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Enhancing Productivity in BIM Projects: Best Tips & Strategies
Construction design hasn’t changed much in the last fifty years, but the tools of the trade have evolved massively. The industry is moving on from the traditional trial-and-error approach towards building information modeling (BIM) and CD computational design (CD).
BIM is an intelligent process of managing construction projects with interactive 3D-based databases containing digital descriptions for every object. BIM technology allows architects, designers, and engineers to manage and collaborate more effectively during a project’s lifecycle. In addition, BIM software can help your teams reduce design errors and stay within budget.
In terms of software, Autodesk Revit is by far the most popular design tool in architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC), used by over half of the industry’s professionals.
Now, how do you make your entire team collaborate effectively in BIM? In this article, we want to share useful practices to help you ensure long-term productivity in Revit. We’ll also show you how we use these ideas to improve our clients’ efficiency in their BIM projects.
BIM execution plan (BEP)
BIM projects contain tons of information about every object and asset in construction. So much, in fact, that even experienced engineers have to organize this data before starting a project.
The tender process starts with the Exchange Information Requirements (EIR) — a document detailing the client’s requirements and specifications for each BIM project. A typical EIR contains three sections:
- Technical. This section lists requirements for software platforms (CDE, CAFM, and CAD), data exchange formats (documents, images, CAD files, tabular, asset, and data analysis), geometric data coordinate systems, level of information (level of development), and training (for tools provided by the supplier).
- Management. This part establishes processes and procedures for information exchange, data segregation, communication strategies, and security measures. Additionally, it lists the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders.
- Commercial. This section defines the strategic purposes of the information provided (for operations, maintenance, repair, compliance, and other processes), data drops (which must align with the work plan), and project deliverables.
Contractors participating in the tender will respond to the EIR with pre-contract BIM execution plans (BEPs) — a document that outlines planned goals, key project milestones, and deliverable strategy. The client will use a pre-contract BEP to assess the contractor’s approach, capabilities, and competence.
The client and awarded contractor will then create a post-contract BEP containing agreed roles, responsibilities, strategies, milestones, and working procedures. A well-defined plan can provide significant advantages for your construction project, including:
- Efficient data exchange via secure communication platforms
- Improved communication and collaboration between stakeholders across the project’s lifecycle
- Faster turnaround time with a tighter focus on key deliverables
In summary, a detailed BEP should be your guide throughout the BIM project. Now, let’s see how you can improve the efficiency of your BIM workflow with standards and templates.
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Revit templates and modeling standards
Designers and engineers often face similar challenges in multiple projects. This is most often due to a lack of consistency and a tight schedule. However, all companies can overcome these problems by implementing Revit templates and BIM standards.
The quality of your templates is often closely linked with your productivity. Revit templates provide pre-formatted standards for all your new models, which can provide consistency across all projects. Besides, templates can help your team save time because they don’t have to tamper with settings for every model.
When creating templates for your projects, you should consider the following points:
- Naming standards & title blocks for families, views, materials, and other elements
- Designated locations for storing custom families
- Annotation families that will load with the model
- View types to help you organize and classify construction plans
- Frequently used view filters
- Empty schedules with required parameters
- Modifiable sets of sheets with adjustable views and schedules
- Family content with type marks and element parameters
- Placeholder links for models that will be linked together
- Common materials library
- Shared project or family parameters for new models
- Object styles and line weights to see how elements will look in comparison
- Line styles for different use cases in the project
Establishing BIM modeling rules and guidelines can take your Revit templates to a new level, further reducing the errors and rework during the project’s lifecycle. As you develop modeling standards, you need to consider the following aspects:
- Management. Define frequencies for your audits, compressions, model purges, and reviews. Additionally, you need to establish design setup options and use cases, browser organization, as well as policies for collaborating with entities outside your company.
- Modeling. Consider conditions for constraints and pins for certain elements, use cases for drafting, and model lines. In addition, you should set up view types, classification systems, grouping, and other unification methods for your projects.
- Supplementary workflows. Outline protocols for additional Revit workflows. You should ensure consistency for data insertion or export to CAD or Navisworks. On top of that, define how your team should react to technical difficulties.
Adapting to a set of BIM standards can be challenging for new team members. However, you can make your standards system easily accessible with these tips:
- When creating standards, focus on the productivity and quick onboarding for new employees
- Ensure consistent formatting for guidelines and requirement manuals
- Make the documents easily accessible and format them in a PDF format
- Add a hyperlinked index
- Introduce tags for your files
- Include graphical examples wherever possible
- Distinguish between optional guidelines and mandatory requirements
- Track changes and revisions for every document
Most importantly, you need to keep your BIM standards system aligned with the organization’s goals and objectives.
Now that you’ve standardized your BIM workflow and Revit productivity let’s see how you can improve your design with a computation-based approach.
Computational and generative design
BIM has made construction projects more efficient, but the current workflow still involves inefficiencies. Thankfully, you can fill most of these gaps with computational design.
The computation-based approach relies on computational (calculation) processing and involves processing data about the project’s elements and their interaction with each other. This approach helps architects, designers, and construction workers in the following areas:
- Organize spaces and define the geometry
- Generate massive numbers of design options
- Evaluate and rank design variations
- Ensure compliance with local laws and regulations
Moreover, computational tools aim to automate most of these processes with scripts and algorithms, making them faster, cheaper, and more accurate.
The computational design involves various tools and frameworks. Some of the most popular concepts are:
- Algorithmic design. Computation allows professionals to create design options through procedural generation. In other words, the program will automatically create project geometry using algorithms based on user requirements.
- Parametric modeling. The parameter-based variable allows to quickly generate and modify the geometry by tweaking the parameters of the building’s elements.
- Form-finding. A technique used to make force-flow-optimized load-bearing designs to reduce material costs and improve a structure’s reliability.
- Generative design. This type of software can generate thousands of design options based on your input parameters and advanced algorithms. Afterward, these tools will analyze the results based on your metrics (costs, usable area, regulatory compliance, structural performance) and rank the best design options.
- Evolutionary optimization. An extension of generative design that merges the top-ranked results to generate even more advanced designs.
A combination of these concepts makes the computational design even more valuable.
Designers still have to rely on their experience and intuition, but computational technology can make the process more productive. Here are some of the design problems you can solve by adopting a computation-based approach:
- Resource overuse. Computational software can generate thousands of viable advanced designs in hours instead of weeks and help you evaluate them based on your specific requirements.
- Design errors. Most construction elements are interdependent—you have to update the whole project after making a single change. Parametric modeling allows you to quickly change the geometry of specific objects by tweaking the parameters without creating design clashes.
- Expensive reworks. Based on recent studies, construction reworks eat up to 23% of the contract’s value, and 52% of rework is caused partly by poor data quality. Computational design tools can reduce on-site reworks by providing accurate simulations and showing you which designs perform better.
- Redundant manual processes. A reputable digital design company can use custom scripts and transform time-consuming tasks into automated processes. For example, Dynamo and Revit software can generate a scaffolding system for your construction from your input data.
A well-defined plan, an effective strategy, and computational tools can strengthen the creativity of architects and designers and fix time- and money-consuming issues you face in BIM projects.
Now that the theory is out of the way, let’s look at how to apply these tools and practices to enhance the design process.
Our Case Studies
How Powerkh helps improve productivity in BIM Projects
The following real-life projects illustrate how we use BEP, Revit templates, modeling standards, and computational-based tools to improve BIM productivity.
Formwork design process
The client was a concrete subcontractor who relied on CAD for formwork design. This conventional approach included many non-value activities, manual work, time-consuming 2D coordination and bidding, which resulted in productivity bottlenecks. On top of that, the client was concerned about the large initial investments required for BIM technology.
We analyzed the company’s design workflow, data management approach, and communication between teams. We then decided to develop Revit templates, modeling standards, and scripts tailored to the client’s BIM projects. Following that, we established a BEP that outlined key steps we should take to improve the formwork design process.
Powerkh has converted over 100 CAD blocks into 30 parametric Revit families. We also automated many time-consuming tasks using Revit-Robot integration and over 12 Dynamo scripts. Then, the engineering team took over the design process and created over 100 successful projects. Meanwhile, we trained the client’s team to use new technologies.
The result? We eliminated over 80% of errors during the design process and reduced the labor costs by four times. More importantly, the client transformed its approach into an efficient formwork structural workflow that can be used as a basis for its BIM projects.
In addition to subcontractors, Powerkh can also help manufacturers and design companies enhance their workflow in BIM projects. Let’s see how we did it.
Prefabricated (modular) elements allow companies to assemble structures in separate modules. This versatile approach can improve the project’s quality and reduce expenses. However, prefabrication relies on automation and accuracy to be effective.
This client is a prefabricated interior and exterior wall panels manufacturer with an established BIM process. However, it still faced cost-efficiency and productivity issues.
Designing the prefabricated materials for walls involves connecting many interdependent parts made by contractors. These parts need to coordinate with other building elements. A single modification or mistake would mean the client had to redo the whole design, leading to significant delays and spendings.
Powerkh analyzed the client’s design process and found issues in its approach. We then created Dynamo scripts that automate several time-consuming processes, enhance quality control, and remove unnecessary modeling elements.
With our tools, the client could create accurate fabrication-level 3D files for walls and framings models for Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) machines in minutes instead of hours. The improvements we brought eliminated 90% of design errors and made the process five times cheaper. We also made the scripts and templates easily modifiable so that the client could use them across all its BIM projects.
Complex ceilings design
The next client is an architectural design company that was already using BIM. Despite its considerable experience, the company faced many challenges during the design of drop ceilings with deck-suspended hangers.
Drop ceiling systems consist of many interconnected elements (beams, hangers, connection clips). Even the slightest update can lead to a complete rework, but the client still had to rely on trial and error to get the framing right. Even worse, the manufacturer needed about a week to create every new model for the Revit, causing continuous delays that slowed the entire project down.
After meticulous assessment and testing, our team differentiated between the processes that could be automated and those that required human control. Then, we built scripts for key subprocesses and took over the design process.
Our solutions eliminated over 90% of potential errors and allowed the client to remove the manufacturer from the workflow. As a result, we reduced the time needed to create a drop ceiling by 80% and made the design process ten times cheaper.
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Revit templates, modeling standards, execution plans, and computation-based technology can significantly improve your productivity in BIM projects. However, designers and manufacturers need time and money to implement these practices in their design process. You can improve your productivity much faster with an experienced digital design company.
Powerkh can identify gaps in your workflow, solve them with innovative solutions, and teach your staff how to work with them. Contact us if you want to learn more about our approach!
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