BIM in the not so distant future part 5

We want to look into the future and how BIM will affect our projects. We appropriated, because that sounds better than stole, this idea from the National BIM Standard–United States 2021 Vision Task Force (VTF) of which Connor and I submitted essays to. It will help keep the holidays light and fun and give us all a chance to spend time with our families. We will start these the week of Thanksgiving in the United States, Nov 25th - Nov. 29th. We hope you enjoy them and here is a little caveat on the pieces by Connor and I.

The articles by Connor Christian & John Grady were written as part of the National BIM Standard–United States 2021 Vision Task Force (VTF). The VTF (chaired by Chris Moor ) has collected more than 30 of these visionary papers from all corners of the construction industry in an effort to build a roadmap for the industry to become more efficient. They are in the process of weaving the essays together to create a single, compelling and tangible vision of what the future may look like, along with the steps the industry may need to take in order to get there.

At Epic BIM we like to have a little fun as well as hit some of the key challenges facing our industry so Connor and I tasked the group with describing a day in the future and how they would see BIM affecting their projects.  Each feature will have the title: BIM in the Not So Distant Future.

We encourage others to think about this and submit your submissions to and/or

As I walk into my office, I am greeted by the project superintendent, who is standing in front of the Virtual Project Window display. I see him moving his arms around, almost frantically in nature. He looks over to me and says gruffly, "I can't ever seem to drive around in this model as effectively as you do!!" I move along side him, slip on a pair of virtual glasses and am able to see what he is currently viewing.

"What's the problem this morning?" I ask as I begin to orient myself in the virtual space. "I thought we had this corridor all figured out."

He turns to me and states, "the owner just requested to add additional cryogenic systems for this floor due to an increase in demand for their services. They don't think they have enough units to service the increase in demand."

I look over at him and grin, "let's have a look shall we." I wiggle the fingers of both hands to initiate the system to track my hand gestures. In one window to my left, i am able to view the available files I can bring into the virtual space. Raising my right hand, I highlight a particular file. "Is this the updated design from the engineer?" He nods affirmatively. I clench my fist and dark the file into the space, within a few seconds I am able to view the revised design and see where issues are occurring. I bring both hands up, and able to move around in the space with ease. My left hand moves up and I execute a command that initiates a clash detection protocol written specifically for this project. With a smile on my face, I say "looks like we are all good."

The superintendent turns to me and asks "how?"

I smile wryly and say "welcome to BIM my friend." He just shakes his head, removes the glasses and walks out of my area.

Little did he know, last night I received an email from the Project Management team regarding this exact issue. I was able to contact the engineer and have put together a new design per the owners request. The engineer was able to design the new system in our cloud based model, where he was able to see which systems were installed as of last night. This made it easier to design and coordinate the new system to avoid any rework or delay in the project. The current standards of real time design, collaboration and construction have made the process of handling changes much easier than in the past. Previously, you had to exchange files, upload into a combined model and then view the results on a screen. You were not able to virtually immerse yourself into the project. With our advancement in scheduling and reporting, we are able to see real time which assets are installed on the project. This way, we have an opportunity to verify if the work is being installed in the correct location. This project has trades who are using the latest holographic layout technology, which for those of you that aren't familiar with the technology, projects a virtual representation of the work and where it's to be installed. This also measures, with a technology similar to laser scanning, the location of that assets being installed. This allows for real time verification of accurate installation.

This project was one of the first to successfully use the HLT system for foundations, structural steel, exterior skin systems and interior walls. The time savings have been significant as there is no longer the cumbersome methods of translating 2d points from a design model into actual project space. This has allowed for the job of the QA/QC inspector much easier, as they are able to accurately view rebar placement, anchor bolt alignments, etc.. Since this project was fully coordinated furring thee design process, it lead to the ability to commit to the aggressive schedule set forth by the owner.

As I turn my attention back into the VPW, I move up to the 25th floor, where new structure is being placed. I am able to see in real time, the placement of structural members on the project. Through the use of advanced RFID, the system is able to track individual steel members as they move from the staging area and are flown to their location. I watch as I see a large vertical steel column being set into place. It color changes from a slight red to green as it is being moved into it's required position, plumbed up and bolted into place. The system is able to measure the installation of the member within 1/64th of an inch.  With a gesture of my hand, I am able to load the finished space of the 25th floor and walk through again. I am still awestruck by the current ability to view the finished product with ease.  I see the carpet in the conference room to my left changing shades. This must be due to the owner changing their minds once again on the type and color for that space.

I move up to the 34th floor and begin viewing the space as it's to be designed. I have had questions whether or not some very specific equipment for the cry systems on this floor have been delivered yet. I move to the to the room in question, highlight the equipment and with a few simple gestures, I have my answer. I see that the equipment was delivered last week, pull up a virtual site logistics plan and am able to see exactly where the equipment in question is on site. Each piece of equipment is tagged with an RFID, that allows for time tracking to allow for on time delivery. This makes it possible to build such a monstrous project on a very small footprint. I am relieved to see the equipment on site as we are to begin setting. The structure on this space in the next two weeks.

Is such a scene so far fetched? Is it possible to get from where we are today to this job site of the future? Would we be able to design, construct and track a project in real time? It would be quite amazing to be on the job site, inside a virtual,world and see the work come into place. The ability to eliminate the current layout technologies and actually use the design model to virtually layout the building on the site. This could lead to a huge increase in productivity as all areas of the project and work could be visible to who needed it. No more 2d graphics on paper required to know where to install that grade beam or where to put that embed. For the crew tieing the rebar, they could work off a virtual projection of the required rebar cage. The ability to accurately track assets as they are delivered on site would be hugely beneficial to logistics and schedule. How long have crew members spent searching for assets that needed to be installed that day? How often have those required pieces not even been on site?

Such a technology isn't that far fetched. It is all just information. What changes in the future is how we interface, share and use that information. I can't wait to see it!!


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  2. This isn't about a design build scenario but about a scenario that happens on a lot of construction projects. Just because the construction documents are 100%, that doesn't mean the owner can't or won't make changes to their project. These types of changes happen all the time. This scenario is based upon a collaborative or coordinated (sensitive words to a few around here) process where design and construction work cohesively.

    In our current workflows, it seems as if the design team is pitted against the contractor. I strongly feel in order for things to continue their evolution, a shift back to e master builder way of doing things is needed. But that's another blog for another date……

    As for construction documents, they are only as good as the person generating them. Sometimes it is hard to communicate the complexity of things in a 2d format. Why not embrace technology and use the current capabilities of models and pictures to convey reign intent. I'm not saying you can't avoid the current systems in place of verifying that changes in design and their effects on other interdependent systems, I am saying if all the info was shared in one place, it could happen faster. All this is about is an increased awareness of information exchange, not bypassing any sort of legalese as you say.

    Improve the process…..kicking down silos and creating an information pipeline with some silos.

    Thanks for reading.

  3. I would pose a question based on what I have just read… how is it you would be able to change the design during construction and not have an issue? How does the mechanical design change get integrated? How is it documented?
    If this were a true scenario of the future, doesn't someone need to re-verify the loads, add a larger fan or piece of equipment with different electrical needs (potentially) and then if re-sizing equipment, go back to the structural guys and make sure the additional weight is going to be supported, etc, etc… etc…

    Isn't that why we have construction documents? So each party of the team can see what is being issued and make changes so something doesn't break, explode, or otherwise damage the building?

    If everyone was a design-build contractor with all services in-house… that would be fairly easy to make a change…but when it comes to contracts and liabilities…. our current system is there for a reason…

    Not to say that it cannot change… but that 'near future' concept might be a bit further away than you think… not because of technology and information exchange…but for legal reasons alone…

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