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Main Features And Characteristics Information Technology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Information Technology
Wordcount: 5440 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Over the past 50 years, the construction industry has witnessed exciting breakthroughs such as the advent of Critical Path Method scheduling, the introduction of Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD), the acceptance of integrated project delivery systems and the application of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR).

In addition, the construction industry has also been impacted with two powerful global developments; the ‘internet’, revolutionising the communications infrastructure and also ‘environmental awareness’ which focuses on the commitment to sustainability and lifecycle solutions (Bakhtar & McDonough 2008). We are now approaching a virtual reality to create intelligent, integrated 3D models of construction projects allowing stakeholders to visualise and analyse the completed project before it is built.

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By implementing BIM, “Risk is reduced, design intent is maintained, quality control is streamlined, communication is clearer and higher analytic tools are more accessible” (Australian Institute of Architects 2005). It is BIM which also enhances collaboration through interaction of different stakeholders which can be used for stimulation, structural design, cost estimating, scheduling, fabrication, erection and facilities management (Bakhtar & McDonough 2008).

As the industry begins to integrate BIM in practice, it is likely to bring about change in work practice, project development approach and emergence of new roles and relationships, both at technical and management levels (Brankovic et al. 2007).

Despite the apparent benefits the adoption of BIM in practice, the uptake has been slow. Workshops with industry focus groups have been conducted to identify the industry needs, concerns and expectations from participants who had implemented BIM or were BIM “ready”. Factors inhibiting BIM adoption include lack of training, low business incentives, perception of lack of rewards, technological concerns, contractual matters and resistance to changing current work practice. Successful BIM usage depends on collective adoption of BIM across the different disciplines and requires the support of the client (Brankovic 2008).

“So is Building Information Modelling (BIM) the real deal? Some say it’s a matter of when, not if, industry adopts BIM universally and increasingly, public-and private sector developments are calling for its use on large projects. Can they afford not to?” (Hyslop 2010).

2.0 Main Features & Characteristics

“BIM involves computerised design software tools that help create a model that reflects all of the building components’ geometric and functional qualities. The general contractor and trade subcontractors provide product-specific information for building components and that data is inputted into the model, including performance specifications, connection details and cost data. However, the model is more than a mere representation of the design in a three-dimensional computer graphic but rather, embedded within the design programs which feature rules that define which of the components’ relation to the other components” (Pohl & Short 2010).

In order to be classified as ‘true’ BIM, all information related to the building, including its physical and functional characteristics and project life cycle information should be held in a series of ‘Smart or Intelligent objects’. For instance, an air conditioning unit within a BIM model would contain the data about its supplier, flow rates, maintenance procedures, lead in times and clearance requirements (Scuderi 2007).

In essence, BIM is a variation of the traditional construction project model in terms of technology and process. In a traditional project, design documents flow down from the architect, through the owner, to the contractor and then from the contractor to subcontractors, suppliers and fabricators. This downward flow of design documents and design information defines and reinforces the distinct roles, responsibilities and liabilities of the designer and contractor (Crandall & Katz 2010).

BIM, however, changes the traditional model through the use of advanced technology to edit the design documents and allows designers to attach specific information to each object of a project. Any changes in the BIM model automatically changes all relevant information attached to the particular object which saves design time and avoids potential design errors that occur (Katz & Crandall, 2010). BIM is particularly useful for identifying potential construction conflicts (clash detection) at the design stage, and quantifying the materials required for construction.

“In theory, assuming that the information provided by the various stakeholders in the project is accurate and the rules embedded in the model are correct, BIM should reduce errors and omissions, resulting in aggregate reduction in professional liability and errors and omission claims. Yet, if the assumptions embedded in the computerised model is prove false, then the result would be a costly problem that all concerned should hope to be covered by insurance” (Pohl & Short 2010 p.1).

A few cases of successful use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) approach in real world projects have been reported (Khemlani 2007a, 2007b) that suggest, even if the BIM applications and tools may not have matured fully they are very much usable in their present form and can enhance project collaboration and management in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry well beyond the current state (Brankovic et al. 2007).

3.0 Benefits of adopting BIM

The benefits of adopting BIM are staggering, that “some are even sounding the warning that those who fail to jump aboard the BIM bandwagon will be quickly left in the dust” .

“Building performance and predictability of outcomes are greatly improved by adopting BIM. An Engineers Australia Queensland Division Task Force 2005 report estimates that 60-90% of all variations are due to poor project design documentation. A BIM is one way of significantly improving design and documentation quality” (Scuderi 2007).

Stanford University Centre for Integrated Facility Engineering figures which are based on 32 major projects using BIM indicates benefits such as:

• A 40% elimination of unbudgeted change

• Cost estimation accuracy within three per cent

• An 80% reduction in the time taken to generate a cost estimate

• A saving of 10% of the contract value through clash detection

• A 7% reduction in project time, and

• A return on investment when using a 3D model of 5 – 10 times

(Scuderi 2007).

Other advantages include:

3.1 Visualisation and Design Features

Ability to visualise a model before construction begins

Eliminates and minimises the number of site related questions due to design errors

Provides drawings, cross-sections and details in 3D which better describe complexities and allow images to be rotated for better visualisation

BIM can be used as visual timeline to assess progress payments

Easy to add information into the model and takes little time to change

Once one change is made, all relevant components change automatically, saving time on updating design drawings individually

Able to run detailed analysis such as sun shading modelling, thermal properties etc

Easy to understand details about the building and individual components

3.2 Conflict Detection

Data embedded into the BIM model for each component allows BIM software to identify potential conflicts during the design phase

Eliminates/minimises construction errors by detecting problems early

Saves time and money which would be previously wasted should an error occur during later stages of construction

3.3 Collaboration & Coordination

Allows communication between design team/s, engineers and contractors which can increase project efficiencies due to collaboration

Remedy the deficient efficiencies early in the design process

An increase in collaboration can reduce the number of Request For Information (RFIs) and change order which can shorten construction schedules. Laing O’Rourke saw a 70% reduction in RFI’s on the 123 Albert Street project due to subcontractors being able to view their appropriate trade and solving/answering their own questions themselves (P Nunn 2010, pers. comm., 6 Aug).

3.4 Fabric Efficiency and Estimating

Detailed specifications can be extracted directly from a BIM model and sent to a fabricator

Saves time and avoids potential errors that could occur when contractors manually extract fabrication data

Due to the increased visualisation and data information contained within each object, fabricated components are more likely to fit when delivered (e.g. steel fabrication) therefore reducing construction waste

Suppliers can extract material estimates and project schedules directly from a BIM model which can save time and prevent delivery delays

3.5 Data Entry

Reduces data entry and computational errors as there is no need to re-enter data or manually extract information from design documents

BIM models can compare project components such as building codes and energy efficiency standards

3.6 Life-Cycle Management

BIM models can be used throughout the life-cycle of a building

Models can be used to determine maintenance requirements and can analyse compatibility and cost-effectiveness as well as providing visual representation of improvements

3.7 Sustainability Design

BIM models are able to provide building analysis which allows sustainable rating tools to gain insight into a building’s performance

Sustainable features can be incorporated and tested before construction, allowing ‘what if’ scenarios which quickly evaluate design alternatives

Allows the opportunity to make better decisions to iterate on a greener design

Schedules of building material quantities can be obtained directly from the model to determine the amount of materials which can be reused, recycled or salvaged

Sources for advantages of BIM:

(Bakhtar & McDonough 2008), (Cranda & Katz 2010), (Middlebrooks 2006), (M Ryan 2010. Pers. comm., 8 July),

4.0 Issues that affect the adoption of BIM

With any new technology, there is a period of adjustment and learning. There are many different views about BIM and its potential, however the consensus is that it represents a fundamental (some say revolutionary) change in the way a building project design is prepared and implemented (Sieminski 2007).

Based on the QUT Research paper from the ICAN Conference in 2007 (Brankovic et al.2007), before greater adoption of BIM, the following issues need to be addressed:

4.1 Version management

New technology requires software to be constantly upgraded; this has been an issue for many practitioners. Although most upgraded software allows you to use data generated from earlier versions, many significant changes inhibit these. This means that in order to have all collaborating stakeholders to be working on compatible versions, often compromises have to be made on efficiency (Brankovic et al. 2007).

Laing O’Rourke has initiated various processes to reduce risk from upgrades in software. This involves contracting all collaborating stakeholders to use the same program and upgrading all relevant software before the commencement of their contract (P Nunn 2010, pers. comm., 6 Aug). This process has been implemented in the recent $110 million design and construct contract for a new health centre and common user teaching facility at the Griffith University Gold Coast campus which is set to be one of the first 100% BIM model projects in QLD .

4.2 Organisation and data management

“As more data is managed and stored electronically, standard practices and procedures need to be in place to deal with data organisation, storage and security. Managing the different versions of the project which relates to compatible set of data from different disciplines at specific stages need to be fixed” (Brankovic et al.2007, p.7).

While the ability to constantly update the data gives unprecedented flexibility, it also adds to the complexity relating to version management, data explosion and usability (Brankovic et al.2007). Issues exist in Database Management Systems (DMS) in relation to organisational issues for the Architects, Engineers and Contractors (AEC) domain and practitioners which poses a new challenge involving strategic decision making.

Stakeholders are also finding that some programs produce a large file size which has led to hardware lagging the software (P Nunn 2010, pers. comm., 6 Aug).

4.3 Program training

One of the greatest issues with the adoption of BIM is “the training and development of staff and taking the resources off project work to do so” (A Bryant 2010, pers. comm., 30 June).

In recent years, the architectural industry has received major criticisms of the widening gap of the techniques and methods taught in architecture schools and what is practiced in the field. It is suggested that rather than giving separate introductory session on computational approaches and BIM applications, there is a need for integrating the same in design studios for students which will alleviate the concerns in some sections that believe computational approaches to be inhibiting design creativity (Brankovic et al.2007).

4.4 Cost of adoption

The cost of adopting BIM is also an issue. “For Revit systems and software, it costs approximately $10,000, plus training and cost of product libraries. The real costs depend on the extent you choose to develop a model. You can develop a simple or well built model which costs a lot more but again, depends on the value and use of the model. However, the benefits include the reduction in waste, ease of design, increase opportunity for sustainability and overall, the process is more efficient. The industry needs to value to outcome” (A Gutteridge 2010, pers. comm., 1 July).

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Large and medium sized firms can afford the luxury of aligning teams to BIM as they would have some supplement workforce at certain points of time. Smaller firms however, would find this difficult to achieve as they would be unable to commit an entire team to BIM software at any given time or even over a period of time .

“Although the loss of billable hours during training is a concern, the short term productivity paybacks will quickly offset the loss. A recent online survey of Revit customers reported that although there was an average productivity loss of 25-50% during the initial training period, it took most customers only 3-4 months to achieve the same level of productivity using Revit as with the previous design tool. Building on that statistic, the estimated increase in productivity (as a result of migrating to Revit) ranged from 10% to over 100%, with more than half the respondents experienced productivity gains of over 50% and close to 20% experienced productivity gains of over 100%” .

Due to the large capital cost of training and BIM software, smaller firms may struggle to keep up with the technology. A viable option for small firms would be to seek offshore expertise. Leveraging outside experience and expertise would help them keep their team intact; facilitate better integration of BIM technologies within their business model and save a large amounts of billable hours .

4.5 Security of data

Placing data on an integrated database in an electronic format raises security concern amongst the involved stakeholders. Some concerns are related to the following:

Network security

Intellectual Property (IP)

Protection of copyrights

These concerns however may be justified and alleviated by greater awareness and legal measures. For example, access should be controlled through secure log-ins with data check-in and check-outs which can be registered for each interaction. Therefore data hosts can manage the data under a contractual agreement with the data owner with the terms and conditions outlined accordingly in the documentation (Brankovic et al.2007).

4.6 Readiness of the tools

Examples of the use of BIM approach in practice suggest that in the present state as well there are tools that can significantly improve the work process in the AEC industry documentation (Brankovic et al.2007).

However, lack of tools supporting and integrating conceptual design activity has been a major concern (Khemlani 2007a). As more BIM applications are being developed to look at specific aspects of design process and allow integration with each other, the technical support which is bound to improve (Brankovic et al.2007).

4.7 Seamless Integration and standards

Due to the various types of tools which have been introduced over the past few years, it is important that there is greater standardisation of processes, terminologies and products, early information exchange between different stakeholders. This will avoid re-work, provide capability to conduct preliminary analysis of project concepts, greater intelligence in tools to air computability of building data as they get more complex, and great automation in construction and fabrication to leverage the benefits of a better and precise model (Brankovic et al.2007).

5.0 Contractual Issues that affect the BIM adoption

As BIM technology evolves further, it is apparent that there are a number of legal and contractual issues which warrant careful consideration. Unfortunately, the newness of BIM leaves us with more questions than definitive answers at this present time. For the owner, designer, or contractor participating in a BIM project for the first time, these questions should be carefully weighed, understandings reached and memorialised in appropriate contract document (Haynes 2009).

5.1 There isn’t a BIM-specific standard contract form

For many, a standardised BIM contract is the most important facet of BIM implementation. A standardised BIM form is recognised as the most logical starting point in the integration of BIM as a standard contracting method. Australia does not currently have a specific stand contract form, therefore contractors, clients and relevant parties must create their own contractual agreements with the relevant stakeholders for each project.

5.2 Ownership

Creating an integrated BIM model involves the input of several stakeholders which focus on specific design elements such as mechanical and electrical services and the overall design. Therefore, the difficulty exists with the issue of legal ownership and copyright for instruments of service.

Without modification in the underlying contract documents, the normal principle would be that the part that creates the BIM model would retain ownership of and the copyright of the model. This is consistent with the AIA – American standard agreements whereby the ownership and copyright is retained by the drafting party, therefore, agrees to license its instruments of services (Haynes 2009).

In some cases, owners/clients may insist that the various data and deliverables provided by the design professional be owned by the owner. In Queensland, the most common client who may wish to own the model is Project Services (P Nunn 2010. Pers. comm., 6 Aug).

When there are numerous stakeholders involved in the design process, it is important that the intellectual property interests in BIM models and data be clearly addressed up-front by the parties. For example, Laing O’Rourke may choose to outsource consultants for particular projects; however it is made very clear that Laing O’Rourke own the copyright. Laing O’Rourke in Australia, don not have an issue with Intellectual Property (IP) as it is clearly defined in their contract documents (P Nunn 2010. Pers. comm., 6 Aug).

5.3 Standard of Care

There is a concern that the universal use of BIM will eventually alter both the standard of care and historical protections afforded to design professional by the doctrine of privity [1] . Until recently in America, the doctrine of privity of contract shielded architects and engineers from negligence claims by parties with whom the architect did not have a contract (Sieminski 2007).

“Many jurisdictions in America now allow claims without privity when it is clear that a contractor reasonably relied upon information that the design professional misrepresented in a context in which the contractor clearly would be relying upon that information” (Sieminski 2007).

Therefore, contractual issues would become problematic in the future, in that, one of the requirements of the example claim above ‘reasonable reliance’ may appear to be presumed in a BIM environment.

5.4 Insurance

Contracting parties, contract insurers and sureties need more certainty and an accurate gauge of their exposure when writing insurance policies and bonds. While there are many positives about BIM, there are currently too many unknowns for insurers to write BIM policies (Faulkner 2007).

“Just as BIM technology is evolving, so must the insurance industry evolve to consider whether its current products adequately cover the new risks created by this technology or whether additional instruments are necessary to allow project participants to manage these risks in a prudent manner” (Haynes 2009).

From the design professional’s perspective, it is important to carefully examine the adequacy of their professional liability arising out of negligence of the design professional during the preparation of BIM models.

When design professionals assume additional responsibility as a gatekeeper or model manager, then additional risks undertaken and thereby must be covered under the standard professional liability policy. Similarly, when a contractor involved in creating BIM construction models, utilises them for planning, fabrication, estimating or scheduling, the need for professional liability is even more important (Haynes 2009).

5.5 Interoperability

One of the largest challenges being actively addressed by technology developers and end-users are the interoperability of existing BIM programs and the creation of multiple accurate models to fulfil specific purposes (Miner & Thomson 2006).

The term ‘interoperability’ refers to the ability of various project participants to share and exchange information electronically through the use of different software systems. Due to the different types of design/BIM programs on the market, there are no guarantees that the different software can be used by all stakeholders or work flawlessly together (Haynes 2009).

There have been several attempts to standardise the language interfaces of various BIM software, however have not been formalised. In the meantime, however, provisions must be made among parties concerning the consequences of inconsistencies or errors that arise as a result of interoperability. This issue of software compatibility also flows into a concern with remedies for defects in software (Haynes 2009).

Up until now there has yet to be a lawsuit based on the use of BIM, however it’s only a matter of time before misunderstandings or relative risks and responsibilities of parties will be noticed. The use of BIM in the construction process will continue to be affected by the contractual relationship between project participants, the world of litigation and evolution of technology. It is important for those involved to continue to assess the interrelationships of these variables and prepare for more technological advances which are inevitably on the horizon .

6.0 BIM adoption in Australia Vs America

6.1 Uptake of BIM

Despite the potential benefits of BIM, its uptake in Australia has been slow (Branksovic et al. 2010). Based on the National Guidelines of Digital Modelling written by the CRC in Australia 2009, slow adoption in the industry exists due to “voids which exist in practice as the industry is yet to make full use of the possibilities that new software technologies have provided. There appears to be little multidisciplinary BIM, and very little over the whole building lifecycle” (National Guidelines of Digital Modelling, 2009, p.20).

According to a recent survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), however, America has experienced a 160% increase in use in the main architectural community during 2005 to 2009 (Ireland 2010). The AIA survey also reveals that more than 75% of responding architects reported ‘very heavy’ or ‘heavy’ use of BIM technology in their projects in 2009. “We’re well past the tipping point now,” says Markku Allison, resource architect for AIA. “At our 2005 convention, the opening plenary session was about BIM, and of the nearly 4,000 architects in the room we got the impression that 85% had never even heard of BIM. Now when we go on the road, everyone knows what BIM is, and the audience can offer up success stories about using BIM” (Ireland 2010). However, in Australia it is said that the Architects are against the adoption of BIM due to the large setup costs (P Nunn 2010, pers. comm., 6 Aug).

6.2 Which stakeholders are driving the adoption of BIM?

After interviewing a number of industry professionals in Australia, the general consensus was that different stakeholders were driving the adoption of BIM, all for different reasons.

Client benefits from BIM through the Facility Management perspective and ongoing building operation

Architects & Engineers benefit from the speed in design (once the initial design is complete), there is no need to draw sections and details are they are all within the model to start with

Builders benefit through the ease of coordination, reduction in buildability issues and the use of clash detection (M Ryan 2010. pers. comm., 8 July).

Paul Nunn from Laing O’Rourke, however, indicated that clients such as Project Services and companies such as Laing O’Rourke are currently driving the adoption of BIM (P Nunn 2010. pers. comm., 6 Aug). Andrew Gutteridge, and architect from Arkhefield Australia believes that “Architects are the ones who need to get to speed first – architects have a lot to learn” (A Gutteridge 2010. pers. comm., 1 July).

On the other hand, Architects currently make up the largest group of user of BIM technology in America (Ireland 2010). In 2008, a SmartMarket Report published by New York-based McGraw-Hill Construction revealed that more than 43% of architects were using BIM on more than 60% of their projects. However, the use of BIM requires more than the adoption of its technology by one group in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry (Ireland 2010).

6.3 BIM Standard Form Contracts

The construction industry is only beginning to catch up with the contractual liability issues that arise from the non-traditional roles played by the various project participants.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has developed IPD Agreements which include the following contracts:

AIA C196-2008 Standard Form of Agreement between Single Purpose Entity Owner or Integrated Project Delivery

AIA C197-2008 Standard Form of Agreement between Single Purpose Entity Non-Owner or Integrated Project Delivery

These contractual agreements also incorporate a separate Exhibit (AIA Document E202-2008) that might also be used with their other, more traditional contract documents on IPD project using BIM technologies (Pohl & Short 2010).

In addition to these contractual agreements, the AIA and the new ConsenusDOCs organisation have issued their respective BIM documents which address, at least in a preliminary manner, many of the legal and contractual implications of utilising BIM technology.

ConsensusDOCs 301 – Building Information Modeling (BIM) Addendum was released by the ConsensusDOCs organization in June 2008. This document is intended as an exhibit to be appended to a standard construction or design agreement, to address certain key legal and contractual questions, and give the parties a platform on which to reach an agreement on how to manage the various risks derived from this technology.

ConsensusDOCs 301 was followed later in 2008 by the AIA’s issuance of its E-202 Building Information Modeling Protocol exhibit, which like its predecessor outlines a number of practical issues and formulates certain procedures and protocols for the parties to follow with respect to the development of their BIM models.

Again, both the CD301 and the E-202 are designed as exhibits to be appended to an existing design or construction services agreement (Haynes 2009).

Unlike America, Australia has no standard contract form for the implementation of BIM. However, contractors such as Laing O’Rourke have established their own in-house protocols which provide detailed information based on the British standards (P Nunn 2010. pers. comm., 6 Aug).

In Australia, the Australian Institute of Architects and Building Smart in conjunction with CRC Construction Innovation have produced a National Guidelines for Digital Modelling. “The guidelines are readily available; however, not enough people are taking them seriously. The uptake in the industry is increasing, but not fast enough. There are still many misconceptions about BIM and there is a lack of understanding about the value of BIM in the industry” (A Butteridge 2010. pers. comm., 1 July).

The Queensland Government have vouched to release all government projects in 3D within the next two years (P Nunn 2010. pers. comm., 6 Aug). America is two steps ahead, with five states mandating the use of BIM which has forced the market to adopt and invest in BIM technology.

7.0 Future of BIM

Based on the QUT Research paper from the ICAN Conference in 2007 (Brankovic et al.2007), in order for greater adoption of BIM in Australia, the following issues need to be addressed:

7.1 Incentives and drivers

Architects, Engineers and Contractors will continue to see the benefits of adopting BIM especially with large projects involving the Government (Project Services). The drive from the Government and clients will provide enough incentives for stakeholders to invest in BIM. A successful adoption of BIM is expected to lengthen the initial design process but reduce the construction cost and time (Brankovic et al.2007).

In addition to this, “the effort required by the architects and other design disciplines to put in the additional information can be considerably reduced if the commercial vendors have enough incentives to provide country specific product libraries and standards. Such specifications need to be in place to allow a sustained market for BIM applications. This in turn will also facilitate the working of regulatory authorities enabling automatic code checking and building standards” (Brankovic et al.2007 p.10).

7.2 Market needs and distribution

As previously discussed, small and medium sized firms within the industry will need to decide on when and if their firm will adopt BIM over the next two years. Although the capital costs are high, small f


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