Developing BIM Implementation Strategy for Libyan Construction Sector
Construction, on any project, is a piecemeal affair that often provides so much confusion of parts that it is difficult to ensure that there is not some important element either lost or forgotten. Charles Thomsen, a leading builder, looks inside a construction trailer and sees "a plan rack with separate drawings for architectural, mechanical, plumbing, electrical and civil…special sets of drawings for landscaping, lighting, security networks, way-finding graphics…shop drawings are in racks, buckets or drawers. Book shelves hold loose-leaf notebooks full of RFIs" (2010). A need existed for this to all be organized into one package that allowed construction to run more seamlessly than it had in the past. With the amount of material needed for the construction of even a simple structure, organization of the planning material is essential.
Technology provided the means for securing this organization through a process called Building Information Management (BIM). Thomsen uses the example of a movie being constructed the way buildings are to help the uninitiated understand the usual process of construction. He says what if "you went to Blockbuster to rent a movie and got separate DVDs for the parts of the heroine, the hero, the villain, the bit players, the sound track, the scenery, the special effects" and when something was wrong with one of the parts it took three weeks, after hand submission of an RFI it takes three weeks for the studio and Blockbuster to make simple corrections (Thomsen, 2010). This is not a nightmare for the construction industry it is a reality that is solved by BIM which uses the power of software to provide a simpler method for producing, changing and storing all of the documents that a construction site needs.
BIM can succinctly be called "a documentation tool, replacing legacy drafting procedures"(Thomsen, 2010) or a system whereby it is possible to "fully and truly construct a building virtually, and in detail" (FWCI, 2009) and it has also been described as "a single building information model for the entire construction industry" (Howell & Batcheler, 2005). The system can be used in the construction industry, as mentioned, but it also has applications for many others. Students in a prep school in Green Bay, WI use it to design cars (Starkman, 2007); others use it to create model rooms such as hospitals have when designing the most efficient operating rooms (Lu & Price, 2011; Watkins, et al., 2011). The reality is that building information management software can go a long way toward actually constructing the building. Of course, this is in a virtual reality, but it allows contractors to actually control a construction site and help clients realize what the finished project is going to look like better than any other tool in the industry.
The primary benefit is that the organization aspect, but there are others as well. Thomsen (2010) states that the software can help the builder greatly because "It may include information such as the physical configuration, programmatic requirements, functional characteristics, specifications, systems performance, supply chain threads, construction sequence, cost or any other information that might be useful." This information is connected in the system and designers, builders, etc. are able to conceive of the project as it grows. The FWCI document mentions some of the beneficial planning aspects of BIM by saying that the design team can "not only select and place the materials -- including concrete slabs, rebar, steel structure, wall and ceiling components, HVAC, plumbing and electrical -- but…also test all such parts for conflicts (clash detection) to ensure everything will come together seamlessly" (FWCI, 2009). The program also allows the user to construct a 3D image of the finished project and let the customer walk through the building virtually. This tool also allows the builder to see other problems that may exist in the building that are not apparent from the drawings and other tools, so that fixes can be managed before the construction actually begins.
BIM is successful because of the benefits but also because it is relatively simple to use in some forms. One of the reasons is that many people have been using the earlier CAD versions for a long time and this means that it does not take very much training to get people current on the new system. However, the operations can be an issue when users try to implement the new tasks that are possible with BIM software. It has been reported that this can be difficult. One of the problems in implementation is that "The waste at hand is not only material and information waste (caused by conflicts, errors, and omissions detected with the use of building information modeling" (Lavy & Fernandez-Solis, 2010). These issues arise both from improper inputting of the data and because the system misunderstands the data that is input. So, the person who is working with the BIM software has to be trained to complete the operations or there can be issues. Like any other new technology though, there are going to be problems until people are properly trained to use the system as it was designed. Also, not every person who uses the software has the basic knowledge necessary, so creates problems.
Another of the benefits that the system offers besides the 3D modeling provided are what have been termed 4D and 5D operations. It has long been theorized that the actual fourth dimension consists of time and that has been integrated into the BIM system. "BIM can have sequence and construction duration information attached to drawing elements that represent the building systems" (Thomsen, 2010). This is one of the ways that construction managers can control the supply chain and the timing of subcontractors. Of course, this can also be a problem if the schedule input into the system does not take into account proper modeling of issues that can occur. The system is only as accurate as the person completing the model. The so-called 5D component is related the cost of the project. Material costs can either be entered separately, or the system can use online means of determining the current cost associated with materials, trades, transportation and all other elements and processes that will be needed. Both of these features can be instantly updated also as different costs are added of subtracted or time constraints change. One of the best features of the systems is the fact that it can be updated almost instantly if there are changes in the product.
One of the best argument s for the use of BIM software may be that the process saves money in the end. Although it has upfront costs such as the expense of the software and the training required for operators to run it, the time and aggravation that the software saves the designer and builder is worth the original headaches and costs associated with the program. One of the greatest costs in typical building is that of designing the building and then trying to add on drawings for specific elements such as "the structural, HVAC, electrical, fire-rating and plumbing components of the job" (FWCI, 2009). The problem is that there is what the industry calls "fragmentation" in this approach because all of the designers are not going to adhere to the footprint afforded to them in the original design, so the whole has to be reworked to include any oversights from the different people responsible for pieces of the design. "BIM software provides sophisticated "clash detection" routines that indicate when two systems or products occupy the same space" (Thomsen, 2010). The idea behind this is that it will eliminate problems immediately instead of the builder or trades discovering them when they are completing their work on the site.
There are three issues that may impact the use of BIM that may arise if there are legal problems from its use. FWCI (2009) talks about the need for all parties involved in the project to "communicate, collaborate and coordinate" effectively with one another. Unfortunately, these three can break down to some extent in human element of the project. The primary contract firm or the designer is usually in charge of the BIM software used on the project and they are responsible for the reliability of the software used for that tool. That individual or group also needs to understand that as the project moves along there will be maintenance issues with the software. It is a complex program that will likely take many changes. The third issue is that because BIM is a collaborative program, no one person can say that they "own" the final product (FWCI, 2009). This is because the separate intellectual property of subcontractors is included in the original design. All of these issues need to be discussed and worked out contractually before the project begins.
The main focus of this paper is to look at the construction needs of a country such as Libya and determine if BIM is a tool that…