Building Information Modeling (BIM) value for renovations and upgrades

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Building Information Modeling (BIM) value for renovations and upgrades

Bronson Healthcare Group's apples-to-apples pilot project comparison




Dueling Projects


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A head-to-head comparison of adjacent renovation projects (one with Building Information Modeling (BIM) and one without) has put to rest the question of whether BIM pays off for small-scale facility upgrades.

First Step of a BIM Execution Plan

Bronson Healthcare Group, which operates three hospitals with a combined total of 3.1 million sf, has launched a campus-wide BIM Execution Plan which includes creating BIM models of all existing buildings, and integrating BIM with operations and maintenance systems.

The first step of the plan was to demonstrate the value of BIM with an apples-to-apples project analysis, comparing a just-finished renovation using CAD with a second one using BIM.

“Both projects are adjacent to the same occupied space. It was key for us to be able to get that comparison with the complexities of the space being the same for both projects,” says Michael DiFranco, manager of facility planning and development for Bronson.

Pilot Project Results

The first project, a $3 million renovation to construct four catheterization labs, was started in November 2008 and finished in May 2009. This project came in 2.6 percent, or approximately $80,000, under budget. The contingency value spend was 7.4 percent and the MEP field coordination spend was 3 percent. There were 19 change order requests and no reduction in construction time. DiFranco says the numbers are typical for a project this size.

The second project was the renovation/addition of a new 13-bed prep/recovery unit adjacent to the catheterization labs. The $1.7 million project, which used BIM, was started in January 2011 and completed six months later.

Bronson nearly quadrupled its savings on the prep/recovery unit, which came in almost $160,000, or 9.2 percent, under budget. The contingency value dropped by 75 percent due to the upfront coordination work within the field and between trades. The MEP field coordination was only $1,700 on the $1.7 million project. More importantly, there were only five change order requests and the project was completed three weeks early. The end result was a savings of $1.4 million. It was essential to complete the prep/recovery unit as quickly as possible since it supports the catheterization labs, which generate nearly $1 million per week in revenue.

Why Use BIM?

“The biggest benefit of using BIM is coordinating construction virtually instead of in the field. This has long been the advantage of BIM on large projects,” says Karl Kowalske, principal at Diekema Hamann, the architect and engineer of record for the Bronson projects. “We wanted to see if there was a way to implement the tools on smaller, intensive renovation projects. We have been able to develop trust with all parties, including the contractors and owner, in the process.”

DiFranco says team building and developing trust between all parties are important benefits of using BIM. Other important points to consider when deciding to use BIM are lifecycle value applications, justification of the BIM fee, and new regulatory pressures. BIM can be used as a tool to help regulators better visualize what Bronson is trying to achieve when it submits drawings for review and when it is undergoing accreditation inspections.

“We have new pressures coming upon us from the Healthcare Consumer Assessment of Hospital Providers and Services. Since the standards take into consideration the patient environment, it is important to reduce noise and the general rigors of construction,” says DiFranco. “With our test BIM project coming in three weeks early on a six-month schedule, we feel that BIM is also a tool to reduce our downtime and to provide a safer, more quiet, and comfortable healing environment for our patients and their families.”

BIM creates many benefits, but using this tool is not free, especially when the owner specifies a data-rich model designed for ongoing facility management use. Kowalske says paying the architect/engineer to develop the BIM documents typically results in savings for the owner.

“The hypothesis of the entire Bronson experiment was to show that the most efficient way to coordinate projects is to do it virtually prior to construction with the architect/engineer building the BIM model,” says Kowalske. “Ultimately, the goals are to reduce waste and save the owner money on the overall project.”

The BIM fee lets all parties know in advance that they need to quantify results to pay the fee and to show a return on investment. The BIM fee for the prep/recovery unit project was about $40,000.

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Lessons Learned

“I urge everyone to create an execution plan because it formalizes the informal and that’s important as you embark on this journey,” notes DiFranco. “The creation of our BIM execution plan was paramount to our success. It was not developed only as a tool for us to administer the BIM implementation, but also as a collaborative, living document. When questions arise during a project, they can most likely be answered with a quick glimpse at the plan. In the rare instance that something is not covered, we are able to have discussions and add information, making the plan even more robust and comprehensive.”

The Bronson plan specifies that the architectural firm maintains the model throughout every project and performs the clash detection. The plan defines the BIM goals and the deliverables for lifecycle management; outlines requirements for each party; specifies the software and hardware requirements; and also provides information regarding collaboration site usage, file naming conventions, model accuracy and tolerances, level of development definitions, and MEP color coding.

Having a detailed plan also reduces the potential for handoffs and creates a more consistent process. DiFranco stresses that information is often misinterpreted when it is handed from one party to another. Handoffs are error-prone and can result in lost information between the owner, architect, and contractor. That is precisely why Bronson opted to permit the architect to maintain control of the model throughout the design, coordination, and construction phases.   

Letting one party maintain the model throughout the project, rather than handing it off to various parties, is important to avoid misinformation and mistakes. Not having handoffs keeps the knowledge flow consistent and at a high level during the entire process. Maintaining consistency throughout the project builds trust among stakeholders.

“Another important lesson for us involved the unanticipated timeline impacts we encountered,” says DiFranco. “When we finished projects earlier than expected, our staff was not prepared, and we had not received our fixtures, furniture, and equipment. Moving forward, we will be able to quantify that better and work with our users to keep them informed of our schedule.”

DiFranco also recommends that organizations considering the use of BIM perform an internal training needs evaluation of their staff, and assess the competency of construction firms, architects, and engineers that will be employed to gauge their BIM acumen. 

Moving Forward

Bronson’s successful use of BIM on the prep/recovery unit is being expanded to larger projects. The modeling process is now being used on the $5 million construction of a 25-bed unit that began in April 2011. The work is being done directly below a neonatal unit, making it imperative to complete the work as quickly as possible, control infection hazards, and keep the noise and vibration to a minimum. BIM was used to complete the MEP coordination during demolition, which helped shorten the timeline.

The trust earned on previous projects enabled Bronson to work with the HVAC contractor to decrease its bid by more than $100,000, and convince the construction management firm to reduce the contingency from 8 to 2 ½ percent. The changes saved Bronson approximately $350,000 off the top of the project.

Going forward, using BIM as a visualization tool will be important to show end users the finished project. This will make it easier to create buy-in from all stakeholders and to ultimately achieve success with each project. BIM also can be used to assist with space planning, move management, facility maintenance, work order efficiency, and asset tracking.

“All future projects will utilize BIM. We see BIM as a key to reducing our lifecycle costs,” says DiFranco. “By enriching our models with relevant, useful information, we can better maintain our assets, make our staff more productive, and reduce costs.”

By Tracy Carbasho

This report is based on a presentation given by DiFranco at The Lean Facility Lifecycle conference in March. 

For more information on the above report, please contact the Tradeline Editor

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