While building information modeling (BIM) are hot buzzwords for the design and architectural community, this design technology has had little direct impact on concrete construction. But that is about to change.
In the next few months, spurred by the help of the Strategic Development Council (SDC), the RMC Foundation, and the Charles Pankow Foundation, the cast-in-place concrete industry will catch up to its precast brethren in interacting with BIM.
Helping new technology become a part of the concrete industry was why industry leaders formed SDC in 1997. In the last dozen years, council members have identified and discussed key emerging technical issues and challenges that impact the concrete industry. These have included self-consolidating concrete, formwork, and floor dryness.
SDC members look for ways to develop initiatives and identify barriers to technology acceptance. Industry experts once suggested it took innovative products almost 14 years to go from concept to acceptance. SDC is a catalyst to remove those barriers of entry for new technologies and products.
BIM has been in the cross hairs of SDC review the last two years. In 2009, SDC members discussed how to develop a path to adopt BIM. Successful BIM technology transfer is important to many segments of the concrete community. Reinforcing steel fabricators are increasingly being asked to adopt BIM protocol to streamline order and delivery. Many concrete contractors working on large complex projects have been asked to review documents developed in BIM models. Some BIM software even includes crew scheduling and material callouts.
To help achieve this BIM integration, SDC secured $75,000 in grants from the Charles Pankow Foundation and the RMC Research Education Foundation to help create an implementation roadmap. There also is an immediate goal: Help provide an interoperability standard.
Interoperability is “the capability to communicate, execute programs, or transfer data among various functional units in a manner that requires the user to have little or no knowledge of the unique characteristics of those units.”
Here, it means architects using one BIM software can send sets of project information to their suppliers and general contractors in a formatted manner so that all can use the same data regardless of which proprietary software they are using to bid, create shop drawings, and monitor change orders.
In many ways SDC's effort is a catch-up activity. While involvement with BIM is often during the construction phase, the benefits of modeling last the life of the structure. Building owners and managers can use the software to plan moves, renovations, and operations. To accommodate this range of interests, the National Institute of Building Sciences has established the buildingSMART alliance.
Alliance members hope to coordinate the changes coming to the fragmented real property industry in North America brought by BIM. The Alliance's 35 participants include the American Institute of Architects, Associated General Contractors of America, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The group's stated goal is to open interoperability and full lifecycle implementation between all building information models.