Most of you are aware of AWCI’s efforts in support of building information modeling. AWCI member John Rapaport has taken a very active lead in providing information and program for the membership as well as co-chairing AWCI’s Construction Management Technology Committee, which is part of AWCI’s Construction Technology Council. AWCI, in conjunction with the buildingSMART Alliance, is moving forward with the production of a library of wall types for use in an open source format for vendors of BIM software.
Another effort of the CMTC is continuing to develop the Carpenters First program that was kicked off at the convention last year. If you recall, I wrote a column about this program explaining its purpose, but there were a few who did not read the article, which led to some misunderstanding about what was going on. I want to once again go into some detail about what we are trying to achieve.
BIM is being touted as a collaborative method to produce drawings for the construction of buildings faster and more accurately than is currently being done with two dimension computer aided design methodology. With a few exceptions, the collaboration does not involve all parties involved in the project. Generally the mechanical, electrical and plumbing subcontractors are the only trades involved in the early stages. I can only assume that this is because the MEP trades have the biggest piece of any building project.
The interior trades, primarily wall and ceiling contractors, are often an afterthought in the process. John and I both feel this is a situation that needs to be corrected—hence, the Carpenters First project. Now we could have used the phrase "Interior Contractors First,” but that just does not have the ring we were looking for.
Why Should You Be There?
So why do we feel that we should have a seat at the table in the early stages of a BIM project? The simple answer is that we cover up all of the MEP work, and in doing so we also cover up many of the mistakes made by the MEP trades.
On how many projects have you worked where you show up to do a preconstruction walk-through and discover that the sprinkler piping is in direct conflict with the ceiling grid? You might also discover the ductwork is so close to the underside of the deck that you will have to hire a 4-year-old with a miniature screw gun to install the fire-rated wall that the ductwork is penetrating. The other major area of conflict is the plenum pollution created when the work was not designed or coordinated properly to begin with.
In a recent conversation I was told that architects involved in BIM do not think that interior contractors are relevant in the early stages of design. With this thinking how do we go about changing that mindset?
It is all about education. We must work with the GCs to help them understand what we as interior contractors can bring to the table.
Several AWCI members have been able to do just that with GCs who are heavily invested in BIM. Theses members have also made a commitment to the BIM process by designating a staff member to follow developments in BIM. These AWCI members understand that time and effort spent up front saves money at the end of the job and also eliminates the finger-pointing and lawsuits that often occur downstream.
Not only do the architects and GCs need to be educated, but the owners need to be brought onboard as well. Those owners who are repeat builders are probably an easier sell than the one-time builders. The repeat builders are also the ones who understand the value BIM brings to their projects. These owners are also deeply involved in the "cradle to grave” process and usually have a facilities management group involved in the design process. The facility management aspect of BIM is the prime reason that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the General Services Administration have made a significant investment in BIM.
The goal of AWCI is to give our members the tools needed to get to the table at the right time during the design collaboration process. This will not be easy, nor will it happen overnight. Consider this your personal invitation to join us this month at the next meeting of the Construction Management Technology Committee. It will be held during AWCI’s Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday, April 16, at 11:30 a.m.
Donald E. Smith, CCS, is AWCI’s director of technical services. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call him directly at (703) 538.1611.