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Construction projects have always been considered a risky venture. Besides, the inherent nature of designs, site, and construction processes makes automation a challenging task. However, cost overruns and continued delays do not have to be the norm. The increasing digitalization of design and construction through the use of 3D modeling and BIM offers efficient solutions to the issues regularly encountered in projects.

3D Model and BIM
3D Modeling Workflow

Here are ten ways 3D modeling and BIM are making the otherwise complicated construction projects a bit simpler:

1. Enhanced Design Efficiency

3D modeling and BIM help streamline the design process by automating manual tasks and making data sharing easily accessible and more efficient to all the stakeholders. The increased efficiency is the result of the automation offered by 3D modeling.

With 3D models, it is no longer needed to create a large number of reports, schedules, etc. manually. These once time-consuming tasks can now be automated using 3D modeling tools, saving valuable design time.

With 3D modeling and BIM:

  1. Reinforcement design and detailing can be done in the modeling software.
  2. Quantities are automatically calculated from the 3D model.
  3. Labeling and dimensioning of objects is automatic.
  4. Analyses (collisions between objects) and structural calculations are carried out by the software using the information already created for the model.
  5. Automatic updation of changes throughout the design, reducing the effect of scope changes.
  6. Easy sharing of data between teams that keeps everyone updated with the latest designs.

Coordination bet­ween design teams becomes easier, requiring fewer meetings and consistency checks. And by using common software interfaces, external parties such as the contractor can also access the latest design to provide feedback to the design team.

Sharing data between teams is also more efficient. Because each team can have its own working model that integrates into the central mo­del, allowing all the teams to have access to the latest designs. Shared access to a central model means no one is missing the current revision or searching for the la­test set of drawings. This eliminates the time spent by teams to check and confirm which information should be used, and drastically reduces re-work caused due to outdated information.

This simplification of processes means that 3D modeling and BIM are useful for any project size, particularly in the “more for less” climate where programs and budgets are constantly under pressure.

2. Streamlined Reinforcement Design

For many designers, there is a concern that learning to design and detail reinforcement in 3D will be difficult and impact the quality of the final deliverables. However, 3D reinforcement can be designed from 2D views, and sections like many engineers are accustomed to, making the transition to 3D modeling easier. The software then generates the 3D model simultaneously, keeping the model updated while ensuring that the 2D drawings are accurate and appropriately detailed.

Rebar 3D BIM modeling

Being able to switch between designing in 2D and 3D while keeping the 3D model current is a powerful ability that makes converting to 3D modeling effortless.

Using 3D modeling software, concrete reinforce­ment can be designed in a fraction of the time it takes for 2D reinforcement detailing. Reinforce­ment can be quickly placed within components by specifying either the bar spacing or number of bars. Intelligent modeling software can auto-detect edges of components, automatically stopping rein­forcement with the specified amount of cover and bending to fit around edges or other reinforcement.

The benefits are even more apparent when modeling sophisticated shapes. Reinforcement can be fashioned along a horizontal alignment, even at the locations where the cross-section varies, such as in bridges where the center of the span is deeper than the ends.

Quality is greatly improved by using 3D rein­forcement modeling, and not just from the removal of potential errors when manually preparing bar schedules. Collisions within the reinforcement can be easily detected with clash reports, which highlight any areas that need attention. This allows clashes to be quickly rectified before drawings are sent to manufacturers and work begins on site.

Three-dimensional views can also be generated to give a clearer picture of how reinforcement cages fit together, to make checking and installation easier. Moving from 2D to 3D reinforcement mode­ling gives engineers a competitive edge in terms of design times, costs, accuracy, and quality.

3. Increased Accuracy of Deliverables

The automation of the repetitive, time-consu­ming, or manual tasks – such as generating a bill of quantities – eliminates human errors. By removing the potential for mistakes to be made within the created drawings or documents, the accuracy of deliverables is significantly increased.

The higher the involvement of an engineer with the design, the harder it is for them to self-check their work. This is par­ticularly true for projects with long durations, complex designs, many scope changes, design options, or iterations. And the large number of drawings, schedules, and documents to be updated – even on smaller projects – makes it easy for information to be missed or incorrectly entered despite independent checks.

3D modeling and the BIM working method help ensure that these errors are not introduced into the design by automating processes and sharing current design models bet­ween the project teams.

4. Reduced Impact from Scope Changes

Scope changes kill programs and budgets. Despite this, scope changes are present on the vast ma­jority of projects for a range of reasons. However, when using 3D modeling, the impact of the chan­ges on the design schedule and costs can be minimized.

Many changes can be made directly in the model and new reports, analyses, or auto-ge­nerated documents. This automation of tasks that would need to be manually updated when using 2D drawing methods is a significant time-saver.

Updating the drawings, specifications, schedules, and bill of quantities for a seemingly minor revision can take several days or longer, depending on the size and complexity of the project.

Additional time is also needed to verify that all the changes are consistent and correct. With 3D modeling, the time needed for making and checking these revisions is significantly reduced. The time saved also means that the cost of making changes is less than that of 2D drawing methods.

5. Reduced Clashes on Site

It is a fact that changes during design cost far less than changes made on site. With 3D modeling, clas­hes within the model can be detected and rectified before the project breaks ground, increasing the quality of the design.

reduced clashes

During the design development, clash detection reports can be run on the 3D model to identify any collisions between components. The ability to find and rectify clashes quickly and easily is something that 2D drawing methods cannot offer.

In addition, the construction of the structure can be simulated using a 3D model, making it easy to visualize any clashes between temporary works or buildings, materials storage, accesses, and the new structure. Designs or construction methods can be altered, and the simulation re-ran to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that the design can be constructed with minimal changes on site.

6. Accurate Cost Estimates

It is important to prepare precise budget estimates in the early stages as clients look for feasibility before proceeding with a project.
Accurate design deliverables without errors and omissions lead to more definite construction cost predictions.

The auto-generation of quantities when using 3D modeling is a major factor in ensuring that quanti­ties are correct, by removing human error. It is far easier to identify a missing section in the 3D model than it is to spot a missing item or incorrect amount on a bill of quantities. With precise quantities, cons­truction cost estimates are more robust.

With the construction simulation and visualization tools offered by 3D modeling software, it is easier to get a true picture of the construction development and expenditures. Components can be linked to material costs and time, so a timeline of construction pro­gress and costs can be created. For projects that have several phases, the completion of each stage can be envisaged and more accurately assessed.

7. Improved Data Exchange

Exchanging project information, especially CAD data, is generally difficult and can lead to loss of information. When sharing designs, software that uses common data exchange interfaces provides an efficient way to pass information between the project team members and optimize data sharing workflows.

The Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) interface is an open standard for digital models, which ensures that BIM-compatible software can exchange data. This means that model data can be viewed by and trans­ferred to many different software programs with minimal loss of information and eliminates the need for all parties to have the same software packages.

By using BIM software with an IFC interface, the central model can be shared with everyone working on the project, ensuring access to the latest design information and optimizing data sharing workflows.

8. Improved Project Team Communication

When all project team members are working from the same design information, communication between parties is more effective. 3D modeling and the BIM working method facilitate this by ensuring that up-to-date information can be shared easily amongst the teams from one central place. With everyone working from one source of design, more informed decisions can be made.

In addition, explaining complicated technical approa­ches can be easier with a 3D visualization, parti­cularly for any non-technical stakeholders such as the client. The 3D model and rendering possibilities make it easy to imagine what the end product will look like, as well as evaluate any potential options. This visual collaboration helps ensure that the cli­ent’s needs for the structure are being met, before the project is on-site and changes become costly.

Having all the building component information in one place – instead of the traditionally fragmented approach of 2D drawings and specification documents – helps ensure that everyone is using the right information to base decisions on.

9. Workflow Optimization Opportunities

One of the main benefits of 3D modeling is the ability to streamline existing workflows. Steps that were necessary in 2D processes can be shortened or removed completely.

For example, the ability to auto-generate plan, elevation, and section views from the 3D model decreases the time needed to complete these drawings, as only the final layout and scale will need to be adjusted. Where previously there would be a program item for creating bar bending schedules or bills of quantities, these are now produced as a by-product of the 3D model. 

Even the workflow to coordinate with other team members is affected, as many of the outputs they require are available in the model. This simplification of previous workflows allows projects to be completed more quickly, with more projects completed in the same amount of time or with fewer resources.

10. Future-Proofed Working methods

With more and more clients across the world spe­cifying BIM as a contractual requirement, there is no doubt that BIM is the future of construction. The benefits throughout the entire project lifecycle are too great to ignore: enhanced design efficiency, im­proved project communication, better schedule, and cost control.

But BIM is still evolving. Using the BIM method to deliver your projects is easier to integrate during the early stages, than later, when the difficulty and expenses have significantly increased. The speed of development means that BIM is continually progressing and is starting to include other specialisms that typically sit outside the design.

BIM is increasingly being used in areas such as tendering, construction scheduling and cost monitoring, prefabricated component manu­facturing, and computer-aided facilities manage­ment. The advances being made in digitization and artificial intelligence mean that many methods used currently may change significantly. In a few short years, the BIM method may be used for far more applications than it is today.

Read More:
What are the Benefits of BIM for General Contractors?
8 Reasons You Need Building Information Modeling (BIM) [PDF]
Building Information Modeling in Construction Industry
Embracing Digitalization in Construction Industry

Akshay Dashore

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