Digital Builder Ep 36: Embracing BIM Throughout the Industry

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is critical in keeping projects running smoothly. BIM gives contractors, engineers, and project managers an intelligent model for their built assets, enabling stakeholders to plan, collaborate, and execute the project effectively. 

Simply put, BIM keeps everyone on the same page. But there's much more to the technology that impacts both your field teams and those working from the office.  

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On this episode

Kelli Lubeley, BIM Program Manager at Cupertino Electric, and Jeremy Thibodeau, Senior Manager of Customer Success at Autodesk, join the show to discuss all things BIM, including its past, present, and future. We also dove into the various use cases of BIM and its role in the different project stages. 

We cover:

  • The applications of BIM for all types of stakeholders in their day-to-day jobs 
  • Busting common BIM myths and misconceptions 
  • The ideal state of BIM implementation vs. what's actually happening today 
  • Guidance for implementing BIM at your own company 

What is BIM's history, and where is BIM now? 

BIM was initially launched as a tool for creating a rich model of a built asset. But the reality and technology hasn't always lined up with this original vision. 

"There were a lot of utopic ideas of having this live, digital twin model. And obviously, that's something that we're starting to actually realize 15 years later. But realistically, BIM is really just an advanced communication tool. And the idea of tying data to model geometry is obviously the core need. Still, when it comes down to it, it allows different stakeholders within a project to better communicate and collaborate around what's actually happening," says Jeremy.  

Today, people use BIM differently in their day-to-day, depending on their roles. 

"I would say, subcontractors, designers, and some general contractors are utilizing the authoring tools. We're getting into pretty much everybody using coordination type tools. And then from there, it starts to branch out very quickly into what additional tools are used based on the type of work that's being done," explains Kelli.

She continues, "On the construction side, you're going to have a lot of total station-type work for placement and layout. You'll see quite a bit of reality capture in whatever form that takes. And we've got many more generative design tools, including add-ins that help with formulaics and consistency."

Beyond that, owners are also starting to utilize BIM in building operations and maintenance. And while the digital twin is undoubtedly key here, it's also about utilizing the technology to create standards, templates, and more. 

"I'm starting to see a lot of serial builders, owners, and agents who have their own authoring tools. They have resources within their companies to create their own standards and templates to set forth what exactly they're looking for in a more detailed manner," says Kelli.

"They can get into digital twins and use it for facilities maintenance and things like that. It's definitely an interesting shift and really the next place where BIM is starting to gather its footholds into how it can help the building industry," she adds. 

Dispelling the myths about BIM  

Like with most technologies and innovations, there are also several myths surrounding BIM. 

According to Kelli, one of the common ones is that BIM is a silver bullet that can solve all our design and data woes. 

"When we originally started, BIM was thought of as something where we push a button, and it's all solved for us. And the technology doesn't do that," remarks Kelli. "There are people, research, and input needed from other places to be able to run the process." 

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have also been thrown into the mix and are sometimes viewed as game-changers in construction. But as Jeremy points out, these things take time to develop fully. 

"Realistically, a lot of the different use cases for AR are still a few years out before they're usable. For right now, I think it is interesting to continue to build and test out those technologies; but as far as a pragmatic use of something that might be able to be leveraged by anyone on a job site, it still has a ways to go," he says.

How different stakeholders across a project are utilizing BIM 

BIM provides tremendous value across all stages of the project lifecycle, and stakeholders interact with the technology differently. 

"On the design side, you're really starting from scratch and creating the idea. So we're working with authoring tools and some coordination tools to make sure that everybody's idea comes together to both meet code and realize the owner's vision," explains Kelli.

She continues, "As soon as you move from that section over to the construction side, you start to see it take off in a lot of different directions."

Jeremy echoes this and says field teams have various use cases for BIM.

"It can range from having increased productivity in installation and layout. It could have some improved efficiencies around quality and commissioning. And if you have model-based assets tied to physical assets in the field, you can start to get the full life cycle value that you're trying to achieve with the overall process," explains Jeremy

"It definitely varies depending on what you're working with, but it's much more about getting what happens in the design and coordination phase properly installed and up and running in the physical space," he concludes.

Adapting BIM to your own company 

As for how to get the most out of BIM in your own company, Jeremy recommends being "very deliberate about the amount of time you spend on different aspects of innovation or implementation."

"I think the trap a lot of people fall into is they focus so much on the transformational change that they forget about the incremental adjustments they can make, which are much more impactful," he adds.

Kelli agrees and says that bright, shiny objects will only work if you have a strong foundation in your program.

Both guests dive into greater detail on how companies can successfully implement BIM, so take time to listen the episode to gain deeper insights.

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Listen to the episode for more info on the evolution and future of BIM and how you can effectively leverage it in your firm. 

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Eric Thomas

Manager, Construction Thought Leadership at Autodesk + Host of Autodesk's Digital Builder Podcast