The construction industry is traditionally fragmented. For one project, various entities will come together in linear stages, working largely in silos, and once the project is completed, they disband and move on to the next project. This fragmented way of working is susceptible to inefficiencies, most of the time due to insufficient knowledge transfer. When knowledge is hoarded rather than shared, a lot of innovation and best practice information that could be implemented in future projects are sadly wasted. Obviously, this isn’t a good practice for the advancement of the industry as a whole.
The good news is this is changing. There has been a lot of talk in the construction industry lately about integrated project delivery. Although many projects today are done in a common theme of collaboration, not all are backed by a legally-binding agreement. Integrated project delivery is a contractual arrangement among the owners, architects, and contractors that align business interests of all parties. The parties collaborate from the earliest stages of the project, agreeing on project goals, target costs and allocation of responsibilities, risks, and compensation.
But how can different teams sitting in different offices and possibly in different countries and time zones can ensure a seamless collaboration? This is where BIM comes in, and the Cloud follows.
BIM enabling integrated project delivery
BIM, at its core, facilitates collaboration. By incorporating specific materials and building information into the early stages of the design process, BIM allows the stakeholders to assess various possibilities that could affect the project, even before the construction begins.
The 3D/4D models generated from BIM enable stakeholders to view the project from different angles, allowing a better understanding of spatial relationships between building components. These models offer significant benefits especially in resolving conflicts pre-, during and post-construction. The end result is of course higher quality, better productivity, and time and costs savings.
Powerful combination of BIM and the Cloud
Buildings are now generating vast amounts of data. Project file continues to increase in size as more and more details being added, including high-resolution images with renderings and animations. A cloud-based repository is becoming a necessity.
Since the owners, architects, and contractors get more involved in the entire lifecycle of the project, it is important for the parties to be able to quickly share information. A cloud-based repository will encourage more frequent information exchanges among the stakeholders, which adds more depth and value to the data.
The most seek-after strength of the Cloud could be the flexibility it provides in terms of location and time. Either at offsite meetings with clients or at home, project files can be accessed and updated anywhere away from the office.
There are several exciting innovations now available in the market for accessing BIM application on the cloud. One of them is the Microsoft Azure cloud platform that offers ample computing power to set up a BIM cloud workspace. The platform is adopted by Bentley Systems for its cloud solutions, with notable users include London’s Crossrail and Malaysia’s Mass Rapid Transit project. Autodesk, too, released its own construction management software called BIM 360, which allows architects, engineers and project stakeholders to work in a centralized cloud workspace. The users include major construction companies like Skanska and Balfour Beatty.
Advancement in cloud computing technology is democratizing access to knowledge, tools, and techniques, creating a robust collaborative environment. Putting BIM on the Cloud allows information about a project to be accessed by anyone in any location at any time. On top of this, models can be worked on simultaneously by various professions, clashes can be identified quickly, while each change is updated in real-time. This supports project coordination, model coordination, and project management, resulting in more efficient design, construction and operation processes.
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