By Tony Gosling, Chief Digital Officer, Pell Frischmann, McBains and Dorsch Gruppe
In the traditional design process, even within most Building Information Modelling (BIM) processes, it is difficult to comprehend and evaluate the cost and time implications of the decisions we are making. The increasingly out-dated process of counting and pricing the materials and labor within the construction industry is slow, manual, relies on poor and often inaccurate data, and it frequently arrives too late to have any real influence. Plans are rarely based on past project actuals and risks are, at best, guesses. Cost and time schedules are rarely linked, yet we are all aware that delays drive budgets up. Clients are not in control of the critical decisions that drive cost, time and risk, and projects often end up late and over budget as problems start to appear on-site.
The situation is frustrating and potentially costly. It is also potentially, history.
Clients would be better served if they, and the project managers, engineers, and designers working on their behalf, had quick access to accurate, up-to-date information, enabling them to make fact-based decisions throughout the lifecycle of the project.
I spend my time working with Dorsch Gruppe in Germany and the Middle-East, and McBains and Pell Frischmann in the UK. These are like-minded companies working within the built environment, with engineers, architects, and project managers collaborating to find a better way of delivering. Together we are harnessing data to improve the quality of estimates and subsequently introduce state-of-the-art digital technology to automate the entire costing process.
"Tools for designing in 3D (or more), capturing data, sharing through cloud-based Common Data Environments, and digital toolkits for planning, simulation and cost estimation have all been around for years"
It is now possible to check the actual cost of design choices as you go; to really design to a budget and make the inevitable trade-off decisions regarding time v cost v quality v user requirement. They say “Knowledge is power,” and access to this information puts clients–us all– in a position of real authority and control. We are in control in terms of cost, time and quality but can also identify and evaluate risks and take appropriate action throughout the design and delivery phase, rather than be confronted with unexpected costs, delays and problems once construction is underway.
This innovative approach builds upon the principles of 3D BIM to bring time and cost into the digital workflow equation. Adding ‘Time’ to 3D models brings the fourth dimension (4D); introducing ‘Cost’ brings the fifth dimension. We call it a ‘5D Way of Working’, or 5D WoW for short.Operating successfully within the 5D environment is not just about adding technology or data to the mix; it requires changes to the way we work.
The technology required for 5D BIM is available now. Tools for designing in 3D (or more), capturing data, sharing through cloud-based Common Data Environments, and digital toolkits for planning, simulation and cost estimation have all been around for years.
Going from 3D to 4D is the first step to 5D WoW. A 4D simulation of a construction schedule, a ‘Digital rehearsal,’ allows contractors and sub-contractors, planners and designers to work together to facilitate the build of a project and deliver to the agreed program.
Fixing problems at the design stage is much easier, and of course cheaper, than struggling with design problems once construction is underway. We are starting to introduce simulations of construction from the concept stage, a ‘Digital rehearsal’ of the project. We link project plans and designs so that we can regularly check that the design can–and will–be built within the time and can make well-informed design action throughout as and when appropriate. With a 4D simulation, we can also more accurately assess the logistics of difficult sites. Can we get the materials in and out quickly, safely and efficiently? Where do we locate the cranes for maximum utilization? How do we minimize disruption to neighbors, traffic, businesses?
The addition of ‘Cost’ to the 4D model allows you to assess the cost impact implications of design decisions, options rapidly time delays and off-site construction options with greater financial understanding and ultimately less risk.
To make 5D BIM work successfully throughout the duration of a project does, however, require substantial changes to ways of working, not just within a discipline, but across the whole supply-chain and project team.
5DWow is in the early stages of adoption, as very few companies in the construction industry systematically capture cost data. Even fewer are willing to share such valuable information. Nevertheless, there are major advantages to accelerating the costing process and using the best available data to make better-informed decisions. We are finding that clients, engineers and designers are starting to acknowledge and appreciate the benefits of this more transparent, efficient, and more viable way of working.
Aside from identifying partners and suppliers with the appropriate digital tools, it is also about finding those with a complementary mindset; companies who thrive within and push the boundaries of the digital environment. A collaborative approach is also essential as information must be shared.
If we can to work together, using actual data, we will be able to learn from real experience and deliver better projects more efficiently; the client will be truly in control.