Collaborative approach to MEP using BIM

Collaboration with BIM will enhance communication and trust among stakeholders

Robert McDonnell is the senior estimating manager at Alemco
Robert McDonnell is the senior estimating manager at Alemco

If a higher order of success is to be achieved in the implementation of BIM into the MEP construction industry, then a conscious effort must be made by the entire project team to engage and embrace the new process.

Effectively managed collaboration in BIM will ensure that the exchange of information throughout the entire team will maximise the best value for the project and the client.

If a client is using an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) approach as their procurement method, then BIM will force the project team to act as a single collaborative entity. This will help the team understand the project requirements from the early stages of the design, coordination and monitoring of costs as the design changes.

Historically, the exchange of drawings and design information between the design team and MEP contractor can be slow and time consuming. Sometimes 2D drawings are produced and issued without being checked for coordination and clashes, this then unnecessarily becomes the responsibility of the MEP contractor and adds to their already heavy engineering burden.

Using BIM technologies to collaboratively facilitate multiple design disciplines by allowing the team to access the 3D model will significantly increase the speed of design and reduce the design errors and omission prior to release of “information for construction” documents.

The use of collaborative BIM tools by all of the project team members will ensure the success of the entire project by helping the team to understand the construction sequence and monitoring progress. MEP installation will occur in sequence and as planned which will minimise large volumes of abortive reworks and waste.

Collaboration with BIM will enhance communication and trust which will inevitably promote cooperation between stakeholders, main contractors, consulting engineers and MEP contractors.

As per figure 1, the diagram on the right shows that BIM focuses each individual project team member around a central core. Each member contributes data and information which is then shared automatically. In figure 1, the diagram on the left represents the current unstructured approach to data sharing in construction which makes any high engineered MEP project even more complex and almost impossible to deliver in sequence.

As BIM involves the sharing of a single model and its associated information and data, it actively forces collaboration. By forcing collaboration BIM removes the tendency of project members to work solely in isolation. Each member of the team needs to understand the MEP scope and the requirements of the MEP contractor. The MEP contractor will become an inclusive integrated part of the construction team rather than being viewed as a standalone specialist.

The team are forced to share their data and information. According to BIM Journal (page 58), “Each team member’s contribution to the model affects the rest of the team. Rather than a traditional ‘hands off’ of project data from one discipline to the next, BIM encourages collaborative decision making”.

The utilisation of the single BIM model concept binds the team together into a single collaborative entity made up of multiple members with the common goal of coordinated, information controlled, and cost controlled project success for all, ensuring that the high end MEP original design is reflected in the finished MEP installation.

Figure 1 – Improved collaboration will deliver a more effective supply chain, (IBM 2012).

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