A Q/A with the Experts About the Evolving BIM Ecosystem

AE Blog

BIM managers, engineers, architects and others joined BIM experts to get answers about top-of-mind questions or concerns around BIM workflows, tools and techniques. In the Ask the Experts – Bring Method to the Madness webinar, experts focused on tips and best practices for making the most of BIM on projects of all scopes and scale.

With several decades of combined industry experience, the A&E technical team included Jeff Thomas, III, Technology Consultant, Brian Perez, Senior Technical Specialist and Jill Conlin, Technical Specialist.

One of the hot topics was best practices for a BIM execution plan.

Inside the Plan

One of the most essential, yet often challenging aspects of any BIM-enabled project, is the BIM execution plan or BEP.

When asked about best practices, the first piece of advice from our experts was to define your project goals and objectives. Every plan should be tailored to a project’s specific needs with the following question guiding development:

What’s the purpose of your BIM execution plan (BEP), or more specifically, what are you trying to accomplish in your process or workflow and how does that plan affect contractual obligations?

With that answer in mind, identify who will be involved and their specific roles and responsibilities and consider how that plan can facilitate collaboration. Establish standards, protocols and best practices to make sure everyone understands how tasks will be performed and to what level of detail (LOD). Also, outline how coordination meetings will be executed, who’s going to participate in them and who’s going to run them. Those individuals will change throughout a project as it moves from design to construction. To that point, establish a quality control/quality assurance process.

Several people asked about the availability of industry standard BIM execution plan templates. As the experts noted, there are no true “standard” BIM execution plans that can be applied to every project. That said, there are some templates and resources available that can be used as a starting point. For instance, the National BIM Standard (NBIMS) from the National Institute of Building Sciences provides guidelines. As well, BuildingSMART and the U.S. General Services Administration have both published sample BEP templates that outline core considerations. Some universities like Pennsylvania State University have developed their own internal BEP templates that are also available online.

However, the experts caution that while standards might be useful as an initial framework or starting point, every BEP should be customized for each specific project, as requirements will vary. The goal is to use existing resources to help structure initial considerations for a BEP rather than using them verbatim.

As well, they noted that the most successful BEPs are those that are developed collaboratively between all project team members—not just developed and passed off to consultants, engineers and contractors.

BIM, LODs and the Trades

To that point, it’s important to outline LOD specifications for trades. They offered some suggestions for outlining specific LOD requirements.

These include listing each trade (e.g., architectural, structural, MEP) that will provide modeled components. Also specify key project milestones or submission phases (SD, DD, CDs etc.) when LOD will be assessed. This is where a standard specification such as NBIMS can help define each level (e.g., 100, 200, 300).

It’s also helpful to provide a matrix or table with the trade requirements versus project phases. Carefully consider trade-specific needs such as architectural walls that need greater detail. Once outlined, circulate the LOD outline to each trade for input prior to finalizing.

Leveraging Legacy Data

Making the most of legacy information from past projects can also be a challenge in any BIM workflow. The experts suggested using a tool that can extract and organize data from old project files in a searchable format, like metadata or tags to make data more easily accessible. Tools such as Guardian can help adjust non-compliant elements. Validate any imported legacy data against current company standards to avoid perpetuating outdated practices.

It’s also important to determine what information is still applicable versus project-specific details that are no longer needed. As well as focusing on reusing general data over obsolete specifics.

One other point was to consider synchronizing common files like CAD blocks or Revit families between legacy projects and new templates to maintain consistency. As templates evolve, provide guidance to those who are managing your template on updating legacy data connections or references that may be impacted. Establish a workflow for template users to submit legacy data requests so the most valuable information can be incorporated over time.

The Educational Imperative

Another topic spotlighted during the session was the importance of staff education and training.

It’s important that BIM managers take the time to assess existing knowledge of the team through surveys and tests in order to tailor training accordingly. With that information in hand, they can establish clear training goals, a comprehensive plan and a schedule. The experts suggested varying training means and methods such as instructor-led, online courses, workshops, and video tutorials to accommodate different learning styles. Within these programs, provide relevant and realistic examples from actual projects during training to reinforce concepts.

Most importantly, offer ongoing support through monthly meetings, training materials libraries, and encouragement of continuous learning and collect feedback for continuous improvement—and celebrate training milestones and successes to motivate staff to apply their new skills on the job.

These were just a few of the BIM related topics covered in the recent “Ask the Experts” webinar. Other subjects included detailed questions about the new features such as the Autodesk Bridge function, which allows you to easily share project information with other Autodesk® Build projects and accounts on the Autodesk Construction Cloud (ACC), improving cross-team collaboration, reduced rework, and improved control of project information. .

U.S. CAD, An ARKANCE Company hosts a number of Ask the Experts sessions every year on a variety of topics that range from curating family libraries to model maintenance. For more information or to listen in to past sessions, visit the A&E Galaxy on our website.

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