Building Information Modeling: Not Simply a Substitute for Pencil and Paper

Computer Model

Technological Crossroads

The construction industry is at a technological crossroads. The basic process of building a structure has not changed in over one hundred years. Technological innovations have been overlaid on top of the building processes without fundamentally changing how the actual work is done. In design, one of the best examples is Computer Aided Drafting replacing hand drafting. A computer automates what once was done with pencil and T-square. An experienced hand drafter can create drawings with comparable speed to that of a computer aided drafter. The productivity benefits occur with CAD when changes have to be made to drawings the drafter considers completed. With hand drafting, changes were made by hand erasing -- perhaps with an electric eraser -- the original pencil drawn plan. “Click” and delete or “modify” on a computer has made changes so easy that they are expected to be accommodated at any stage of the project.

Despite the advantages of the new technologies such as CAD, according to the US Department of Commerce Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction productivity has decreased while most other industries have had huge gains. The amount of information that is incorporated in design has increased, but the method of communicating it to the builder has remained the same. Computer models are translated into two dimensional drawings. Paper or its electronic facsimiles pave the paths of communication between design and the constructed building. Bookkeeping is required for revisions and requests for information. The cellphone is relied on to clear up any ambiguities, adding its own layer of uncertainty and record keeping. If computer technology has benefited construction, the workers with the hammers in their hands have not seen it.

Productivity Benefits

Building Information Modeling Software such as the Autodesk Revit Structure used by Jason R. Schwyn Consulting has the potential to bring the same productivity benefits to construction that technological advances have brought to large sectors of the economy. The ability to construct the building virtually and share the information with all involved -- the owner, architect, engineers, contractors, fabricators, governing municipalities – creates the opportunity to streamline the construction process. The ambiguities of describing a three dimensional building in two dimension are alleviated. The owner can see what is planned while changes are less costly. Contractors can spot construction issues prior to incurring delays in the field. The architect can see how all disciplines interact in one representation of the final product instead of a mental model built from 5 different sets of plans. Building Information Modeling offers us the opportunity to insure we are all working on the same project.

Designing the Future

Jason R. Schwyn Consulting is dedicated to structural engineering’s role in building a stronger, more competitive industry. Building Information Modeling has the potential to bring the disparate disciplines and trades required for construction into a single team. Jason R. Schwyn Consulting intends to be a crucial member of that team. Working together with the tools Building Information Modeling provides us we can surpass the productivity gains other industries have experienced in the past. Together, we can build the future.

Jason R. Schwyn Consulting leads the way in the Business Information Modeling revolution.

Contact us to learn how we can solve your structural engineering challenges: (602) 320-2096