Importance of a well planned strategy for complex projects Complexity will, by its nature, require good management and coordination of multiple assets and resources, whether that complexity is from a large site with several buildings, a single large construction or a smaller project with very specific requirements, like a healthcare or chemical industry facility. It may also come from the simple act of having to split the work between multiple stakeholders and designers. Every project will have a plan and a project manager to manage the complexity. Traditionally, this would involve a lot of individual documents, excel spreadsheets, loose pieces of paper or, at the very least, a Specifications document. Having a planned strategy on how to deal with the multi-faceted issues that exist at the onset of the project and ones that will arise as it develops, reduces the risk of surprises, delays and rework when trying to decide the best method to approach each problem. With no plan, each problem will have to be figured out on an ad hoc, case by case basis, which inevitably will require more time figuring out a solution to the problem and less time spent designing and completing the project. How BIM can help While everybody understands the need for a well-planned strategy, particularly on complex projects, the ever more integrated and computer centric design brings its own solutions to the mix. BIM, being data-driven, will allow you to integrate all of this strategy into the project itself; the data is in the model. There are fewer loose documents and spreadsheets scattered on individual hard drives or emails and the information is accessible to anyone who has access to the model. As a result, BIM should be included in the project’s planned strategy and be an integral part of the plan from the beginning. Doing this will require some heavy lifting to be done at the very onset of the project when there are plenty of unknowns and all the stakeholders and needs are not settled. However, having a BIM strategy to work with will help fill in the gaps as more information becomes available and it can be included into the working file as the design develops. Whether it’s the fire ratings of your doors and walls, or the specific composition of your radiology lab, this information can be inserted at any time and accessed subsequently. With the BIM plan set in place, the location to add this data and where everybody can find it is known and made available to all the designers and relevant parties of the project. It’s a one-stop hub. Start with a BIM Execution Plan Any good strategy starts with a well-established plan of attack. Setting a BIM Execution Plan, or BEP, at the start of the project before any real design is taking place will remove many headaches down the line. Its intent is to define the foundation and framework of how BIM will be used in the project and how any design technologies should be used and integrated into the process. It also specifies the roles and responsibilities of everyone in the project at different stages of the development. The BEP allows the optimization of work and model flow throughout the project across different programs and designers, from what naming convention is used to knowing how to integrate different designs together into a coherent whole, from initial design to construction and completion. Typical content of a BEP includes content such as:
- Project information, members, and goals
- BIM uses for each stage of a project and BIM deliverables
- Model author and who is responsible for BIM deliverables
- Elements, attributes and level of detail
- BIM creation, maintenance and collaboration
With a BEP as a blueprint most questions and issues that may pop-up regarding modeling and design can be answered by referring back to the BEP, and it may highlight potential future problems with the design. Working out issues Even with smaller projects, having a BEP allows the BIM workflow to be efficient and streamline mundane processes, such as internal layers, indices and deliverables. But it is of particular importance on large complex projects, where multiple designers potentially in multiple separate teams from different design offices must interact and work together. In an ideal situation, even the contractor would update an as-built model while construction is taking place, allowing everybody to actively manage potential issues before they arise and also address them in real-time if they do. For example, if the project is highly dependent on pre-cast concrete elements as its structure, following issues may need to be answered from the onset:
- Does the architect need to make their own structural model working on estimates made by the engineer, or can that work be avoided?
- Whose structural model will be used to integrate other designers’ work?
- How will the design evolve if initial engineering estimates are significantly different from the final structural model?
- What information should be added into the elements and how should it all be named?
Wrong layers and wrong information in elements can lead to clashes in any checks later, muddling the integration and problem checking with other designers. Every confusion caused by such issues will at the minimum, require designers to double check with one another to clarify if what they are seeing is correct or, at worst, be ignored at the moment of design leading to possible rework down the line due to working to a different standard or model. All of these affect the timeline, scheduling and productivity. If everyone is working off the same structural model, it will remove clashes between architects and engineers’ designs and reduce confusion. If the expectation is that there may be a drastic change in structure, designers can preempt this with workarounds and alternatives. Working to the Plan Now having a BEP set, it is equally important that everyone works to this plan. The BEP should be easily accessible for anyone working in the project, especially the particulars about the point of contact for specific issues. Knowing who to ask and who can help significantly reduces downtime when issues arise. If everyone isn’t on board and working to the BEP, such as not setting your origin point from the beginning of the project to its correct place, it can have large problems and delays down the line. The moment you have multiple separate files to join, or must cooperate with other designers using your model, it will become a problem. We have had projects where clients had not set up the origin properly despite recommendations to do so, requiring us to relocate the project twice later. With multiple separate files on a large project, this meant that the action had to be repeated across each one causing considerable delays as no other work could be done on these files while relocation was taking place. Additionally, any models coming from designers outside the team were in the wrong place and had to be manually inserted into the correct location, increasing work and the chance of a mistake occurring. As seen from the above example, working to the plan is essential when hotlinking across different files. The ID’s and names of elements being standardized and the export process being the same across all designers will allow for smooth transfer of models and data across the designers and builders, reducing need for cleanup, rework, and confusion. There may even be a need to split the project into smaller manageable pieces in the middle of the design process. When working to the same plan, the file may be split up, worked on individually, and reintegrated quickly and efficiently. Whether a project is pipelined and scheduled for fast delivery and you are designing as the construction is going up, or you’ve been given an ample time to refine your designs, having that strategic plan from the start and templates for the project to work from will reduce risk of project delays as the construction and design evolves. When everyone is working from the same starting point and to the same plan, anything deviating from it is easier to identify and solve, reducing the time needed to diagnose the problem or where it originated from. No plan survives first contact unchanged, but having one will let you move forward instead of stopping in your tracks.
If you want to find out more about how you can start your projects in the right way contact us today.