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Last trends of the AECO sector

BIM is gathering momentum in the water industry

Published: 22/05/2018

Country: United Arab Emirates
 In the landmark 2012 study The Business Value of BIM for Infrastructure SmartMarket Report, Dodge Data & Analytics looked at the emergence of BIM use in the infrastructure sector. While infrastructure as a whole lagged in BIM use behind general building at that time, the water sector was particularly slow to embrace BIM, with only 30% of respondents reporting that they implement BIM on half or more of their water projects, significantly fewer than those in other infrastructure sectors.

However, the latest study just published in May 2018, The Business Value of BIM for Water Projects SmartMarket Report, reveals that high BIM implementation has become quite common for at least two types of projects in this sector: water/wastewater treatment facilities and water-related mining/industrial projects. Currently, nearly half of the engineers, contractors and owners using BIM for these two project types do so on the majority of them (over 75%). And within two years, the percentage of BIM users operating at this high level of implementation will grow from nearly half to almost two thirds (61%) for water/wastewater projects.

BIM use in other parts of the water sector, specifically tunneling, linear infrastructure and hydroelectric projects, currently lags significantly behind water/wastewater treatment facilities and mining/industrial projects. But, as the chart shows, users forecast they will be dramatically increasing their use of BIM on those projects over the next two years.

To be clear, these findings are not an indication of the overall level of BIM adoption in this sector because they only represent the responses of those already using BIM for water projects. However, quantifying the degree to which those currently using BIM for water projects report that it adds value is particularly helpful, given the challenges this sector has faced in embracing BIM. The findings reveal that BIM users in this sector are increasingly committed to doing water projects with BIM, and their commitment grows as they experience the benefits of working with BIM.

Those benefits positively impact both the projects where BIM is deployed, and the individual businesses that have adopted and implemented it. The top-reported business benefit is the way that BIM enhances the ability for teams to work collaboratively, ranked by 58% of engineers, contractors and owners as one of the top three business benefits of BIM. This finding corresponds with an observation about the potential benefit of using BIM for water projects in the future that Guy Voss, director of business development at McCarthy Building Companies Inc., makes in an interview published as part of the SmartMarket Report: “BIM may allow owners to more readily embrace collaborative delivery, which then may have owners ultimately choose a more collaborative delivery procurement [than is common now]…I could see how BIM will allow people to collaborate better and more openly.”

More proof of the effectiveness of BIM’s impact on collaboration is displayed in the top project benefits experienced by those using BIM, specifically, better design solutions, reduced errors and omissions, and better ability to maintain quality. These project benefits are likely to have a positive downstream impact on cost and schedule control as well, so it is not surprising that the second highest business benefit reported by BIM users is increased client satisfaction.

These findings echo many previous studies on BIM done by Dodge Data & Analytics, which reveal the potent project and business benefits resulting from its use and its ability to support collaboration. However, one finding that is surprising in the water sector is the degree to which owners of water facilities are already interested in the ways in which they can capitalize on the 3D model during the operations phase, even though BIM use is still maturing in this sector. In fact, 86% of the study respondents report that BIM is being used during the operational phase, either for operations and maintenance activities or through integrating the model with asset management, or both. Currently, use for asset management is more common, with over half (56%) reporting a medium or higher level of use of models on their projects for this purpose.

The use of BIM in the operations phase of these facilities suggests that facility owners may be the most important drivers of wider BIM adoption for water projects in the future. The study reveals that not only do owners get better designed, higher quality projects when BIM is used, but they also have the potential to benefit from its use across the lifecycle of their facilities. Owners can champion BIM use in this sector by demanding a BIM implementation plan in their RFPs, and to optimize the benefits of BIM, they also need to provide a collaborative environment which will best leverage its benefits. As Voss states, “Owners choos[ing] to procure projects in a more collaborative way will be the best way to increase the use—and better the use—of BIM.”


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