By Fred Meeske, Corporate Director of BIM Services, Rosendin
Many times, I’m asked why something is or is not when discussing Building Information Modeling (BIM) or technology adoption. While I wish I could say I know all these things because I’m so smart, the truth is I’m not that smart. What I am is part of a much bigger whole. Our team is full of learners and explorers just like me – where learning and innovation are not only welcomed but encouraged and nurtured here at Rosendin.
Rosendin’s leadership team challenges each of us every day, not to do the same things we have always done, but to continue learning, to get better, and never stop innovating. Not to be confused with chasing shiny objects or re-inventing the wheel each day, but more about being progressive, innovative, and measuring improvement from a relative position for accuracy. Innovation is a core value at Rosendin and one of the reasons for the continued success of our company and our brand as a whole.
To keep up in this rapidly changing world, Rosendin is leading the industry through a paradigm shift, where every construction company is becoming more of a technology company followed by their specific product or service activity. Over the past decade, BIM has been one of the cornerstones for this new dynamic at Rosendin.
What Technologies are We Leveraging and for What Purpose?
Rosendin’s BIM Department, in conjunction with our Information Technology and Engineering counterparts, are continuously investigating emerging technologies, developing custom software solutions, preparing training for the different regional business units and field staff, and collecting data for business performance analysis. We have experts from the field, coordination, packaging, prefabrication, modeling, engineering, project management, and many more all leveraging technology in some new way for our customers’ benefit and enhancement of our brand.
What is BIM?
BIM is primarily an operations tool, created from LEAN concepts, that provides an information-rich digital representation of the project all before the physical project is built in the real world. BIM enables the creation of an integrated system where estimating, preconstruction, design, field construction, safety, and quality control continuously and seamlessly share information related to the project in real-time.
I have seen our BIM Department grow from one individual to now more than 200 with experts in every area of construction (e.g., field, modeling, software development, prefabrication and packaging techniques, data science, augmented and virtual realities, and many other emerging technologies). Rosendin is not only committed to adopting available software and processes but to also lead the industry in developing custom solutions, ultimately increasing our performance and efficiency.
One way we have been doing this is through data science – the art of seeing relationships within the data that might not otherwise be readily apparent. These insights allow us to validate efficiency improvements to our process and continue to support decision-making processes. In one internal study, we reviewed projects that were completed and financially closed over the past 18 months. BIM projects were 9.1 percent more profitable compared to non-BIM based projects, and the results were statistically significant. Other more recent improvements in the BIM process enabled 70 percent fewer handoffs between teams – back and forth between the modeling and field teams – resulting in a cost reduction of 24 percent. In turn, our data analytics team continue to explore BIM-based efficiencies published by well-known and reputable publishing agencies.
What is VR and How is It Used?
Virtual Reality, or VR, is a technology that immerses a user in a 3-D, virtual world, completely blocking all view of the real external world. A challenge for BIM is having on-site access to the model for field staff, owners, project management, prefabrication and packaging teams, and engineering professionals to visualize. Leveraging VR for design-build projects can be challenging, whereas the field electrician and modeler reside at different geographical locations. The two can call each other and discuss modeled content looking at the same model in real-time.
Imagine having a piece of equipment such as a transformer that needs to be worked on and is recreated in a virtualized model. The user is trained on how to proceed with wiring and installation according to factory specifications in a virtual environment. During and upon completion, proper assessment is provided within time limits allowing for error and corrections before touching the live equipment. This touches quality, safety and operation performance of the equipment.
Our Version of AR and How Do We Use It?
Augmented Reality, or AR, is a technology that blends the real and virtual worlds by projecting virtual elements into the user’s view. Rosendin has leveraged AR by developing an in-house application referred to as the Sheet Viewer. The Sheet Viewer utilizes an iPad that allows users to easily interact with full-scale BIM models on-site and in a real-world environment without the cumbersome setup traditionally necessary for AR/VR experiences.
Over the past 18 months, the Sheet Viewer has been used for QA/QC and work planning processes on multiple Rosendin projects across the nation. During this time, the Sheet Viewer has offered many opportunities for efficiency improvements, reduction in layout time, improvement in accuracy, and overall quality, directly translating into labor cost savings. Our development team has received feedback from our field teams to improve the Sheet Viewer format and functionality. This constructive feedback allows our development teams to continuously provide innovative technologies that cater to the unique needs of the field.
The use of HoloLens while on-site has decreased the number of undetected clashes and associated change orders – less clashes to resolve due to increased process clarity results in less time and money from change orders. On one large complex manufacturing project, extensive use of AR is helping to achieve faster and more reliable clash detection between models and rapidly changing site conditions. On average, the HoloLens used are more than half of the overall model revision time, and the number of clashes detected has increased by up to three times compared to reviews without HoloLens – which would be statistically significant by any standard.
The most important thing that we express to our teams is that it’s about getting better. It matters where we’ve been, and much more where we wish to be. BIM is a participatory process, not a spectator sport. We must all move together providing value to each participant in the process.