Jump on the BIM train

by Lindsay Prichard-Fox, Founder and CEO of TiverBuilt, LLC and Northeast U.S. Regional Lead for Women in BIM

Every industry can point to moments in time when a catalyst has entered the picture and changed the game. One of the best examples of this is the railroads during the Industrial Revolution — new technology that could transport materials faster than before, helping factories produce goods and business to grow.

Discovering Digital Construction

Now, hundreds of years later, the construction industry is at its own crossing. The idea of holding stagnant and relying on traditional methods and processes is no longer best serving the industry or its clients. The dynamics have started to shift towards a more collaborative and integrated approach with the rollout of Digital Construction.

Digital Construction is a unique discipline requiring a comprehensive understanding of how structures are put together in the field and replicating that process in a digital building environment. Like railroads before it, Digital Construction is helping to create new opportunities and move the industry forward along a new track. It is our generation’s change agent and is becoming the standard delivery in the commercial construction space.

Construction and the Digital Revolution

Construction is a $10 trillion global industry, employing about seven percent of the world’s workforce (Construction Intelligence Center). The industry is well established with standards and processes, and requires a high level of attention to detail, safety and quality. Any change must take place slowly and thoughtfully.

Over the past few years, we have seen greater adoption of new technologies by the construction industry because more resources have begun to pour into the large-scale commercial market. According to a 2018 McKinsey & Company report, technology and software investment were more than $10 billion between 2011and 2017. Some industry professionals even claim that construction is seeing more investments from software firms in the last five years than it has seen in the previous 100 years.

One of the biggest roadblocks to widespread adoption of new technologies is that technology and software development are not enough. Without people and clear processes in place to utilize the software properly, the benefits will be minimal.

Another factor impacting technology adoption in construction is that governments around the world are beginning to create regulatory requirements for it. This is good news because associated value and savings are also being measured and the industry is taking notice. One pilot program even demonstrated that the cost savings generated in a single year of adoption were enough to pay for the cost of adoption for the next nine years.

So, what does this mean for a homeowner building a new home or renovating an existing home? Is there room for Digital Construction adoption in the residential space? From my own personal and professional experience in construction, the answer is yes, and the time is now.

Digital Construction in the Residential Market

When I built my home five years ago, I didn’t know about Digital Construction. I discovered it after the completion of my home construction project, but it didn’t take long to connect the dots and see that many challenges I faced would have been mitigated by using Digital Construction technology.

Since then, I have been on a journey to bring Digital Construction to the residential building market. As a Digital Construction professional, we not only need to understand how structures are built, but also how to successfully use complex software to accurately replicate the building in a virtual environment. My company, TiverBuilt, uses the building environment software Autodesk Revit to address many of the challenges that exist in construction and to take a new interdisciplinary and integrated approach to the built world.

TiverBuilt is one of the first businesses in the U.S. to provide Digital Construction services directly to homeowners. We also work in partnership with a network of developers, general contractors, architects, suppliers and designers across the country. While much of our technology and processes are not new, our approach is innovative, as we have taken lengthy steps to adapt these large-scale commercial methods to benefit the residential client.

The Power of the Digital Construction Model

One of the first model trains was a primitive replica of a steam train created in the 1800s. Today, hobbyists and enthusiasts from around the world are still drawn toward the love of building model trains. When asked “Why?” The answer you hear most is, “Because it’s fun.”

In many ways, I can relate. Building replicas of structures in a digital environment is fun, that’s one of the reasons I love what I do. However, to fully appreciate the power of the digital model, we must understand how it’s built and how the data and information it contains can benefit everyone involved in the field construction of a structure.

A digital replica of a structure is held within a 3D model. To have an accurate model, each trade involved in the project will have a design plan that is integrated into the model. Our models address two main challenges that persist in construction: visualisation and quantification. We want to see our building before we start field construction and we need to know how many pieces of each material we will need to get the building constructed.

If you’ve had an opportunity to build or renovate, just think of your own experiences. How did you visualise and how did you quantify? Likely, you worked from 2D prints or sketches and estimates based on information coming in from many different sources—decorators, architects, builders—all using their own methods to generate documents and information. You may have felt like a passenger standing in the middle of Grand Central Station, with tracks coming from every direction.

The Digital Construction approach creates a plan that combines all this information on a single track, with all the steps and services aligned in a direct path leading to project completion and homeowner satisfaction. You can consider the BIM file the train on this track. It holds the information generated by the design professionals and provides nearly all the necessary information needed by your build team, material lists and all.

From the digital model file, we can develop the floorplan, elevation, and section views necessary for permitting, as well as the quantities for pricing. It also creates photorealistic images for confirming that the design intent is achieved. With all these pieces in place before building, we have every team member on the same page. With the track laid before the journey starts, we can lead the team and get the vision built, all pointed in the same direction, working together to arrive at the same destination.

One Train, One Track

At TiverBuilt, we build a digital construction model. From there, we coordinate with contractors and specialty trades, adjust, modify, and optimize the digital structure, well before active field work begins. We constantly generate photorealistic images and take the owners and the team on virtual tours of the digital structure. We connect everyone with the process of developing a building and solve age-old challenges that have persisted in construction.If you take a step outside and look around, every part of our day is influenced by construction. The TiverBuilt team is driven by the sincere hope that we can have a positive impact on the built world. This means, more empathetic design approaches, less waste, and better longevity and efficiency in our buildings. By influencing how we look at construction, and how we thoughtfully apply technology and innovation, we can have a broad and lasting impact on our communities locally and globally.