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BIM and Lean Construction

Project managers and developers face significant challenges in today’s construction market. Increasingly complex jobsites are making it difficult to meet high customer expectations. Most projects fail to deliver on time and within budget, with poor communication, resource management, and project oversight frequently cited as the main reasons.

Building projects need to adapt to survive. The solution? BIM and Lean construction.

A man viewing a BIM construction model on a computer.

What is BIM?

Infographic about BIM throughout the project life cycle

BIM (Building Information Modeling) is the creation of a digital model of a physical (or soon-to-be physical) space. It is a crucial element in modern construction planning, as well as a useful tool to track ongoing progress and areas for optimization. The innovation of BIM started in the 1960s. However, it was not until the early 2000s, when technology could better create detailed virtual models, that the concept started to see more widespread adoption. Since then, these models have become indispensable on many construction sites. For developers, 3D modeling is a way to facilitate more efficient and higher-quality projects. For site managers, BIM represents a solution to the increasing complexity and lack of transparency on non-Lean jobsites. And for everyone else, it is a route to greater collaboration, cost reduction, and process optimization.

Lean construction, on the other hand, is a philosophy that prioritizes transparency, communication, and collaboration. More than anything, it is an agreement of trust between the various parties and people involved in construction to always do what is best for the project. BIM is a forward-thinking tool that helps to facilitate these goals. By providing everyone with a detailed overview of the project as a whole, teams can better work together to achieve a common goal. Together, BIM and Lean construction are a powerful combination. With traditional project delivery systems perennially underperforming — finishing over time and budget more often than not — Lean and BIM represent an essential next step for the construction industry.

What are the benefits of Lean and BIM practices?

Lean construction and BIM practices work together to improve the overall outcome of construction projects. BIM promises to drive greater sustainability and efficiency in the construction process, while the application of Lean methodologies such as the Last Planner System® further optimize the data management and collaborative capabilities central to BIM.

Adopted together, Lean and BIM will improve quality standards on the jobsite, overall client satisfaction, and the productivity of the construction industry.

Improved communication and collaboration

One of the biggest issues with modern construction projects is a lack of meaningful communication and collaboration. This problem is felt at every stage of the development chain. Clients frequently feel left out of the loop, project managers are frustrated by fragmented updates, and foremen are delayed by poor collaboration between teams.

Central to Lean and BIM practices is the importance of effective communication. By planning effectively, developers can better identify the value proposition for a client. Continuous progress updates allow site managers to track the entire project in real time. Collaboration between teams and clash detection help to create an uninterrupted workflow. This results in less stress, more teamwork, and better planning.

Increased efficiency and productivity

With a visual model, project managers are better able to track progress and optimize productivity. When combined with the Last Planner® method, Lean and BIM construction sites become fully transparent, with all stakeholders involved in the establishment of a continuous, efficient workflow.

BIM also improves safety and overall job satisfaction for onsite workers. Knowing exactly where each team is needed and at what stage in the project minimizes safety hazards. When everyone is following the same plan, everyone is building toward the same goal.

Reduced waste and costs

Advanced BIM models can simulate independent variables such as sunlight exposure and wind patterns, allowing utilities to be accounted for well in advance of breaking ground. The thorough planning phase in BIM projects minimizes uncertainty and potential errors, leading to improved location planning and resource management on the construction site.

By creating a comprehensive digital model, BIM enables better coordination among project stakeholders, facilitating the most coordination-heavy tasks such as penetration planning and subsequent clash detection. This coordination ensures smoother construction workflows, reduces rework, and avoids costly conflicts during construction. What’s more, the reduction in manual planning enables work to commence earlier, minimizing human errors and unnecessary waste. Embracing the powerful combination of Lean and BIM construction methods also contributes to energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings, reducing the overall carbon footprint and waste output.

What must be considered before implementing BIM practices?

Integrating a successful BIM strategy is much the same as implementing Lean construction methods. Both have the potential to significantly improve collaboration and communication, management of resources, and overall project delivery methods. However, a real commitment is needed to maximize the benefits of Lean and BIM. These are some challenges you might face:

Resistance to change: Future-oriented approaches such as BIM and Lean construction are necessary to solve growing inefficiencies and complexities on the jobsite. However, as with any new way of doing things, there are those who are resistant to change which can make implementation difficult. Listening to pull from staff is important and once a viable solution becomes apparent, it should be applied in full force from the top down. While this may deter some people, it makes for a motivated team whose overall goals are rooted in the future.

Lack of understanding: BIM and Lean construction make for a powerful combination when utilized correctly — although there are many who do not yet entirely understand the impact they can have on a construction project. That’s why Bosch RefinemySite has removed as much complexity as possible. This ensures everyone gets the most out of BIM principles from the start, even with limited experience.

Not taking enough time: Resistance to change and a lack of understanding can be overcome — given time and patience. By taking the time to properly train those involved, processes can continuously be improved from one project to the next, which will pay significant dividends in the long run.

Implementation costs: The cost of implementing Lean and BIM construction principles can deter stakeholders and project managers: Software, hardware, ongoing support, and training can be necessary. This is compounded by the fact that many software providers do not effectively combine Lean and BIM tools in one platform.

The current state of BIM in the construction industry

The use of BIM planning has grown substantially over the past decade, with the United States being one of the leading countries in BIM adoption. According to a report on worldwide BIM application, over 50% of North American industry professionals interviewed have applied BIM to over 90% of their projects (source 1). Encouragingly, more respondents are now seeing the potential of BIM beyond simply offering a ‘3D model’. However, progress is still needed. Widespread project integration beyond the planning stage remains inconsistent, and not enough projects have reached level 3 BIM maturity: full integration.
Often referred to as “Open BIM”, level 3 promises greater collaboration through a shared model accessible by all stakeholders. The problem is, increasingly complex BIM models have been prioritized, to the detriment of accessibility. This is also a major reason adoption is far lower among smaller projects: integrating complex BIM is seen as more effort than it is worth.

Infographic about the 4 levels of BIM

Bosch RefinemySite addresses this challenge by offering BIM rooted in Lean construction principles. By focusing on simplicity (effective models with minimal requirements) and prioritizing the most important data, Lean and BIM are made accessible to all. When used in conjunction with cloud-based collaboration, everyone from the project manager to the trade foremen can realize the benefits of fully integrated BIM, whatever the project size.

The future of Lean and BIM construction

The future of Lean and BIM is full of potential. The steady transition to Industry 4.0 can be seen across all industries, including construction. Building information modeling will be instrumental in achieving greater automation and more efficient processes. BIM is also capable of generating highly advanced models that can account for numerous potential variables. We are already seeing these models change location planning for the better and reduce complications further down the line.

How BIM and Lean construction will intersect with other emergent technology remains to be seen. One promising area is in the growing field of augmented reality, in which a 3D model combined with a VR headset can allow a client to walk through a finished project before it’s even begun.

Another future-oriented technology being increasingly adopted alongside BIM is cloud computing. Tools like Bosch RefinemySite offer cloud-based collaboration to ensure every stakeholder has access to valuable BIM data whenever they might need it. Ultimately, this elevates communication and process-oriented standards to the levels expected of a Lean and BIM construction site.

How Bosch RefinemySite integrates Lean and BIM construction methods

Bosch RefinemySite is paving the way for full BIM maturity for contractors of any size. Highly complex models may be effective at the planning stage, but they are ill-suited for the jobsite and are hindering wider integration. By minimizing complexity for the user, Bosch RefinemySite makes the benefits of BIM accessible to everyone in two ways:

1. Modeling: Offering specific features designed for viewing and interacting with BIM models, Bosch RefinemySite encompasses Lean and BIM methods into one cloud-based program. With a straightforward interface, site managers and trade foremen can work collaboratively from the same platform, effectively bridging the gap between planning and construction.

2. Scheduling: BIM and Lean planning are combined to better promote communication and collaboration. With pull planning, teams can act with autonomy and without the need for the site manager to intervene. Straightforward models can then be used to better track progress and other updates.

The end result is a more efficient and productive workflow: Bosch RefinemySite is a cloud-based platform that makes construction project planning and scheduling easier for all. Get in touch with us to see how you can benefit from combining BIM and Lean construction in your next project.

FAQ: Lean and BIM construction

What is BIM?

Building information modeling (BIM) is a methodology that aims to enhance design coordination, asset management, clash detection, communication, and more on a construction project. It facilitates efficient collaboration and accurate documentation while optimizing the entire construction process from planning to completion.

Why should I adopt Lean and BIM practices?

The modern construction site needs to adapt. The overwhelming majority of projects are now delivered late and/or over budget (source 2). BIM and Lean construction are the solution to this problem. When implemented effectively, they have the potential to:

1. Improve efficiency and productivity

2. Enhance coordination and collaboration

3. Better deliver the customer’s vision

4. Reduce waste and unnecessary costs

5. Foster continuous improvement

How do I get started with Lean and BIM?

For owners, a Lean and BIM combination approach can greatly improve project transparency. With end-to-end visibility, you can feel confident in the progress being made and stay informed of any timeline/budget changes. Finding an architect with proven knowledge and experience in BIM implementation is the first step. ISO 19650 is the internationally recognized standard, certifying an individual/company’s proven ability to use building information modeling effectively.

For architects not yet certified, building information modeling is increasingly becoming the industry standard, sought after by more and more project owners. BIM ensures optimal implementation of creative designs through a streamlined information flow between stakeholders, in turn resulting in fewer unnecessary consultations and revisions.

If you have not yet started implementing Lean and BIM methods, it may be advisable to first seek out professional consultation/training, particularly regarding change management if this is a transition for your wider organization. The next step is to start with the more basic aspects of BIM such as 2D plan generation or visualization, before gradually increasing complexity.

Bosch RefinemySite’s BIM software is designed with simplicity in mind — removing complexity to ensure any architect can begin to experience the benefits of BIM and Lean construction.

Where do I get support with implementation?

For more information on BIM, Lean construction, and the tools you need, contact us.