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Federal Agencies Tackle BIM Challenges

Federal Agencies Tackle BIM Challenges

Summer 2011

Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology has added 3D along with intelligence to objects in designs and enabled non-architects to “see” what they couldn’t by just looking at traditional two-dimensional drawings. BIM first added the third dimension to 2D drawings to make them more lifelike, and now is moving into the 4D realm — adding time/scheduling — and even adding costs as a fifth dimension.

As designs move from 2D to 3D and beyond, models are needed to provide different kinds of information. This presents all project owners and procurers with dilemmas on how to best take advantage of BIM. Some U.S. government agencies are tackling those dilemmas and developing with requests and specifications that are both pleasing and challenging to the industry. But information management solutions are works in progress.

Four key federal agencies — General Services Administration (GSA); the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the U.S. Air Force; and Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) — report that they all want to ratchet up BIM’s usability to include importing geographic information systems (GIS) electrical, mechanical, structural and plumbing data. In addition, integration with data to meet building management or facility management (FM) needs would be valuable.

No one-size-fits-all method of delivering BIM information yet exists. GSA, a longtime proponent of BIM, believes that working with the industry will produce the best results. The agency gathers data on various needs, processes and workflows used by project participants and likes to do pilot projects before rolling out guidelines or specifications, says Peggy Yee, program specialist for GSA’s BIM program.

The Corps chose Bentley BIM as its platform early on and mandated it on submissions to its Centers of Standardization—a controversial move — until just recently when the Corps announced they were moving to “platform neutral.” Now individual project RFQs and RFPs will spell out whether Bentley, Autodesk Revit or no specified platform is to be used. The U.S. Air Force, about 80 percent to 90 percent of whose construction projects are handled through the Corps or NAVFAC, committed to Autodesk’s products after a lot of input from the A/E/C community, so industry players can figure that the Corps will specify Revit when awarding an Air Force job.

NAVFAC’s chief engineer, Joseph Gott, says delivery of BIM models in PDF format is of low value. NAVFAC has been slower to formulate a BIM policy but plans to release one in 2012.

More information on BIM will be included in the Design-Build Manual of Practice chapter to be released in July 2011.

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