advantages and disadvantages of BIM

Advantages and disadvantages of BIM in the construction industry

Many commercial building and construction projects are highly serviced, with many individual M&E related trades and systems that need to fit inside the building and come together at the right time and in the right place. Without adequate planning and expertise, any construction project can quickly become subject to delay and overruns, resulting in rapidly increasing costs and missed deadlines. Numerous technologies over the years have been developed to help avoid such overruns and a reasonably well known one is Building Information Modelling, or BIM for short.

What is Building Information Modelling?

BIM is a comprehensive modelling process that is used by the whole project team involved with the initial design (architects, structural engineers, M&E designers, main contractors and M&E contractors alike) to all work collaboratively and define all the elements of the building, systems and components expected to be incorporated in the building. In theory this should provide a powerful insight to building finishes, structure, M&E co-ordination, the position and size of service voids and clash detection with the structure to efficiently predict the installation, heading off spatial co-ordination problems before the project physically starts on site.

However, there have been criticisms of BIM, including a lack of ability to share data with sub-contractors that simply don’t have or don’t want to embrace the technology. There’s also a lack of early involvement from sub-contractors with the main contractor, whilst ‘commercial’ selection takes place seemingly later and later in projects these days.

So what are the overriding advantages and disadvantages of BIM?

Advantages of BIM

  • Better planning and design: BIM should enable a completed building and all its related M&E services and systems to be visualised on screen before ground is broken. This information allows better planning and design for the architect that enables available space and resources to be used more effectively.
  • Easy design changes: the model is shared, so users can create changes to the one BIM model. This can be at set times ready for follow up design team meetings or even in real time, so everyone is working with up to date information and a collaborative workflow can be established.
  • Minimal rework on site: BIM facilitates visibility of potential problem areas and allows errors to be corrected through model ‘clash detection’ before they are physically committed. This reduces the need for costly site rework and revision resulting in both labour and material savings.
  • Prefabrication: BIM allows contractors and subcontractors alike to visualise the project, allowing time to more easily and precisely prefabricate work offsite, which can save time and money through better productivity controls in the manufacturing environment away from a construction site.
  • Free software is available: all parties involved at every level of the project can use the completed model, with the use of free ‘view only’ software. This has been used by Sotham with great effect on site with portable tablets, allowing the supervisor instant access on site to the model for co-ordination of trades. Viewing a 3D model is much more informative than looking and interpreting various 2D drawings.
  • Lifetime information to the end user; for those who embrace BIM, the model can be populated with a wealth of easy to read and find data. Each system and even individual component in the model can contain information of size, colour, supplier and even maintenance data. Long gone are the days of scanned or photocopied manufacturers data, resulting in poor quality generic and often hard to find information, contained in ring binders talking up valuable storage space.

Disadvantages of BIM

  • Modelling Software: BIM software to carry out initial model construction or changes requires a substantial investment in the software, along with more and more powerful PC’s to process the huge amount of data required.
  • Training & staff: additional investment in training and education is invariably required, with the introduction of new software to a business. Along with additional staff comes office space and office resource. The benefits provided by time saving on site usually make the investment of the staff and software worthwhile, but only if many projects use this resource and ultimately the model produced is fully utilised and accurate.
  • Trust and co-operation: is paramount to any successful BIM project and a cultural change needs to take place in the industry. The normal routine of tender, commercial agreement and project award with a main contractor needs to be carefully managed against time and expectation in order to have a BIM project perform as it should. All parties need to be willing to share knowledge and to invest, sometimes even before they are awarded the project by the client.
  • Client engagement: often the project specification or procurement framework will demand BIM, only to find an end user / occupier of the building who doesn’t see or understand the ongoing advantages of using the model to its full extent. F&M information contained within the finished ‘as built’ model is then ignored, resulting in wasted time and effort from the construction team populating the model with all the manufacturers details and maintenance information in the first place.


Sotham Engineering and BIM

When utilising BIM, early engagement of the service contractor is paramount to ensure successful coordination between architects, structural designers and main contractors. Avoiding and preventing any confusion or discrepancy over what M&E services will fit, or can be fitted into the service voids of a building is a critical consideration. BIM is not a quick fix for helping to manage a large project but like any tool, BIM must be carefully managed for the best results.

Sotham Engineering have been actively involved with a number of construction projects that have successfully employed BIM. Reducing time and saving money are measures of a successful construction project – a proficient implementation of BIM can help provide these gains amongst others.

Have a project in mind? Call us now on 01223 881081 or email us