Building information modeling (BIM) is one of the most disruptive innovations in the construction industry today. While the sector has largely avoided digital transformation, BIM technology is a notable exception, and it’s driving further disruption. BIM’s success could be the start of a wave of new digital construction tools and techniques.
Despite construction’s historical avoidance of new technologies, BIM has become an industry standard. This widespread BIM adoption has opened industry professionals’ eyes to the benefits of digital technology. These solutions’ interoperability with other technologies has also helped push construction companies towards digital transformation.
Now, 93% of construction companies agree that digitization will influence all of their processes. BIM is driving this shift. Here are a few examples of the digital construction technologies that BIM is promoting.
BIM-Assisted Robotics and Prefabrication
Robotics is still a rare sight in construction, but BIM technology is driving its adoption. BIM models can provide a guide for robots to follow, enabling far faster and more precise work. One Swedish construction firm used BIM-guided robots to drill two and a half times faster than a two-person crew could.
Some construction companies may still hesitate to employ robots at the work site. An increasingly popular alternative is to use them in prefabrication, where crews assemble parts of a building in a factory setting. Like with on-site robots, BIM can guide the machines in these more controlled environments.
One of the more widespread construction technologies, especially in prefabrication, is 3D printing. 3D printing can create structures in less time with less waste than traditional means, and BIM provides precise instructions to guide them. This precision helps address any reservations construction firms have over the technology, promoting its adoption.
Collaboration and communication are some of the industry’s most persistent problems, but digital tools can help. BIM itself typically includes digital collaboration services, letting stakeholders share project updates and design choices in real-time. Its interoperability can also encourage architecture and construction firms to embrace new collaborative tools.
Unlike older solutions, BIM technology works across different platforms, removing any fears about cross-system incompatibility. Companies’ options for sharing and collaborating on physical documents are limited, but that’s not the case with BIM. Since these models are compatible with such a wide range of platforms, teams can comfortably shift to digital collaboration tools.
Digital collaboration can help prevent construction errors and delays by making the entire process more transparent. If teams can’t easily share their designs and plans across these platforms, though, they won’t use them. If they’re using BIM models instead, compatibility isn’t an issue, so there’s little reason not to.
Augmented reality (AR) is one of the most widely publicized digital construction technologies, but its adoption remains low. BIM is upending these low adoption rates by expanding the utility of AR technology. AR and BIM complement each other, extending the benefits of each and making them more appealing to construction firms.
One of the primary use cases of AR is guiding workers by providing them with hands-free access to instructions or plans. With BIM, AR glasses could let employees see in-depth virtual models where they’re going to build the real-life equivalent. When workers can see these models as they work, they’ll likely avoid mistakes and work faster.
AR can also expand on BIM’s clash detection features. While BIM better identifies areas of concern, research shows AR is better at showing why they’re problematic, guiding effective responses. Consequently, BIM drives AR adoption, as teams who already use BIM can extend its benefits through AR.
IoT and Data Analytics
Construction has started to embrace the Internet of Things (IoT) but lags behind many other sectors. Like with these other technologies, widespread BIM implementation plays a crucial role in advancing IoT adoption. As more companies use BIM, they stand to benefit more from data analytics, and IoT devices can provide that data.
In construction, 35% of project costs come from material waste and rework. IoT sensors throughout the site can gather data on material usage, work habits, and other related trends. This information can then inform more accurate cost, material, and time estimates in BIM workflows.
Data analytics become more accurate and reliable with more information. As a result, the more IoT devices construction companies employ, the more they can get out of their BIM solutions. Since many firms already use BIM, these benefits will drive further IoT adoption.
BIM Could Kickstart an Age of Digital Construction
BIM technology has managed to defy a decades-long trend of resistance to innovation in the construction industry. Now it can serve as digital disruption’s foot in the sector’s door, paving the way for widespread technological disruption. As more companies see how other technologies could expand BIM’s benefits, digital construction could finally take hold.
These technologies are just a sample of the digital tools BIM is advancing among construction firms. Construction may be behind when it comes to digital transformation, but that’s starting to change, and BIM is leading the charge.