuracy of cost estimates by providing the basis to determine the amount of materials needed with enhanced precision and by reducing contingency provisions
• Reduces the need for requests for information that often delay projects
• Decreases risk and liability by reducing miscommunication
Do you use constructable BIM in your structural engineering practice? If so, what is your experience with them? What feedback did you receive from your clients?