Gavin New

Point A to Point BIM

This entry is part of 8 in the series June 2017

Our publication is all about how to get from (or measure between) point A to point B: the processes, tools, software, methods, and professional spatial judgments that go into these actions. Sometimes the road between A and B has a lot of twists and turns, and in the case of moving design and construction from point “Analog” to point “BIM,” the road for many people may be a bit longer than envisioned.

For many AEC practitioners, a certain weariness has set in after years of discussions, presentations, and articles (if not actual implementations) concerning BIM. People generally understand what BIM is—and that working in a 3D-modeled environment with integrated digital transactions among all parties involved in design/construction/operations—has tremendous potential benefits. Yes, potential, but not yet broadly implemented.

At xyHt, we try to keep ahead of the many evolving facets of BIM, from integrated layout and as-built couplings of surveying instruments with design software, to machine control, to how 3D BIM is enhanced with scheduling (4D) and cost (5D)—the eventuality of a completely digital jobsite. Technology-wise, the tools are complete and mature; the devil, though, is in implementation.

Some pursuits cannot be done in partial measure. Consider the hypothetical challenge of how to switch an entire country from driving on one side of the road to the other. An old joke suggests it would be done in phases: cars and motorcycles the first year and trucks and busses the second year. Ouch.

Technology-wise, the tools are complete and mature; the devil is in implementation.

I am not suggesting that BIM implementation requires full buy-in and single-source solutions among all designers, construction contractors, and stakeholders of a project, but that does make it much easier, and indeed many of the successful implementations have been design-build projects in a single environment. But the good news is that we can start realizing the benefits of BIM without every element being fully implemented.

While “all in” BIM may still be a long way off for many, the interim development of individual solutions for key elements of AEC workflows can bring high return on investments. We examine one of these solutions in our article on Leica’s iCON build that streamlines layout for vertical construction while accommodating the reality of paper plans that continue to be a burr in the side of many small contractors. Paper may be around for many years to come, until the day when completely model-driven BIM nirvana is finally realized. Another theme in this issue is hydrographic surveying and mapping of marine environments, both for the preservation of critical near-shore features like reefs (see Vanishing Coral Reefs) and deep offshore for resource exploration (see Surveying a Mile Down). Research and development in the sciences supporting such bold endeavors continue to bring the academic and commercial words closer together, as is also emphasized in the article, USGS on Earth Movement, the first in a new series on the overlapping disciplines of seismology, GNSS, and surveying.

It is tempting to continue using legacy methods and tools indefinitely, waiting for things like BIM to come to full fruition, but we might be missing out on a lot of really cool (and cost-saving) solutions along the way. The hazard is that while we agonize about how to get all of those vehicles driving on the other side of the road, we might find out that they have sprouted wings and are flying away.

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