BIM for buildings, BIM for transportation, BIM for facilities management, the ever expanding use cases for BIM is taking the AEC industry by storm. But what about BIM in the water industry for water utility projects like water/wastewater management and hydroelectric plant management?
In the past, the water industry has been a slow adopter of building information modeling (BIM), but a 2018 report by Dodge Data & Analytics found that the sector has advanced its use of BIM, bringing it in line with other industries.
“The technical complexity of water projects, and the intensity of operations and asset management functions at completed facilities, all suggest that BIM offers great advantages for this sector,” claims the report which surveyed engineers, contractors, and owners in the sector.
One of the most prominent findings of the report is that BIM is being used big time during the operations and management (O&M) phase of the facilities. 86 percent of respondents report that the model is integrated with asset management and/or used to support O&M activities on at least some of their projects.
The Benefits of BIM
Ranking first among the benefits of BIM is greater collaboration across teams. Furthermore, respondents that work on BIM projects reported the following outcomes:
- Reduced errors and omissions
- Better ability to maintain quality
- Better design solutions
- Reduced conflicts and coordination problems
- Better communication from 3D visualization
Lessons Learned from a Water Authority
One example of BIM at work in the water industry is the Engineering Management Bureau in San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission Infrastructure Division. The use case is featured in the Dodge Data & Analytics report and division’s BIM journey and lessons learned sheds light on the benefits and challenges owners experience when working with BIM.
- Getting Started with BIM
When starting to work with a BIM project, Johanna Wong, the manager of the Engineering Management Bureau stresses that “it is critical to identify key projects where BIM offers the biggest bang for your buck…Do a little at a time because BIM is a big investment: time, money, resources.” The team recommends bringing in a consultant as early as possible in the process to assist in establishing a framework, goals, and BIM uses to focus on. Investing in training is also important, out of a staff of over 80, the division trained 15 to 20 people in addition to hiring those with BIM experience.
- BIM Execution Plan
Once the team identified projects that would benefit from BIM, project-specific execution plans were created. For example, during the procurement phase they changed requirements to inform contractors that BIM would be used on the project and that they would be required to update and populate the model with details of materials and equipment installed. Contractors were also expected to use BIM for visual presentation of project progress.
- BIM Benefits
Three main benefits to BIM use were reported. First, the ability to optimize facility layout in terms of space restraints, facility needs and complex processes. Second, being able to present information to stakeholders and facility users in an easy to understand information, review, and comment on it. Last, being able to bring data on disparate systems, such as structural and electrical models, equipment details, etc. into one location. This helped with clash detection during construction and would prove useful during the O&M phase of the facility.
Read the full Dodge Data & Analytics SmartMarket Report. And for more best practices and practical applications of BIM for water and wastewater projects check out this free, on-demand class from Autodesk University.