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Empowering Project Managers by Extending BIM Beyond Preconstruction

April 3, 2024
MEP contractors using BIM during the design phase are leveraging the model as a collaborative source of data throughout the project.

Construction projects are bigger and more complex than ever, making project management and execution an increasingly difficult job. While others may be responsible for particular tasks or defined roles, project managers must be a “jack of all trades,” keeping tabs on everything from labor, accounting and job costing to inventory, materials, and compliance. Then there’s the project itself, which may involve coordinating with other subcontractors, dealing with change orders and submittals, and ensuring that ever-changing plans are up to date for everyone working on the project.

Project management becomes even more complex when disconnected systems keep data locked up in silos. However, with a growing number of MEP contractors already investing in building information modeling (BIM) during the design phase, a logical next step is to leverage the model as a collaborative source of data throughout the project, which can help ease communication and collaboration challenges across a project.  

Leveraging BIM for Complete Visibility

A growing number of MEP contractors are extending the value of BIM beyond the office to project managers in the field using cloud-based collaboration platforms that provide visibility and access to the 3D model.

Having a 3D model available for a project unlocks more than just space coordination. 3D models can be used to report quantities; track the progress of fabrication, installation, and other project milestones; visualize prefabrication packages; and to supplement RFIs, change orders and daily reports with model information. Contractors can also extract valuable data from model components, including material, size, labor rates, cost codes and more.

Huntsville, Alabama-based contractor HC Blake, for example, has implemented a fully integrated workflow that gives field teams access to constructible models from the jobsite. This enables them to build confidently from the coordinated model with visibility to real-world dimensions of building materials.

“By using the model, I don't need to print out a dimension drawing [for the field], they can pull it themselves. Between handling phone calls, printing out the drawing, and having it driven out to the site, we’re easily saving one or two hours for each dimension request by using the model,” said Mark Campo, Director, VDC department at HC Blake. 

This type of visibility, along with the ability to use the model as a collaboration tool and a centralized source of information throughout the project, provides big benefits for project managers, including:

●      Time-saving Collaboration. Project managers can collaborate from anywhere at any time with project teams, offices or remote teams without costly specialized CAD software or training. Everyone has access to a single source of truth and up-to-date project data for collaborative decision-making, and the model can be used for real world procurement, fabrication, and installation. 

●      Efficiency and Preventing Rework. By extending the use of BIM in the field, project managers can make decisions on the spot without driving to the office to view changes or current specs. They can even utilize augmented reality technologies to visualize the model on site, see what it should look like and compare it to the real world with digital models at 1:1 scale. This makes it easier to communicate back with the design team and enable the project team to detect errors, observe omissions, and visually collaborate to resolve them and prevent costly rework.

●      Visualization and Completion Tracking. With model-based status tracking, project data is available throughout the entire construction workflow, and the project manager can visualize the progress within the model whenever they need to, thereby eliminating the need for a phone call or email asking for a status update. In addition, by working from a model to track completion, project managers can track statuses of work not started, in progress or completed, allowing them to more accurately bill for work completed and get paid faster. It also helps them better understand how long certain tasks take in the field, which allows for more accurate project bidding and planning in the future.

●      More Accurate, Efficient Procurement. The model can include additional data, such as the size and type of materials, labor rate, cost code and quantities, which can then be used to create the bill of materials (BOM). After leveraging the model to generate the BOM, it can be sent to the digital ordering platform where the project manager can obtain quotes, review and validate the items, and order directly from their local supplier. 

●      Communicate Issues and Changes. By linking a specific BIM view to show the need for a change, project managers can help improve the response times for RFIs and change orders. This makes it easy for all construction stakeholders to quickly understand the full context of changes and what is needed to keep building. When everyone works from the same model, they can see issues in the model and who is working to address them, which can also prevent miscommunication later down the road.

●      Hedge Risk by Capturing Project Information. BIM models, 2D drawings, and other project documents are stored in one place and accessible via the cloud, so everyone is working from current information and is notified when revisions are made. This also creates an audit trail, lowering the risk of disputes and making it easy for project managers to answer questions about what happened and when.

HC Blake has experienced many of these benefits firsthand, including saving both time and money by catching mistakes sooner. Being able to visually share what the building looks like before it is built helps them save time and improve efficiency. In addition, they can see how the systems should be constructed and if there’s a mistake, they can spot it a lot faster in a 3D model than in a 2D drawing and correct it in the software.

Advances in cloud collaboration platforms and project management solutions are making it easy for MEP contractors to extend the value of BIM beyond preconstruction to help project managers plan better, work smarter and adapt to changes. By democratizing the model so it is available across the entire project, project managers are empowered to deliver better outcomes, lower risk, and increase profitability.

Natalie Abshier is a Product Manager for ProjectSight at Trimble with over 30 years of experience in construction project management. Her breadth of experience includes serving as a project manager for a mechanical contractor, implementing software for large contractors and founding two project management software companies.  She is passionate about advancing technology in construction to improve outcomes for MEP contractors. For more information visit,

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