BAM Contractors were the first construction firm in the country to roll out BIM across their projects on a large level. Now at full scale BIM, the firm is as close to paperless as it can get and not just through its use of software. Only some meetings are held face to face; video or web conferencing is employed extensively.
Technology is being used across the board to modernise the way things are done at BAM, but nowhere has the change been felt more than in their roll-out of BIM.
In Ireland, the firm has been using BIM for the past two years but what they were doing with the software two years ago is barely recognisable to their employment of it now. Paul Brennan is project manager at BAM Contractors. “We started talking to our group members in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Ireland to see what would make us more efficient and competitive. What was the extra value we could offer our clients?” To increase their knowledge of BIM, the firm got in touch with CITA and various other industry leaders to better enhance their BIM understanding. Shortly after this; the use of BIM was mandated across the Royal BAM group. “We use Revit for most of our design work and our services engineering division use Tekla. Navisworks Manage isour tool of choice for coordination and for communicating design development.”
For the most part, BAM employ BIM across their Design & Build and PPP projects. “We find that we can better manage a team environment on these types of projects. We can invite people to work with us on BIM whereas traditionally, the contractor’s on one side and the designer’s on another. There’s somewhat of a divide there. Design & Build and PPP projects allow you to foster a relationship that will ensure the smooth running of a project.” Not all firms employ the software and in cases where they don’t, all BAM ask is that design teams use a product like Revit as opposed to AutoCAD for their design to start with. After that, says Paul, BAM will largely manage the BIM process and federate the altered model. “We’ll do the clash detections, we’ll basically do all the heavy lifting when it comes to the BIM process. It’s almost like a soft landing approach for our designers. All we ask is that they do their design in 3D rather than 2D.” Once this happens, BAM will train the design team and bring them through the process in a step by step approach. “That’s something we learnt we had to do. I suppose we have more resources to back us up than most of our designers and supply chain. BAM is a big enough company to be able to make these decisions and we’re finding that it’s working for us.”
BIM shouldn’t be seen as just a 3D model but rather as the first rung on the ladder to being able to efficiently deliver a project. “The acronym BIM is unfortunate, when you hear it you think 3D modelling but it’s not that at all. It’s gathering and managing information from the various stages of design concept, design development, construction and commissioning. You’re then bringing all that information along right through to when the building is handed over to the facilities manager.”
The implementation of BIM at BAM Contractors has created a more efficient and faster estimating department. Decisions are made quicker, better quality designs are created and everyone involved in a project, from the client to the different design disciplines, understand more about how about how a building or site develops. “Being able to create a video that will let you see what’s going to happen over the next four weeks of a project is a very powerful way of managing a project. There’s a certainty associated with what you’re doing.”
The level of up skilling that’s necessary to get to this level brings its own challenges; the BIM process can be disruptive and complicated for firms and it will take two to three months for professionals who have never worked with BIM before to become familiar with the software. “Once this period ends, you get to the stage where all the hard work is completed quite early on and the rest of the project is quite enjoyable. You don’t have as many technical queries or requests for information coming through. The problems that exist on site are much less than what you would have had traditionally.”
BIM is being utilised on the new Acute Mental Health Unit at Cork University Hospital. BAM are the Design & Build Contractor & Project Managers on the development. “Cultural change was a big thing on this project. You had excellent project delivery and design teams but trying to get them to think a little differently was a big task. I’m happy to say it’s been quite successful. One of my colleagues was down there this morning and he said the project is humming along. There’s a feel-good factor down there that probably didn’t exist on other projects in more recent times. BIM is a big help with this.” The design development process on the Cork project was rapid, with a lot of issues picked up very early on. “Coordination was quite fascinating; one of the things we were able to see was the M&E contractor putting in his cable tray and ductwork before putting in all of the pipework. He had such certainty about where everything went and how it fitted together that he rearranged his installation pattern to suit.”
Paul believes BIM will revolutionise the construction industry and create new efficiencies right across the board. “Site engineers and health and safety officers will be able to spend 60 – 70% of their time on site rather than in the office doing paperwork. Everything can be done on the go now. You can take software to site on a tablet, you can do augmented reality down there. If you have concrete walls up on site, you can turn on your mechanical & electrical models and see where the openings need to be for the services. The possibilities are endless.” Design software has, up until recently, been the vendor’s priority but Paul can see efforts being refocused on project delivery and facilities management software. “That will completely change how projects are delivered. You’re not going to be basing everything on A1 and A3 drawings and email in a site office. We’re using that new technology now a little bit but it’s not across the board just yet. I think it all comes down to risk management. By having your site managers spend more time on site, in the field and managing what’s happening, you’re eliminating risk.”
BIM is not at the level where it needs to be just yet, but it’s just a matter of time before all facets of a construction project will be in a position to benefit from it. Cost estimation software, for example, is not up to standard. “It’ll take a couple of years but at the moment, it’s the low hanging fruit that firms can take advantage of. Really, BIM is like glue for lean construction. Just by converting the traditional AutoCAD process into a Revit process, the industry will see a big difference.”