Source: Aad Build / CC BY-SA 3.0Source: Aad Build / CC BY-SA 3.0The construction industry is undergoing a transformation of sorts, and nowhere is that truer than in the transition from 2D to 3D models. What was once a process involving two-dimensional draft design is now a “smart” process that offers greater detail and data in addition to a realistic imagining of what the finished product will look like. Such detail has served to make 2D draft designs nearly obsolete.

From start to finish, 3D BIM (building information models) gives all of the stakeholders involved in a construction project (engineers, architects, plumbers, electricians, customers) access to data concerning the project in real-time from just about anywhere imaginable. As such, the benefits to be had from switching to a 3D BIM are endless, impacting everything from productivity, time frames, costs, client relations and communication. The technology benefits virtually every stage of a project.

Cost

Many users will tell you that they experienced a return on investment promptly after switching to 3D BIM. Why? The savings to be had from such a scheme can be felt just about anywhere in the course of a construction project. From initial planning to purchasing materials to actually breaking ground, the technology keeps a project running smoothly, managing all of the details in one place.

Accuracy

Fewer mistakes are made with 3D BIM because the software is a virtual warehouse of data, with information on everything from measurements to change orders. Because it holds all of the data in one location, 3D BIM is less likely to let mistakes at any stage go too far or become too costly.

That’s because 3D BIM technology is capable of detecting construction inconsistencies, structural conflicts as well as design details that cannot be logically realized at the design phase. If it is determined that some design feature would be impossible to accomplish, 3D BIM will determine that before breaking ground on the project.

Ease

Probably the most significant selling point of 3D BIM is that the technology can be accessed from just about anywhere from any device. Stakeholders don’t have to carry around burdensome blueprints with several different design iterations.

Two-dimensional drafting does not flesh out the details of a construction project the way that 3D BIM does. Not only is 2D flat, showing very little detail, draft designing requires several different blueprints to show the different stages of construction. For instance, aspects such as floor plans, pipe work and electrical work might be drawn on different drafts, leading to a confused mess of many drafts.

Likewise, it is only possible for the hardcopy draft to be held by one stakeholder at a time, whereas with 3D BIM, everyone involved in the project can access the up-to-date model whenever and from wherever. Such a feature improves productivity as there is no delay in stakeholders waiting for their turn with the design. Such organized access improves the speed of the project as well as its time to completion.

3D BIM simplifies all of the tasks related to construction, whether it is detailing a step-by-step plan for completing the project, summarizing the steps to be taken at each stage of the process or maintaining a database of material costs and parts quantities.

3D BIM also allows for more available data concerning the project to ease cost-estimating and bidding. Details for just about everything including the basic geometry of the design to the model numbers of connecting bolts are “held” in the 3D BIM software.

Also available with 3D BIM models is the ability to make predictions about details such as future energy usage in the structure. The models can offer accurate and timely data and an analysis of a building’s energy performance as well as cost. 3D BIM models can also make predictions about other construction-related costs (for instance, building materials).

View

At the heart of its usefulness, 3D BIM allows an accurate picture into what a project will or could look like more precisely than the view afforded by 2D drafting. This feature potentially avoids the disappointment experienced by those who envisioned an entirely different design. With 3D BIM models, nothing is left to interpretation.

Details such as furnishings and outdoor landscaping can be added to the design to give stakeholders an idea of what the project might look like with certain flourishes and accents added to it — all before ground is broken on the project.

Likewise, some versions of 3D BIM can show what the project will look like under a variety of lights (daytime, nighttime) or weather conditions and even at different phases of construction.

3D BIM software can also be viewed from any number of angles. The models can be tilted, rotated and manipulated for greater detail or to allow for closer inspection of some design feature.

Changes

With 2D drafting, changes require a whole new set of blueprints as well as considerable redundancy, and these new blueprints may not reflect the impact of a seemingly minor change on the rest of the project. Luckily, 3D BIM technology allows stakeholders to see how changes, from small to large, will impact the final product. For instance, the number of windows and their dimensions might need to change to accommodate some other seemingly unrelated change.

Scheduling

An often expensive component of most any construction project has to do with scheduling. Considering how often changes are made or mistakes occur, schedules get disrupted and materials arrive later than expected or contractors are unavailable when it comes time to complete some specific piece of the project (for instance, someone comes in to do flooring only to discover that step has been delayed).

Scheduling of this sort is just another detail handled by 3D BIM software, as it keeps close track of every facet of a project, documenting every change and every expected step along the way.

Another scheduling benefit of 3D BIM is that some of the software features tools that track the amount of time stakeholders spend on their respective parts of the project. Instead of relying on estimates for the time spent on aspects of the project, the team deals in real numbers, which will go toward saving both time and money.

Communication

Better communication among construction stakeholders means a better quality final product. All in all, 3D BIM models are responsible for a multi-fold improvement in communication among construction project stakeholders. Not only can everyone access and view the same details at the same time, but the software leaves little room for confusion, thereby minimizing jobsite conflict.

Resources

Constructible—2D to 3D Models: Entering the Third Dimension

Geospatial World—3D Modeling in Construction—How the Industry is Benefitting

Scan2CAD—Top 10 Benefits of Building Information Modeling (BIM)

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com