“BIM is making us more efficient and improving our profitability”

At CONNECT2018’s StreamBIM session, RedSky customer Jonathan Exall, Finance and Marketing Director at Baxall Construction, told delegates why he is a humungous fan of building information modelling (BIM).

Kristin Omholt-Jensen is the CEO of our Norwegian sister company Rendra AS, which is a BIM specialist. She took a brave decision at CONNECT2018. Before starting to deliver her presentation – “Improve the productivity of construction projects using 3D BIM” – she asked the audience members how much they knew about BIM.

As was to be expected, this question prompted murmurings around the room, along the lines of “not much”. But then Jonathan Exall decided to speak up and share Baxall’s experience of using BIM. And suddenly, the room fell silent as everyone listened to what he had to say about the dramatic effect BIM is having on the profitability of construction projects and the company’s bottom line.

At that point, Kristin decided to let Jonathan do the talking. Here’s an excerpt of what he had to say:

“BIM is making us more efficient and improving our bottom line – we have quantified that.

“We’ve used BIM for off-site manufactured buildings. We are doing 50% of all our schools through the BIM process. Also, on all our framework projects, we’re encouraging and now insisting on BIM models.

“We’re carrying out workshops with our clients, architects and the supply chain – we’ve got all our subcontractors attending and engaging with it. They can see the benefits. It’s all about managing risk, managing conflict and making sure that all the things that we’re trying to engage with BIM will make them more efficient and profitable and will ultimately save the client money and eliminate conflict.

“It’s all about getting the right information at the right time and not having it when it’s too late and there’s an issue on site. We’re working on a £10 million project currently and already there are over 400 variations and design changes – if we’d been able to use BIM right at the start, we would have reduced costs and time delays. It’s about trying to put the energy in at the front end, rather than at the back end.

“People don’t always gain a good perception of a building from 2D drawings, whereas with 3D models they can visualise much better and turn the model around and look at it from different angles. With one of our school projects, we used VR [virtual reality], which allowed the headmistress to ‘walk’ through the school. She said: ‘That’s fantastic – I can see it! But I don’t want that door there, I’ve got to have it over there, because of all the children needing quick access.

“The components – like the underfloor heating manifolds – were all being manufactured in Germany, so to actually change all of that, later down the line, would have been very costly. But we were actually able to make the changes using the BIM model, there and then, and the headmistress could see the effects of them on screen. And that’s the thing: it’s the speed and efficiency of BIM – we didn’t have to go away and redraw it all.

“A lot of frameworks are under-budgeted and then have to be value-engineered down in price. But that’s where you can pull the BIM model up and say: ‘Well if you took out those six windows, that would save you £30,000. And it looks nice, but you don’t really need that  frontage with all that expensive fascia – if you take that out, that’s another £50,000 saving. Are you happy with that?’ You’re working collaboratively with the team and making sure people are seeing what they are going to get.

“A major benefit, as we see it, is for the owner of the new building. Ten years down the line they can be looking at that BIM model for maintenance and they can see exactly where the cables go, where the plumbing is, and so on.

“It’s the next generation really: traditional drawings are on the way out. People who are my age are stuck in their ways. We don’t look at it as being necessary. But all the younger people in our business, they engage with it straight away.

“If people really engage and want to reduce waste and improve efficiency, BIM will do that. That’s the message that needs to be got across.”

Delighted to have found such a great advocate for BIM, Kristin told the audience: “Jonathan has changed because he has gained that experience… and because he dared to do something that the rest of the guys claim they can’t do.”

Kristin’s presentation provides a fascinating account of why it’s imperative for UK construction companies to engage with BIM, not just to boost productivity and efficiency, but also to attract the best young talent to the industry. It makes very interesting reading, so download it now!”

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