Technological advancements in Building Information Modelling (BIM) and digital delivery are rapidly transforming the construction industry – with a growing number of owners and consultants now requiring model-based deliverables. Many governments have also started to implement BIM standards for the delivery of infrastructure.
In order to secure work and remain competitive in a rapidly changing industry, it is essential for contractors and subcontractors to understand the role they play in digital delivery. It is not only for complying with contractual requirements however, digital delivery also offers proven benefits to contractors: according to a 2020 SmartMarket Report, around 90% of contractors using BIM planning for prefabrication or modular construction said they improved productivity, achieved better quality, and increased schedule certainty, compared with traditional methods.
The Benefits of Digital Delivery for Contractors
Digital led delivery promotes the centralization of information, typically through BIM processes, so that the contractor is always up to date with the live project data – streamlining construction planning and execution. Traditionally, contractors bidding a project review a set of 2D plans and create their own independent models for bidding, construction project planning, and management. At the end of construction, the contractor provides 2D as-built plans back to the client.
With digital delivery, contractors receive a 3D model of the entire project – including features such as earthworks, roadway traffic and signage, draining and bridges. By shifting to digital delivery, this duplicity of effort between the contracting teams can be mitigated. The contractor can access real-time information about the design throughout this workflow and provide a full as-built model upon completion of construction – without managing conflict between 2D design documentation and 3D design information.
At the crux of digital delivery in construction is building information modelling (BIM). BIM improves collaboration during the pre-construction phase, enabling project owners and designers to communicate directly with the contractor. Using a visual representation of the project, the contractor can identify design flaws and detect clashes before construction begins, to reduce costly rework and material wastage. BIM also allows contractors to simulate ways to manage equipment and minimize hazards, improving overall site safety.
Contractors can use BIM tools to calculate the expenses, materials, and labor needed to complete a project, creating fast, detailed and accurate cost estimates. As BIM can generate highly accurate models of building components, contractors can save time and money by using prefabricated parts instead of building components from scratch.
BIM supports a seamless workflow for contractors by allowing them to view changes in real-time. They can also input tasks for subcontractors and monitor their progress without sending out repeated communications. BIM continues to assist contractors after project completion, providing all the information they need to maintain and monitor the building.
Digital Delivery Considerations for Contractors
The below are important considerations when planning to adopt digital delivery initiatives:
· Review the risks. Have a clear understanding of what
the contractual obligations are for digital delivery, and ensure you are prepared to meet those from the onset. A pre-contract BIM audit may be useful to understand what capabilities will be required.
· Define your role. You need to be clear from the start
on what your responsibilities are, versus those of the designer and owner.
· Set project milestones. Make sure you are involved in the
planning process, including setting clear, achievable targets for digital deliverables.
· Consider the required file formats. Find out what platform is being used
for the project – if your software is unable to integrate with the broader
model, you’ll need to invest in different systems.
· Implement quality control. You may need to establish new workflows
for quality management, to systematically check the accuracy of 3D models at a
detailed construction level.
· Plan for handover. Determine what you’re required to
provide at project completion – whether 2D drawings or full BIM models.
· Assign your team members. You will need to appoint a BIM
manager and upskill your existing staff, to build a team that understands BIM
and knows how to work together for the best outcome. For contractors getting started with BIM, it’s worth seeking out a professional BIM consultant to help you interpret and deliver on your digital requirements.