Building Information Modeling

If popular trends often are viewed as a new wave, Building Information Modeling (BIM) in the construction industry can be considered an imminent tsunami.

Martha Blastow

If popular trends often are viewed as a Înew waveÌ, Building Information Modeling (BIM) in the construction industry can be considered an imminent tsunami. The power of that surge, however, could be enormously constructive for stakeholders throughout the design, fabrication, and delivery phases of a building project. Anticipating BIM’s widespread adoption, especially by architects and major project suppliers, the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) hosted one of the first producer-geared national workshops on the technology. Staged amid PCI Committee Days in Chicago, the early-spring workshop was held in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology, The Charles Pankow Foundation, and the National Institute of Building Sciences.

Program sponsors aimed to help PCI members transition from 2-D CAD to 3-D modeling through sessions themed Essentials of a Precast Concrete BIM Tool; Experiences of Precast Concrete Engineers and Contractors; Interoperability; Issues in Adopting BIM; and, an Adoption Case Study. Rounding out the event were a National BIM Standard planning meeting and presentations by modeling technology vendors Tekla, Structureworks, Revit Structures, and Bentley Structures.

PCI’s Charles Eastman introduced BIM to the 79 seminar attendees by describing its functions, including the creation of a 3-D model from which 2-D drawings Û plans, sections, and elevations Û can be extracted, as well as cost estimates, scheduling, and specifications. Additionally, BIM facilitates analyses, simulation and visualization to improve design, avoid spatial interferences, and minimize requests for information. Given the accuracy and ease of execution that BIM provides, Eastman affirmed, significant time and costs savings can be expected, since drawings under the CAD system typically comprised 50 percent of architects’ fees, and buildings now can be constructed exactly according to plan, making job-site adjustments unnecessary.

Defining features of a BIM tool tailored specifically to precast applications, Prof. Rafael Sacks of the Israel Institute of Technology (via webcast) highlighted its usefulness for product fabrication, delivery and erection. In particular, he noted, a precast BIM tool must address form stripping and product shipping, plus erection constraints. Using such a program can reduce cycle time 50 percent, from unit design to output, Sacks asserted.

Structural engineering consultant Wayne Kassian of Calgary, Alberta-based Kassian Dyck Associates related his experiences using BIM for recent projects, among them Eagle Ridge in Fort McMurray, Alberta, a multifamily residential development comprising seven precast buildings in its first phase; and, Ronald V. Joyce stadium in Hamilton, Ontario. Sold on 3-D modeling after successfully completing the projects without recourse to CAD, he advised those who are new to BIM to proceed without clinging to older technology. Plunge in, Kassian said. Don’t hang on to CAD because it’s familiar. But, start with simple, smaller projects and out-of-the-box [BIM] functions.

At his office, Kassian noted, standard details were imported from CAD, but all drawings were derived from the 3-D model. While customization of BIM elements can be done either intermittently during the first project or with entire libraries built ahead of time, his staff found it best to master the basics on smaller jobs before attempting something larger in scale. Also recommended was assigning a single person exclusively, if possible, to the BIM desk.

Firsthand accounts from Siegmund Skip Wolodkewitsch of The Shockey Precast Group and High Concrete’s Dave Foley offered additional perspectives on BIM’s application to precast design. As the supplier of 1,630 precast components totaling 30,000 sq. ft. of architectural precast for the University of Virginia Southlawn project, Shockey uploaded its model to a Tekla simulation provided by the structural steel erector to facilitate coordination among steel, precast, and mechanical/electrical/plumbing suppliers. Wolodkewitsch noted that 3-D modeling, implemented over 14 weeks, detailed the shape and location of precast units, identified steel interference, and aided the new Southlawn building’s coordinated erection.


Consistent with its aim to identify critical technologies and issues affecting the concrete industry, the American Concrete Institute-affiliated Strategic Development Council (SDC) made Building Information Modeling and Sustainability foremost on the agenda of its Spring 2008 meeting. During their late-April gathering in Irving, Texas, SDC members acknowledged the need for concrete industry professionals to work with engineers, contractors, fabricators, software developers, and code developers to identify and remove barriers to the increased use of 3-D modeling methods, identifying BIM as an Industry Critical Technology. Council member and Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute (CRSI) President Bob Risser agreed to serve as BIM’s industry champion.

SDC recognizes BIM as a prominent issue in today’s construction industry, said SDC Managing Director Douglas Sordyl. We are committed to begin work on the BIM initiative to ensure the concrete industry has a smooth transition toward this emerging technology, and we plan to work with software developers to assure an effective integration of concrete options.

Beyond BIM, the meeting saw a review of the sixth draft of SDC’s Concrete Sustainability Vision & Roadmap, championed by Holcim’s J.C. Roumain. Moreover, the Vision 2020-Repair/Protection Council met to discuss a proposed, major repair research initiative. SDC’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct 8-10 in Palm Harbor, Fla. Industry stakeholders interested in Council membership or fall meeting participation are encouraged to contact Doug Sordyl, 248/848-3755, or visit