Managing a BIM Model
Managing a Building Information Model is similar to managing an actual model in site. A construction manager must understand the technology of construction. But the more crucial job is orchestrating the work of hundreds of organizations—coordinating the assembly of materials on-site with decision-making, sequencing, and supply chain management.
Most of a project is built off-site. If the on-site management team doesn’t manage the off-site activities there will be delays. Managing the interrelationships is as important as understanding the technology of the work. In the simplest sense, it doesn’t do any good for a construction superintendent to know about forming and finishing concrete if the concrete truck isn’t scheduled for delivery at the right time.
A BIM model has similar requirements. Managing the development of a virtual construction model requires skills that are similar to managing the real thing. Too often BIM production is staffed with people who understand BIM technology but don’t understand how to manage the workflow from multiple sources.
The management job requires setting BIM standards, understanding constructibility and construction sequence, evaluating supply chain data and vetting information that is submitted to be input into the model. But most of all, it requires understanding how to suck this information from multiple sources into an integrated model. The manager must have clout in the organization to get the attention of the extended IPD team to schedule information flow, analysis and problem solving. And since inputs to a BIM model may ricochet through the model, the manager must review and evaluate the accuracy of inputs—just as a CFO ensures that there are procedures to evaluate the inputs of financial information before they are posted to a general ledger.
A BIM model manager requires the support of the IPD management committee who must set policies to adopt the technology, buy and install the software for members who do not have it, train the team, champion the use. Finally, they will need to establish workflows for a BIM process that may be developed by the BIM model manager.
An IPD team needs a BIM manager and an interdisciplinary BIM team staffed with people from member firms. The BIM team integrates drawings from the AEs, subs and manufacturers. They develop 4D and 5D models. They detect coordination problems with clash detection routines. Constructibility reviews trigger design adjustments—made with the collaboration of the AEs. RFIs are anticipated and if collaboration ongoing, should be minimal. In developing the model, questions surface before construction.
The BIM model manager must be a person with good interpersonal skills to build the collaborative culture required to produce an integrated BIM model. The manager must build trust and networks of personal communication within the contracting team. As with real construction, the more personal contact and the more trust, the more collaboration. BIM allows trust to be built early, well before construction begins. There’s an opportunity to allocate model space to each subcontractor to give them confidence that the process will not only find clashes in their systems before they get to the field, but that the sub will have the ability to model the clearances and working space needed to install their work.
Architects have typically been the primary source of BIM models, fulfilling their traditional role in developing the drawings and specifications that document the product—the description of the design, the intended physical result.
CMs have usually taken the lead in providing project management information (PMIS) systems—gathering and integrating data from the extended project team. These systems have concentrated on process—tracking contractual matters such as cost, schedule and quality control; RFIs and change orders.
But now CMs are developing in-house BIM teams and are developing BIM models prior to construction.2
Eventually, it is likely that an IPD Core Team will build integrated groups to produce integrated documents. Clearly, managing virtual construction will require technical knowledge of both process and product. Virtual construction will require AEs with product expertise and CMs with process expertise.