3 Structures That Were Nearly Impossible to Build Without BIM

November 15, 2018

Every skyscraper reaching for the heavens starts with an architect with their head in the clouds. Burj Khalifa in Dubai, Absolute World Towers in Ontario, Transamerica Pyramid Centre in San Francisco — all of these structures started with an idea and a little bit of ego.

Today, architects are pushing the boundaries of construction capability. They paint city skylines with intricate steel frescos. But, a painter is nothing without their paintbrush — the brush of choice for construction design, the tool that makes these unbelievable buildings possible, is building information modelling. BIM is the most important creative tool for construction workers today.

BIM is an important asset throughout every phase of a construction project for a number of reasons:

Design — Construction professionals can visualise just about any element of a project before breaking ground by bringing various components to life through 3D modelling.

  • Collaboration — Architects can easily share data and progress with their team and clients thanks to real-time design updates shared in the cloud.
  • Maintenance — Clients can use BIM information after construction is complete to maintain building operations and reduce running costs.

To better understand the utility of this software for construction design, let’s explore a few impressive structures that would have never existed if it were not for BIM.

Tesla Gigafactory

BIM eliminates the guesswork of design and extends the capabilities of architecture far beyond pen and paper. This technology offers the precision architects need to visualise increasingly complex structures and confirm the reliability of component interaction with greater efficiency and certainty.

The Tesla Gigafactory — a 5.5 million square foot factory which is advertised as “the world's largest building by footprint” — was made possible thanks to BIM. Tesla and its construction partners facilitated design, detailing, fabrication, and erection of five buildings, which totalled 3.8 million square feet in new structures, using HD BIM technology.

BIM software was used to plan 32,000 tons of structural steel and 9,500 tons of rebar, plus all design, rebar shop, and steel shop drawings were produced using the 3D modeling capabilities of this technology.

Daytona International Speedway Grandstand

The Daytona International Speedway in Florida is not only one of the most iconic racetracks in the world, and home to the NASCAR race the Daytona 500, but it is also a highly complex structure in and of itself.

In 2016, the speedway underwent a $400 million, multi-year refurbishment called “Daytona Rising.” The project expanded structure entrances, added new social areas and luxury suites, and included a comprehensive grandstand redesign.

The grandstand was one of the most significant upgrades of Daytona Rising, and a structure of this magnitude posed an all-too-common challenge: gaps in communication among separate teams. Several construction trades — each with their own internal processes and requirements — worked on the grandstand at once. Anyone with experience in the field knows this situation is prone to confusion or delays. And yet, thanks to BIM collaborative features, teams were able to communicate with one another effectively.

Using BIM services and software, various trades that would otherwise operate siloed from one another were able to coordinate their requirements into a central, easy-to-use digital platform. Whether reviewing structural dimensions, confirming metal models, or collaborating on design, BIM coordination helped align the goals of Daytona Rising.

University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts

The University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts is one of the most prestigious film and media programs in the world. Naturally, this department is concerned with cutting-edge technology, so at the behest of their donor LucasFilm Foundation, the university decided to remodel their historic building using BIM technology.  

BIM was useful throughout every phase of the construction project. In phase one, the design team used 3D modelling for clash detection, collaboration with sub-contractors, and to simulate structural options before ordering materials. The efficiency gained through 3D modelling helped save both time and money. But, this is only half of the ROI the university experienced thanks to BIM. True value came after the building was completed.

USC took BIM capabilities a step further by populating digital models with data relevant to facilities management. Building information embedded in BIM models becomes important to day-to-day upkeep after construction for a number of reasons. Building energy conservation, maintenance requirements, and even future remodelling opportunities are uncovered thanks to information-rich models.

Whether used for 3D modelling, bridging communication gaps among teams, or maintaining a building after project completion, BIM is an invaluable tool every construction pro should have in their toolbox.

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