Dr. Martin Fischer – world-renowned BIM expert and professor of Civil Engineering at Stanford University – can pinpoint the exact moment he discovered the importance of using the best possible method for getting a job done.
At just 12 years old, as Fischer was helping his father build part of their family’s new home, he opted to perform one particular task, without a tool that would have made the job much easier. The tool was just a little too far out of reach – literally.
When his father, Manfred, returned to the job site and saw what young Martin had done, without that aforementioned tool, he was perplexed.
“Well, the tool was in the other room, so it was just easier to proceed without it” the then-preteen Dr. Fischer explained, in perfect preteen logic.
“You’re an idiot if you are not using the best tool possible,” Manfred responded – endearingly, of course.
And the message stuck.
Dr. Martin Fischer has made a career out of making construction more efficient. He actually oversees the Center for Integration Facility Engineering (CIFE), a Stanford University research facility whose mission is “to be the world's premier academic research center for Virtual Design and Construction of Architecture - Engineering - Construction (AEC) industry projects.”
Dr. Fischer’s own journey is symbolic of how relevant efficient construction is to everyone.
Smart construction: Something to get passionate about
There’s a reason that an esteemed university like Stanford established CIFE, a center dedicated to efficient design and construction. After all, buildings are the backbone of society. Since the Stone Age, construction has been a field that literally builds the foundation for the way we live, work, and play.
As advances in material and building mechanisms have become crucial to the way the world has transformed, it only makes sense for professionals to focus on future advancements — namely those in the digital space.
Building Information Modeling (BIM): A Brief History
Building Information Modeling (BIM), according to Autodesk, is “an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.” BIM creates digital representatives – or twins – of physical buildings.
BIM software has been prevalent in construction for more than 30 years, according to Dr. Fischer, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s that five dimensional (5D) BIM started coming into play. 5D BIM, by the way, combines time and cost data (the fourth and fifth dimensions, respectively) with the traditional 3D computer-aided design components of BIM.
How 5D BIM Makes a World of Difference for Everyone
5D BIM has changed life as we know it. Every year, more and more organizations use it – widening its impact. And, the organizations using these sophisticated solutions are best equipped for success. Executing virtual-to-physical planning means that the scope, schedule, and cost are being simultaneously managed. Such efficiency benefits everyone in the community in the following ways:
● Economically: Construction accounts for a significant part of both the United States’ – and world’s – economic performance. According to the Association of General Contractors (AGC), the construction industry “has more than 670,000 employees with over 7 million employers and creates nearly 1.3 trillion dollars worth every year.” On top of its direct impact, construction also fuels both manufacturing and mining markets as one of the largest customers of each.
Digitizing the construction industry has huge impacts on the economy. Digitized 5D BIM project delivery solutions allow for the collaboration necessary to save all construction stakeholders both time and money at every stage of the building process. In fact, in a recent study, McKinsey and Company found that 75 percent of organizations using BIM “reported a positive return on their investment.” As a result, construction companies have the resources to produce both more, and contribute more economically.
● Culturally: Some of the world’s most iconic buildings have been the result of 5D BIM. One example is the Golden Fish sculpture in Barcelona, Spain, which artist Frank Gehry was able to create for the 1992 Olympics — in a relatively short amount of time — with computer aided design. Decades later, it remains one of the biggest tourist attractions in Barcelona.
In the way it eases the entire construction process and maximizes building quality, 5D BIM influences culture in a number of ways. From modern skyscrapers to revitalized corporate campuses, BIM plays an important role in building environments that foster innovation. 5D BIM enables, even encourages, the collaboration central to enhancing culture.
In 2000, for example, an integrated project team applied a well-known BIM standard to build an impressive 600-seat lecture hall at the Helsinki University of Technology. And in the two decades since, BIM has been responsible for much more.
● Environmentally: Construction – and thus, virtual-to-physical project planning – has a huge impact on the environment. 5D BIM solutions shorten project cycles, preventing the ordering of excess material. 5D BIM software also eliminates the need for extraneous paperwork.
It’s not so hard to imagine that construction affects the environment in a number of other ways. Because it shortens construction schedules, executing from 5D BIM models could decrease air pollution associated with construction projects. Planning properly before breaking ground on a project might also mean avoiding the needless destruction of natural habitats.
Taking off toward the future with BIM
Abraham Lincoln once stated, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”
Now, more than a century later, this wisdom still rings true. To secure the best ultimate success for a project, it is important to have your sharpest tools – and best laid plans – ready to go. For building and construction, this means 5D BIM.
Cost estimation, for example, is just one field within construction that strives for accuracy, and even through the adaptation of last-minute plan changes. According to BuiltWorlds, despite advancements in technology, “cost estimation it’s still rarely a simple process, largely because building plans changes – sometimes by a lot, often more than once.”
And mistakes – even the common, understandable ones – have significant effects on profitability. It’s important to be able to easily assess the real costs of each project and any changes before physical execution.
You can see how using integrated digital project delivery at every step of the construction process yields maximized success for building teams – and for the world at large.
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