August 20, 2020
BIM (Building Information Modeling) emerged in the 1970’s along with many other 3D graphics technologies that were ushered in by the creation of microprocessors. The idea was simple – create an information rich model of a building, campus, or other construction project before building begins that will grant insights and save costs throughout the project lifecycle. The idea is intuitive. It isn’t difficult to imagine ways in which understanding a project before starting it could yield better results, but the execution is not so simple.
BIM was bottlenecked early on by the limited processing power that was available in the 3D modeling world. Computers capable of rendering 3D files were prohibitively expensive until the early 2000’s, and even state of the art computers at the time were less than modest by today’s standards. Early BIM adopters had to work around limitations that stripped value from the intention of the technology – the fidelity of the model.
When hardware performance caught up, there was an explosion of interest and investment in BIM technologies. Companies like Autodesk spent copious amounts of money constructing and acquiring businesses in the BIM space, and a lot of the initial problems with BIM were solved. A part of the original vision was achieved – Architects could create fully detailed models of their projects, connecting specifics to every detail.
Leaping the technological hurdles that initially restricted BIM adoption gave rise to another issue. Architects were adopting BIM, but jobsites weren’t. There are numerous softwares that can be used to generate BIM models, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, but they are all catered towards architects and designers. So while the architecture industry has had a few decades to get used to BIM software and its capabilities, a construction project is a complicated venture that requires experts from dozens of disciplines to communicate and coordinate. Even though BIM contained the information that needed to be communicated, only BIM software can access that information in any useful way, which created a barrier to accessing that information that only architects knew how to overcome. On many jobsites, architects were the only stakeholders that interacted directly with BIM.
The obvious solution was to take the BIM information and flatten it, crushing information rich, 3D designs into traditional 2D contract drawings. It’s an imperfect solution. Contract drawings created from BIM information at least allow builders to build what the model intended, but the information in a contract drawing is static while a jobsite is dynamic. Changes to BIM don’t reflect in the contract drawings made before the changes, which leads to duplicate RFIs and rework. Information between BIM and the jobsite needs to be dynamic, perfectly connecting builders, designers, architects, and engineers in a loop that leaves nothing up to chance.
At Inertia we find that trust is the most critical factor in a successful jobsite. It is nearly impossible to complete a high-stakes project, such as a hospital or stadium, without some hangups and unexpected issues. Trust is what keeps teams from pointing fingers and gets them working together to solve problems. At the end of the day, the real value in connecting a jobsite through BIM is that it builds accountability and trust.
The Inertia platform uses BIM files created by project architects to generate project maps. Our visual first approach allows teams on the jobsite to build from drawings that they recognize how to use. Information from the jobsite is attached to the project maps and ICDs and connected back through the BIM file to the office, architects, and every other team member on the project. If the BIM designs change, the project maps and ICDs in the Inertia platform are updated automatically. We use the phrase “connecting the loop from design to built” because we understand that the flow of information on a jobsite is most effective when it is reciprocal. If information is only flowing in one direction it can lead to miscommunications, distrust, and even resentment.
We know from experience that the best way to keep a project on track is to maintain open channels of communication across the project site, clear documentation, and build trust between teams. Inertia facilitates the collection of reliable information, connects teams to each other, and enables communication that keeps projects on track without delays.
The emergence of BIM technology has enabled information on jobsites to inch closer and closer to “real time.” As platforms like Inertia expand through the industry, it will become standard practice for anyone on a jobsite to expect real time information at their fingertips. It’s a positive change that will lead to smoother projects. What comes next? Is it possible for information to be available faster than real time?
It’s no secret that learning from the past can improve the future in almost any context. Construction is no different. In a perfect world, the same mistake would never happen twice. The next frontier in connectivity on jobsites will be prediction and adaptation. It’s not premonition, just projection. In the same way that an industry veteran can predict and prevent mistakes because they’ve been encountered before in their career, a connected platform that learns from past projects can keep team members aware of any potential setbacks.
Some predictive functionality already exists in Inertia. For example, if an RFI or other critical record is opened on a piece of equipment on a project in Inertia, any team that will handle the same equipment somewhere else on the project is notified, asked to review the record, and determine if it contains information that will impact their build. It’s a simple, intuitive process, but it can be built upon and expanded into something that transforms the way jobsite information is used.
There is still a long way to go. We will get there, day by day, connecting teams and making projects more cohesive. We look forward to a future where predictive technology and real time information benefit every phase of construction and facility management, and we’re doing our part to make that future a reality.
Inertia is a trusted location-driven construction management platform. Providing solutions for contractors, owners, design teams, and jurisdictions — so you can keep your projects moving. Due to Inertia’s deep automation and workflows we help teams stay productive and on schedule.
Inertia provides a refocused view of each project site, connecting all project information to exactly where it happens in the field and automatically embedding information into project maps. Our location-driven solutions allow you to manage your project, quality, performance and compliance together, automatically connecting information between teams and phases to optimize outcomes.
That means project stakeholders have complete visibility and up-to-date understanding of progress on the construction site.
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