The pandemic has delayed or stalled several construction projects, owing to the shortage of materials such as structural steel and glass which are procured from Asia.
Secondly, working remotely was also not an option for construction workers on site.
In the post-Covid era, both pending as well as new construction projects are expected to come with anticipated growth in the healthcare, commercial, and transportation sectors. The residential projects are seeing an increased demand for multi-family complexes.
President Biden’s vision is to create a robust infrastructure that is safe, environment-friendly and can withstand climate change. The allocation of over USD 1 billion to ramp up the existing infrastructure – including railways, bridges, ports, and highways – certainly fuels this ambition.
So, what would the sector need to prepare itself for? Here’s an example from a public sector renovation project scenario.
Traffic interruption during construction and repair poses a significant challenge in road and railway projects. For projects under renovation, add to it the complexity of managing ground utilities like sewage lines, telephone cables, water supply etc. This directly impacts commuters and passengers who are taking the roadways, railways or airports, on a daily basis. This interruption will need to be managed by project owners. To avoid clashes during implementation leading to rework and project delays, these nuances will need be to be factored in during the planning stage. Insufficient contract management and lack of coordination between project stakeholders could also lead to further delays and losses. BIM based project planning can remedy all of this at once.
Though the AEC industry in USA is one of the largest construction markets worldwide, it is also fragmented in nature and had thus far, not really explored technology-enablers or digital tools to enhance productivity. However, the pandemic has introduced them to new possibilities. McKinsey, stated in a report published in 2020, that designers and engineers are increasingly using Building Information Management (BIM) to manage the projects and to speed up project execution and delivery.
This incumbent need for higher speed, scale and efficiency and the newfound interest for BIM among construction companies is an invitation for adoption of BIM-based solutions. BIM is not new to construction firms in the USA. It has been implemented since 1970s. What’s surprising though is the slow rate of adoption. The lack of a single federal agency that can plan and mandate BIM for all public projects, is perhaps one of the reasons responsible for rather low adoption rates of BIM. The absence of a BIM mandate makes it dependent on the association between construction firms, contractors, architects, and other stakeholders, thus slowing down the process.
On the implementation side, it is high time we think of BIM beyond its use as a design tool and explore the depths of information that BIM models provide. BIM models can serve as the single platform for resource planning and allocation, risk management, material estimation and timely procurement, transparent and real-time monitoring of progress, conflict-free construction within timelines, better team collaboration, integration of safety and sustainability aspects and more.
A powerful application of BIM modelling is in its ability to gauge the impact of natural disasters on any asset. Such information arms the project team in decision-making at early stages of the project, in taking corrective action, and saving any additional costs incurred. In high flood zone areas, using BIM model-based flood analysis and simulation can help project teams to modify or redesign the project to avoid or minimize the estimated impact of floods. Changing the elevation on the road can mitigate risks in a flood-prone area, for example.
In effect, BIM can certainly be the fulcrum for building a robust, resource-efficient, and sustainable infrastructure in USA!