Part 3 - Building Information Modeling Case Study from the Marshall Space Flight Center

By Tal Wammen

Ed note: This is part three of a three-part article on this subject. The first part appeared on June 7 and the second part appeared on June 14.

What are future steps toward newer BIM processes?
Implementing new technologies into a set of existing processes is one of the hardest things for any organization to do. BIM is not only very expensive, but it is also very time-consuming and takes patience to see the benefits. In order to be successful, the transition must be based upon a sound, comprehensive strategy. An organization has to look at the big picture, gather the strategies that it uses currently, and figure out how newer technologies can be implemented. The first issue to be addressed is how existing documentation would be utilized by the new process. Guidelines need to be developed for the implementation of the new design methods because the transition is not as simple as a new software update, but rather to a completely new design process.

Once the transition is laid out, a BIM team needs to be assembled to begin the change process. The team must be made up of people from a variety of disciplines - not just CAD operators - to allow the transition to be viewed from different perspectives. It is the team's duty to analyze the existing tools and lay out the new design process using BIM. The team needs to organize the new software and the training that will be needed. These new processes should take place continuously throughout the course of a new project, as a form of learning on the job. This is done to prevent lost productivity during the learning and then implementation phases.

Once the new team and process are defined and adequate training has been completed, the first BIM project can be selected. It is easiest to begin with a project that has already been done before, something the firm or organization knows how to do. The goal is to catch mistakes since the project is familiar to the design team. This allows the users to see the productivity they are gaining using the BIM methods. After this project is complete, the team will feel more comfortable with the new process and will be able to move forward with new projects, learning and adapting as they go along. Some good examples of transition and implementation can be seen in the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard. (See Case Study 2 in Appendix 1 (PDF).)

What would BIM implementation cost?
As part of the research process, MSFC used a Bentley BIM consultant to analyze existing processes and recommend a plan for implementing BIM. During the analysis, it became evident that MSFC was performing at a high BIM level, but came up just short with the modeling software that could push it to the top. As part of the recommendations for implementing BIM, Bentley proposed a workshop with the group to showcase newer BIM technologies and processes. From the workshop, Marshall could then analyze the software and its results, and then make a decision on whether or not to utilize BIM's full capabilities. There were separate expenses for the workshop.

In closing, Marshall Space Flight Center is currently doing BIM. On the surface, MSFC may not match the standard, but enough processes are in use that it can certainly be classified as BIM. In place of the BIM accredited model, the FacGIS is a revolutionary tool that is essential to the design and construction of facilities projects. While using the FacGIS, MSFC is performing BIM processes on almost every level. MSFC does not feel that a BIM accredited model needs to be mandated to increase productivity, as its current process is very dynamic and efficient. With the time and money needed to fully implement BIM models, the return on investment would simply not be great enough for MSFC. Looking toward the future, NASA will always investigate newer technologies that can help with project design and construction. Marshall Space Flight Center will continue with the development of the FacGIS and investigating new technologies, making the appropriate advancements to keep up with today's ever growing technology fields.

Ed. note: Some specific cost figures were removed after this article was published at the request of the author.

Published Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Written by Tal Wammen

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