BIM, Beyond Clash Detection

March 29, 2011

Late last week at an expo near Chicago, Ill., a group of visionaries and experts gathered to discuss the latest advances in building information modeling. What’s the next big thing with BIM (building information modeling)? Let’s put it this way—clash detection is yesterday’s news and taking BIM to the jobsite is no longer a far-off dream. It is reality.

In fact, Hannu Lindberg, application consultant, Tekla,, Espoo, Finland, kicked off the Second Annual Chicago BIM Expo by saying BIM is more than just clash detection. He demonstrated Tekla’s technology, which helps bring BIM to the field. This is enabled through integrations with Trimble,, Sunnyvale, Calif., and Vela Systems,, Burlington, Mass.

Lindberg also demonstrated the new Tekla BIMsight, which is a free clash detection and coordination product. While this application is free, it transitions nicely into using Tekla Structures, which will help the industry push BIM beyond clash detection and bring the technology to the jobsite.

Walsh: A Blueprint for BIM
The Walsh Group,, Chicago, Ill., has been doing BIM for nearly five years, and according to Dan Klancnik, chief virtual construction manager, The Walsh Group, the reason the construction company does BIM is primarily for the ROI (return on investment). Klancnik says BIM is a “tool to simulate and optimize construction before it is built.”

While BIM is a tool to enable an accelerated schedule and control cost, BIM is just a tool and doesn’t change the business values that have been in place for a number of years.

At the BIM Expo, Klancnik provided a current example where every sub is required to submit models on a large $1.4 billion construction project. He says, “You can’t build a structure like that on a modern schedule without using the tools.”

Klancnik says subcontractors are the backbone for BIM in construction, and it becomes very important to define scope early, as every project is different. As a general contractor, Walsh sets up a sub contract agreement when completing BIM projects. The agreement defines roles, model standards, file formats, collaboration standards, and clash-reporting standards, among other elements.

He indicates, in addition to the collaboration technology, it is still important to establish a working relationship with all project participants. “You need to know people. You need to know when they are really angry and you shouldn’t ask them for anything else, and when they are just kind of angry and you can ask them for one more thing,” says Klancnik. This can be developed through face-to-face meetings and interactions, which are good to still facilitate in addition to collaborating through the models.

One of the biggest headaches for Klancnik—and many contractors across the country—is trying to work with the most current model. This has been a problem in the construction industry for years, before BIM even hit the jobsite. In many cases there are ongoing changes to documents, which can quickly make the document out in the field outdated.

According to Klancnik, this is still a concern when working with BIM models. Construction companies need to learn how to address dysfunctional workflows and put new infrastructure and platform in place that allow for more seamless upload and download processes.

BIM at the Jobsite
A common theme throughout the entire BIM Expo was taking BIM to the field. This is something that is beginning to become a hot area for discussion in the construction industry recently.

Precision Midwest,, Warrenville, Ill., host company of the BIM Expo, demonstrated how robotics can help move BIM into the field by loading the model onto a Trimble LM80 device and collecting as-built data.

What’s next for the construction industry? Nicholas DiBitetto, building construction division manager, Precision Midwest, points to improving workflow from the office to the field, accessing information in the field, and more powerful hardware for the field such as tablet-based devices with task-based workflows. The good news is Dibitetto says a lot of construction companies already have the gear but aren’t using it to the full potential.

Fred Cardenas, product marketing manager, Meridian Systems,, Folsom, Calif., also demonstrated new technologies surrounding the concept of BIM in the field such as Meridian’s partnership with Tekla to move information back and forth from the field to the office.

RFID (radio-frequency identification) can help extend BIM even further through supply-chain management by tagging objects and tracking the location of materials. One emerging area is reverse RFID for indoor navigation. RFID tags can be place on a building to track labor and safety on a jobsite. While this concept is still emerging, it is one that will likely play a role in construction in the years to come.

BIM at the jobsite is already here and is being used by a number of construction companies. The technologies already exist to take BIM to the field. While this is the hot topic of discussion for many today, this is already a reality for the construction industry. Clash detection is yesterday’s news, BIM in the field is today’s news, and the true innovators in the construction industry are just beginning to graze the surface in search of the next big thing for BIM.