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Expert details potential pitfalls if BIM isn’t used properly

Warren Frey
Expert details potential pitfalls if BIM isn’t used properly

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is often touted as construction’s next frontier, but without co-ordination and care problems will occur, according to one BIM expert.

Edwin Guerra, an information management consultant at Vancouver-based Summit BIM, led a session titled BIM Consulting Lessons Learned at the Canada BIM Council’s (CanBIM) regional session devoted to digital innovation, held recently in downtown Vancouver.

Guerra pointed to the many stumbling blocks stakeholders can encounter when use of BIM isn’t co-ordinated between different departments across a project.

“The key thing to understand during the design phase is that it’s about quality assurance and quality control. You can’t just have standards, give them to your design consultants and others and hope everything works out,” Guerra said.

He added while some members of a project use BIM software, not everyone will and it’s important to keep that in mind.

“Most participants don’t live in REVIT (a popular BIM software platform) and have no interest in using it, but they need access to the information, so you have to extract the data into a true, accessible database,” Guerra said.

Standardization, he said, allows for a “higher order magnitude of benefits.”

“To have an understanding of the project, you need a common language. At the same time, you don’t want to mandate naming conventions and want to give the design team as much freedom as possible,” he said.

Some organizations have already developed internal standards, room numbering standards and asset naming conventions, he added.

“Designers like to download models from the Internet and they’re beautiful but they don’t have the proper standardized type name or family name,” Guerra said.

“That’s where design teams need to be more descriptive in how they name their families.”

He added other disciplines such as landscaping use models but aren’t using tools like REVIT, which can introduce further incompatibilities.

Design teams can take shortcuts that look beautiful on a document, he said, “but when you look at the model, they aren’t there,” he explained.

Tracked assets also needed to be modelled, not “faked with lines in 2D,” Guerra said.

Another area where problems arise is clash detection.

“A person doing a virtual walkthrough with colour coded models and systems beats automated clash detection. Does zero clashes mean you have zero design issues? No.”

Even lack of co-ordination with regards to documents can introduce confusion and conflicts, he said.

“Not all PDFs are created equal. Some are an image we scan, while others are searchable. It’s always better to use computer generated documents with metadata than to use scanned documents,” he said.

In person meetings are key, he said, even conducted over Skype or other conferencing platforms.

“Don’t assume people read reports or standards. It’s easier to ignore an email than a meeting. Having a face to face meeting makes it easier to have clarity, even if everyone isn’t physically in the same room,” Guerra said.

When moving from the design phase to construction, Guerra said, owners will look at black and white two-dimensional sheets to see if everything lines up and in order to clarify plans. Using data from models to colour code segments on paper can make it easier to identify parts and systems.

Guerra said it’s an advantage to have trades and contractors involved early in the design phase.

“They see things from a practical manner and know where issues will be,” he said. “Having trades involved is money well spent, because it can avoid a whole series of rework.”

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