BIM, THE NEW DIGITAL ECOSYSTEM IN INDUSTRY 4.0

Everyone wants a good investment, but only a few succeed

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU GET SPACE-X TECHNOLOGY FOR YOUR INVESTMENT FOR 10% SURCHARGE?

Furthermore this would result in immediate elimination of the lion’s share of your difficulties, pays off within a year and then returns the value of your whole investment over the next 16 years!

YES, I CAN ALMOST HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS, BUT STICK WITH ME!

The world’s most successful executives, investors and innovators, including Elon Musk are designing, building and operating their facilities with a new digital ecosystem. Investments, such as office buildings, Tesla Gigafactories and other hi-tech properties are accomplished by the same approach.

It is not because of their everlasting free time or the need to advertise themselves. There is a much simpler reason.

With the help of Tesla Gigafactory, Elon Musk will be able to produce 500,000 electric cars a year for half as much as its competitors
With the help of Tesla Gigafactory, Elon Musk will be able to produce 500,000 electric cars a year for half as much as its competitors

These stakeholders have an accurate perception of digitization and are aware that a large and complex industrial investment, such as a data centre, or laboratory can no longer be economically maintained by traditional ways.

As the advancement of the hadron accelerator created the Internet, these projects have brought technology to life that changes the construction industry of the world, including Hungary’s, in the next few years. First for large investments and then for smaller ones.

I have great news:

THIS TECHNOLOGY IS ALREADY AVAILABLE

Let’s observe the situation in Hungary today.

The situation is similar to when Steve Jobs launched his first smartphone in the mobile phone market. At the time, almost everyone had a Nokia, and most just smiled at the announcement. However, a few recognized and understood the real power of change from the very first moment, many of whom became winners of the transformation. Later in the following years, the entire industry was revolutionized, along with the communication of all humankind.

The same pattern present in transportation (Waze, Uber), commerce (eBay, AliBaba) and now in construction.

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE REAL DEAL

In this article, I will summarize everything I have spent my last 15 years on. If you stick with me, by the end you will understand exactly:

  • what BIM is (furthermore, what it is not),
  • the benefits of the digital ecosystem, and
  • why it is life-threatening not to be informed about it.

WHY ME?

Before I started this article, I spent in total 30 semesters in Hungarian higher education. It could merely be a tasteful freckle in my career, but it is more than that:

  • I first became a mechanical engineer and then a civil engineer,
  • later I earned my BSC + master’s degrees in architecture.

I completed my postgraduate courses parallel and meanwhile working continuously in the construction industry.

I was not bored. First, I became a steel structure- and then a fabrication designer, then I continued as a construction manager for a while, and then I worked as a designer. I constructed a power plant in Port Louis, designed a skyscraper in Vietnam, and at home, I have been mainly involved in general design of bank branches, gas stations, shops, residential parks, office buildings, factories, laboratories and data centres.

I was fortunate enough to design hundreds of projects and in total app. 50,000 m2 of different buildings, officially as a co-designer. As the grimace of fate, by the time I obtained my unlimited architectural and interior design privileges, I stopped designing.

Recently, organizational development and the evolution of digital transformation in the construction industry are the responsibilities that take up most of my time.

THE BUILDEXT STORY

I have founded a general design office 15 years ago (yes, precisely, right in the middle of the crisis). First, it was a one-man show; then in the following few years, we studied the profession together with some colleagues, which led us to build the foundations of my current company.

The crisis taught us promptly and ruthlessly. After the inevitable failures and blood sacrifices, the office soon shifted to startup mode. We must have done something well because our clients were delighted to work with us, and projects were getting more and more complex and complicated.

In mid-2017, we reached the limit of design technology commonly used in Hungary. After a torturous project, I was determined to end this. We pursued the most advanced technology available and displaced almost every system and software that had provided our everyday safety.

Columbus probably felt the same as he sailed out for the new world, while he could not be sure for a moment whether he would ever reach his destination. In this scenario, we were willing to take responsibilities of the greatest project of our career with extremely tight deadlines, and three months later, we reached ashore in a new world where new perspectives opened up for us. That’s how we became

DESIGNER OF INNOVATORS

The company was transformed at the end of 2019 and commenced to develop and deliver services in the full spectrum of the expanded construction industry: services that have not existed so far. The nature of our company’s development meant that in the last five years we had doubled our sales revenue as well as the number of employees year by year, and our stakeholder list had been broadened by earnest partners.

Today, nearly 50 of my employees, mainly architects and interior designers and more than 60 strategic partners manage the work of 200 engineers, consultants and other professionals across the entire design spectrum. These partners are the most prepared, independent construction players in the CEU region, whose knowledge and experience have been organized around a common technology platform to carry out general design for 150 projects per year with high service quality.

My thoughts and precedents are not references taken from foreign newspapers. We gained our own experience in specific projects accomplished in the Hungarian market. We discovered the traditional and the new generation workflow through or work while risking the future of the company not once.

WHY AM I SHARING THIS?

It is because I am seeking determined stakeholders.

I have had enough of those polite business conferences where, after demonstrating what we have accomplished and how we operate, without any transition, we suddenly start discussing where this accelerated world is leading, and there is no point in all of this.

Eventually, I got used to the reactions. Cognitive dissonance usually evokes instinctive resistance in my conversational partners, as the unknown is always frightening. But honestly, development does not care whether we accept it or not.

As the stream bypasses the rocks in the forest, development does not stop either. It encounters those that are not preoccupied with rating the world but accept the fact of evolution and generate a competitive advantage out of it.

I’m looking for you.

THE INNOVATORS,

who appreciate the benefits of digitalization and willing to invest in their projects and their future.

Partners who acknowledge that we are not only solving a simple design task, but improving tools and solutions that are transforming the industry. It is a journey where, in many cases, there are no precedents for us. Therefore, it is our mission to emerge and introduce new solutions – and if we do it properly, the result can easily appoint a company to be the leader of the market.

IN ADDITION, I HAVE ONE MORE REASON

It is quite personal. There will be downsides of development.

I consider it my mission to warn colleagues working in the sector to prepare for conversion. If they fail to do so, they might become the Titanic’s saloon band. They will be playing music on a sinking ship, even though they should have been on the lifeboat already.

A year ago, I discovered a software that allows me to do the one-month work of 30 designers on my own, with a better outcome. It is terrifying; however, it offers several opportunities. There will be unemployment and labor shortages at the same time.

That is why I am writing this article, and have put all my energy into development over the last ten years, and that is why I launched our attitude-shaping blog.

To understand what we are facing and how it will shape our world.

But let’s start with the basics:

WHAT IS BIM?

It is essentially an acronym in English for “Building Information Model” – but that’s not the point.

Envision BIM as a skeleton of an animal. It is not worth much on its own.

It cannot work and create value. We can only make it work if we build muscles and nervous systems around it.

In construction, the skeleton is the geometry of the building elements that we can attach data on. For instance, for a door, we can associate:

  • how big it is
  • what raw material it is made of
  • from whom we purchased
  • how many years of warranty it has

If the muscles and nervous system are built along with the skeleton, the information within becomes shared knowledge.

BIM shared knowledge

BUT HOW DOES IT BECOME SHARED KNOWLEDGE?

The data stored in BIM becomes information, a value when it is inserted into a digital ecosystem.

In practice, it is a system of Internet-connected smart devices that includes telephones, tablets, and forward-looking space sensing and display systems that accelerate processes in construction through applications and software.

It requires a good information model (skeleton) that we synchronize into a cloud-based common data environment (CDE) that we convert into shared knowledge (nervous system) using the Internet and smart devices.

The information required for design, construction or operation is provided by the software and hardware environment, which facilitates:

  • the planning,
  • prefabrication,
  • implementation coordination,
  • technical inspection,
  • quality control,
  • digital transmission,
  • operation
  • and numerous other areas.

The entire digital life cycle of a building is quite complex, and the number of opportunities it contains is incredible: whenever I told anyone about it, they were flabbergasted. Therefore, an individual article will soon be displayed here, as well.

LET’S SEE THE COSTS!

Let’s take a rough numerical example, just to illustrate the orders of magnitude.

The design fee of an investment worth 10 billion Hungarian Forint – let’s say an office building, factory, laboratory or data centre – with the traditional design procedure is approximately 500 million Hungarian Forint.

The digital ecosystem is at least twice of that, therefore at least 1 billion Hungarian Forint. The question that arises in your head is legitimate.

WHY IS IT WORTH IT?

Well, because it pays off not only quickly but many times as well. But how?

The construction of a house designed with the BIM methodology is approximately 10% cheaper than that with traditional means. Consequently, during the construction, within a year, the extra cost due to the investment in the digital ecosystem of BIM design will return twice, which is practically equal to the full design fee.

The real benefits, however, only really begin here!

From now on, a house designed with the BIM methodology can be operated 20-30% cheaper. As a result, our extra investment in design pays off 16 to 20 times over the lifetime of the building – meaning, the full cost of construction comes back through the fee that is not spent on the operation!

IN CONCLUSION,

The design of a 10 billion Hungarian Forint building designed and operated in the BIM ecosystem will cost 500 million Hungarian Forint more than the traditional one. However, it will bring back twice the amount within a year, which is practically the full design fee, and then the entire construction cost will be recouped in the next 20-30 years.

Figuratively speaking:

+ 0.5 billion Hungarian Forint planning fee – 1 billion Hungarian Forint construction cost – 8 to 10 billion Hungarian Forint operation cost = 8 to 10 billion Hungarian Forint savings.

And it’s not over yet

  • The office building can be present with more competitive rent fee in the market, higher profits and – thanks to IOT solutions – it offers much higher digital convenience.
  • When it comes to a factory, the BIM results in a cheaper product, more reliable production, faster and easier operation, and less energy consumption.

At first, it seemed bullshit to me as well. However, the more I deal with it, the clearer it can be seen and experienced, that it is not.

WHAT MAKES IT MORE AFFORDABLE?

First of all, the fact that we turn to the computational capacity for planning.

We start by building the house in the virtual space. It results in a lot more work, but the errors are revealed right away, and the sooner we notice an inaccuracy, the cheaper it is to fix it.

With the help of the BIM methodology, we can shape the total cost of the project and the quality of the end result with great efficiency in the early phase of planning.

If the mistake is noticed on the plan, a couple of hours of two people’s work get wasted.

If the same turn out on the construction site?

Let’s imagine that (incorrectly) prefabricated air ducts are delivered to the site, according to the plan, and workers attempt to place them for half a day without any success, then six of us require to gather around trying to understand why it does not fit into the strang. And only then, the whole remanufacturing, engraving, back demolition can begin, sacrificing ten or a hundred times more energy, time and money.

The other essential element to reduce costs is to be able to simulate the operation of both the systems and the building in the model. A classic example: as the sun does not shine through every window at once, it results in colder and sunnier parts in the building. If the heat gain is estimated at noon on the hottest summer day, or if we observe whether the house next door shades our property, we precisely perceive the cooling demand of each room. If an algorithm already estimates the required air duct for the housing, no unnecessarily large cross-section pipe will be installed and the system will operate at equal airspeed everywhere.

The same optimization process that manufacturers have been able to halve the consumption of cars in the last 20 years – with the difference that in this case, we can choose the petrolatum smaller, which is a saving of 10 million Hungarian Forint from the very start.

In summary, if there is no design error, there is no need to pay extra work, and if we have optimized the systems, we can save on material and later on consumption.

Moreover:

  • There are no surprises in the construction, no investment slips, no penalties, no liability, no nervousness,
  • The digital model also increases the speed of implementation coordination and change management about ten to a hundred times, and several new solutions also help the protection of the implementation.

Lastly, the biggest advantage is that during construction, the data of the systems and building elements are continuously loaded into the building model in the cloud, resulting in a digital twin of the house. We can integrate the digital twin into operation software, which makes operation safer, simpler and cheaper.

But this is still just the tip of the iceberg – a common information model will cause significant efficiencies in hundreds of areas throughout the BIM lifecycle.

SO WHAT ARE THE MAIN BENEFITS?

  • The design is accomplished faster and in much better quality,
  • Tracking change is ten times faster and significantly easier,
  • The amount of spare work is drastically reduced, there is no anxiety,
  • Construction speeds up and becomes significantly simpler,
  • The quality and safety of construction is improved,
  • Reduces investment costs with the same quality,
  • The operation will be cheaper and way faster.

WHO CAN PUT THIS TOGETHER?

A good integrator company who is confident in the digital construction industry, because it is no longer enough for designers to remain just designers.

In the classic workflow, the task of designers was completed by the design delivery, or as our much-experienced colleague Mr Sanyi said a long time ago, “When we dragged the animal through the fence”.

Today, however, this is where real value creation begins. In recent years, two more shells have been built on design:

  • One is “Virtual Construction” (VC), where we build our buildings in a virtual space.
  • The other is “ICT”, the information communication technology layer.

At this point, it is no longer enough for architects to design a house, but they are required to define the formation of model information structure (BEP) as a big data analyst and as a software developer to operate and provide a digital environment of hundreds of software to build this nervous system.

But when it all comes together, it changes the way we think about our buildings over the last 2,000 years.

And now let’s see all this in practice.

HOW NOT TO DO A BIM PROJECT?

Incorrectly, common language calls BIM the powerful 3D models created and partnered in different software. That is not BIM, only BM (Building Model). Therefore, I, as in information, is missing in it.

Historically, the designer used to draw houses with ink, then modelled them with CAD and later in 3D, which made it easier to generate design documentation from them.

We wanted to improve this over the last five years by involving the engineering disciplines and trying to combine the models displayed along with their plans into a detailed 3D model based on “IFC” (Industry Foundation Classes).

In practice, however, this has made planning and change management so slow and cumbersome that it has coded an average of 20% extra time even for less complicated projects.

HOW IS CHANGE MANAGEMENT CONNECTED?

The execution, for a good plan, is like sunshine for a snowman.

There is nothing wrong until the building contractor arrives. But eventually, he comes and replaces a number of materials, tools in the price bargain during the tender.

And it should be changed on the plan immediately.

If he performed it only once it still would create much more extra work, but what is more disturbing is that it keeps changing during construction – and there is never time and energy left to follow the changes. Problems then arise during construction:

  • collision appears
  • design error
  • pointing at each other,
  • additional work,
  • delayed deadlines,
  • penalties,
  • affiliation,
  • and, ultimately, the multi-billion overruns that characterize large investments. (And not just in the governmental, but also in the corporate segment.)

But even if the implementation goes well, the information structure of a model assembled from six IFCs made in different software is comparable to pages of instruction for a complex machine that is written in six different languages. Even if it contains information, it cannot be extracted from it.

At the end of the day, we are going to feel like we have purchased a discounted dummy iPhone – it may look good in the marketing material, but it cannot be used for sure.

These projects are called ‘Hollywood BIM‘. They are made expensive and with tons of work, but they are never worth turning into an efficient construction support system or economic building management.

WHAT IS A GOOD BIM PROJECT?

In a good BIM project, 40-50 different designers build a single model together in a virtual space at the same time. It results in a 2-5 times faster workflow than traditional design would.

Since the designers see each other’s work, there is no need to look for collisions. If the architect models a beam, the co-engineer immediately sees that there is already something there, hence he will not place a pipe through it (this phenomenon is naturally coded in traditional design, both architects and contractors count on it).

The model automatically generates drawings and consignments from the data, and the WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) principle applies to almost all intervention interfaces. If I rewrite the height of a door type on a consignment sheet, it will change in 1 minute on all plans, including nodal and branch drawings.

It can easily be synchronized to the cloud (CDE) with one application, and in ten minutes, all contractors and technical inspectors will see the good, up-to-date plans.

In this world, a printed plan no longer makes sense. The app also provides easy access to any model’s sections and drawings.

Minor design errors and inaccuracies can be managed with error tickets within a few hours. Intricate tube snakes do not have to be imagined based on drawings, as you can view them through the camera of a normal smartphone with the help of the AR (augmented reality).

The process is straightforward and relentlessly evolving – we are currently a month away from the introduction of Microsoft Hololens, putting technical control on a whole new level.

CASE STUDY

In the last three years, we have had the opportunity to have two consecutive buildings worth approximately 10 billion Hungarian Forint, with similar complexity, to test the two working methods.

We designed the house for four months using the traditional method. In the first IFC-based collision search, we found 10,2 million collisions, which were repaired by 30 engineers over four weeks. Then came the tender, that resulted in three additional months to modify the construction plans generated by the building contractor. Eventually, multiple on-site remodelling was required, which made the contractor hire an outside design firm to try to track the changes along with the construction.

The transmission of the house was delayed by one and a half years and became about 30% more expensive than initially calculated.

That is when I vowed not to do this anymore and switch technology.

Our subsequent work was a building of similar scale and complexity. About the order of magnitude, the requirement included designing and modelling about 3600 kW of cooling energy and about 400 km of the pipeline (Hegyeshalom to Nyíregyháza distance). The construction plan was completed in 3 months; in the first search for collisions we identified 150 collisions, which we eliminated from the plans in a single day. The complete design of the 600-ton steel structure was delivered to the prefabricator on a flash drive, from which the structure was prefabricated smoothly and seamlessly.

The comments of the contractor were executed in one to two weeks, and the building was accomplished without any problems, on time and within budget!

WHAT IS WORTH PLANNING IN BIM?

We plan everything within the software in the office because it is simply a sin not to work in this system. However, experience reveals that it is still challenging to reap the benefits of simpler or smaller buildings.

For a relatively simple warehouse, workers’ hostel, or detached house where there is no risk that a wall will be built 10 centimetres further away, or where that single gas pipe goes, there is no point in using BIM. We do not recommend BIM either where the contractor is not expected to understand the plans or the customer does not demand easier or cheaper operation. Where the purchaser is looking for a designer with an electronic bid, we will not be able to stand against them, and any designer can plan these buildings.

BIM gets exciting when the task starts to get large or complicated.

BIM becomes useful when it is required to design systems where the perfect implementation is essential in the first place.

BIM becomes useful when the customer needs to build the facility quickly and smoothly, where it is at stake that the building will operate reliably, or when digital comfort and building operating costs are crucial to the company’s competitiveness.

These are the situations where the digital ecosystem is starting to be amazingly efficient.

HOW TO OPTIMIZE COSTS WITH TECHNOLOGY?

Design fee could already pay off during construction, while the investment can return its whole value throughout the life-cycle of the building. Details in the case study for registered users.