How cloud integration can unleash its full potential
In the building and construction industry, Building Information Modeling (BIM) has revolutionized the way professionals conceive, construct, and manage our built environment. Since its introduction in the 1970s, BIM has evolved from rudimentary 2D digital representations to becoming the backbone of modern construction projects.
Today, its significance is felt across the globe, with governments, developers, and professionals hailing it as the linchpin for a smarter, more sustainable future for building and construction.
BIM enables a more efficient and integrated approach to designing, building, and managing infrastructure with reduced errors and improved project outcomes. Yet, as the industry is met with the challenges of digitization on the one hand and the huge potential of technological development on the other, the true power of BIM is yet to be fully harnessed.
One way in which BIM is developing in this digital context is its integration with cloud-based software. Used most often for planning, design, and coordination for a project, when integrated with cloud solutions, BIM can enhance the precision and efficiency of often overlooked areas, such as detailed activity programming, resource management, and progress monitoring. These areas of BIM application are often overlooked, yet bring with them numerous benefits.
Digital solutions to traditional challenges
Considering the complexities of modern projects, ranging from environmental considerations, tight budgets and timelines, and increasing amounts of data generated with little standardization between firms on the best practice to process it, cloud-integrated BIM offers a streamlined solution that gives firms more insight, understanding, and control over their projects.
Firstly, cloud-integrated BIM models offer more detailed activity programming to give better insight into projects. This is enhanced even further when it is combined with 4D production planning tools, which means firms can create detailed plans weeks in advance, ensuring field crews have everything they need before construction starts, thus minimizing delays.
Progress monitoring also becomes clearer with digital platforms offering the ability to allocate time phases for budgets so that resources can be accurately allocated and shortages avoided. This leads to better resource management during the building project.
Rather than doing this via a time-consuming visual inspection of the site, progress can be recorded and approved automatically, sending real-time updates to all stakeholders. Taking this one step further, technology firms in the building space are also beginning to integrate AI systems to autonomize this often laborious step in the construction process.
Thus, cloud-integrated BIM can create a more streamlined approach to a building project across all stages—from design and planning to on-site construction and management. Each step feeds into the next, simplifying the workflow and optimizing the data leveraged.
BIM to close the data leverage gap
One company that has embraced cloud-based BIM solutions is the global construction and development company Skanska. Information in the building industry is often siloed, and while this is manageable if the amount of data is small, more often than not construction projects will use large amounts of data that constantly move between different verticals.
For example, information gathered during the planning stage will be applied to the design phase and cost estimations will be used to help determine activity programming. As a result of this inefficiency, the building industry sees 96 percent of data from a project go unused.
With this in mind, making sure key information during every stage of a project is clear and actionable was a primary goal for Skanska while undertaking their digitization journey. For this, they needed high-quality information and efficient digital tools that could manipulate data across all verticals.
They implemented a cloud-based integrated BIM platform to combine the software tools they were already using for planning, estimation cost, and design. This way, data between the departments could be consolidated, which led to more meaningful and actionable information during the projects.
Simulating the construction design and schedule is just one arrow in the BIM quiver. As Skanska found, the benefits reaped using this technology are felt during the construction phase, too. Integrating BIM with the cloud helps to seamlessly bring any planning data and data captured directly in the field, together into a platform that can be accessed via something as accessible as a mobile application. This allows personnel to record any progress or problems faced in real-time against which the project simulation can update immediately. This way, delays, clashes, and overspending can be forecasted and dealt with promptly.
In the face of ever-evolving technology solutions, the building and construction industry stands firmly in a digital renaissance. With the sheer amount of digital solutions on offer and the vast amounts of data they generate across the industry, the goal now is to ensure we can organize, harness, and apply this data in the most efficient ways possible.
BIM and its integration with cloud-based solutions help us achieve that by uniting each stage, or silo, of a project into a simplified, coordinated, and optimized workflow.
Jonathan Ng is global sales director for Hexagon’s Geosystems Division