5 Reasons BIM is No Longer Enough for the MEP Contractor

June 13, 2019

There’s no arguing the fact that the introduction of Building Information Modeling (BIM), and the data-rich 3D models that are synonymous with it, revolutionized construction when it appeared on the scene. By taking building plans off the 2D plane and creating a hyper-detailed, highly-visual 3D digital representation of a structure, construction pros at every stage of a project were better able to visualize completed projects, coordinate sticky scheduling and fabrication complications, and generally, get to a successful project completion faster and more efficiently.

But, nothing in construction — and especially construction technology — remains stagnant. The features of BIM software and the skills of BIM practitioners have advanced dramatically since it first appeared. So, it’s not surprising at all to discover that the optimal constructible workflow has also evolved to keep pace with what’s now possible. Meanwhile, the highly competitive nature of the industry hasn’t changed at all. As a result, companies needing to remain competitive have found that BIM itself is simply no longer enough.

For MEP contractors, this issue has become particularly pressing because the need for evolution exerts pressure from all sides, but relatively thin profit margins and heavy competition for subcontracting agreements makes investment in new technology appear daunting. Many MEP contractors simply aren’t sure how to approach a risk/reward assessment of the situation, so the safest choice seems to be sticking to the status quo.

But, that’s a dangerous strategy to follow.

Below, we’re going to briefly touch on five reasons why BIM alone is simply no longer enough for MEP contractors. But first, we’ll introduce you to what’s now available to take your project workflows well beyond BIM: The Constructible Process.



The Constructible Process

The Constructible Process is the means by which MEP contractors can successfully move beyond standard BIM and truly unify their workflow while coordinating effectively with all other project stages.

The core of The Trimble Constructible Process is The 3 Cs:

  1. All phases and trades are Connected
  2. Models and workflows are Content-Enabled
  3. Constructible models drive smarter workflows

This isn’t just a collection of buzzwords. It’s a proven process by which construction professionals at every phase of a project can enhance profitability, boost their own standards for quality, speed, and efficiency, and work collaboratively to improve the end product for all stakeholders.

The Constructible Process is a powerful tool for MEP contractors in particular. Here are five reasons why — couched in the steps that make up the standard MEP workflow.


How The Constructible Process enhances the MEP workflow

Standard BIM processes require the following basic MEP workflow:

  1. 2D drawings from architects and structural engineers are converted into 3D models
  2. 3D drawings are used for clash identification, visualization, and collaboration within the company or, sometimes, between project phases
  3. 2D drawings are generated again to fulfill contractual documentation needs and/or to facilitate fabrication or ongoing collaboration up and down the workflow

Rather than starting with 2D architectural and structural design drawings, manually converting them into 3D models using software like Autodesk Revit or SketchUp, then reproducing more 2D drawings and schematics as needed by fabricators, installers, and professionals in other departments, The Constructible Process allows for the use of the same content-enabled, constructible models throughout the entire building project.

As a result, MEP contractors can capitalize on the clash identification, visualization, and data-rich benefits of these models while avoiding the potential problems inherent in every manual process. And, the information contained in the model can be updated once with the new version becoming instantly available to all stakeholders in real-time.

By fully utilizing the available technology and adopting a more collaborative approach to complete project management, MEP contractors can start building beyond BIM.

Get your free copy of The MEP Contractor’s Guide to Constructibility


5 Reasons BIM is No Longer Enough...


#1. BIM alone does not guarantee designs are constructible

When architects and structural engineers produce 3D models to communicate their designs, they’re not yet constructible models. But, they do provide the foundation for what will eventually become constructible models, and they save the time and effort it would take for structural engineers and MEP detailers to convert their designs into models that can be used from that point on.

The amount of information delivered by 3D models is variable. The industry term for this is level of development (LOD). LOD is the metric by which BIM model detail is measured. This measurement denotes the degree to which a model component reliably informs a user about geometry and other information. LOD tiers are aligned with industry standards and describe the types of information models can contain:

  • LOD 200 - At this level, basic geometric measurements are included and primary equipment shows up as boxes that cover the maximum space required for the component. This level should not be considered build-ready, but rather a general outline.

  • LOD 300 - At this level, much of the ambiguity of the LOD 200 model has been clarified as all components are modeled with specific quantity, size, shape, location and orientation. It’s considered adequate for some fabrication and most installation. This is the LOD required by most contracts that require BIM deliverables.

  • LOD 350 - This level adds an important element to the above by informing how components and complete building systems interact with other building systems.

  • LOD 400 - Models developed to this level will include detailing, fabrication, assembly, and installation information.

  • LOD 500 - The highest possible LOD, as it is field verified to be “as-built” — a digital twin to the physical component.

If the architect and structural engineer have provided a 3D model with components at an adequate LOD, MEP estimates and job submittals can be completed more quickly and efficiently using software solutions designed to coordinate each component of the model to a completed estimate and/or job submittal package. Once the job is won, the ability to use the same constructible model to move from the initial estimate into project takeoff also saves precious time while adding to the model’s robust backbone of valuable data.


#2. BIM alone does not coordinate the detailing

MEP detailers are responsible for zooming into the initial design or model and determining how to apply practical engineering and construction knowledge and experience to designing the structure’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. However, BIM on its own does not offer the cross-departmental collaboration most projects need to overcome timeline and financial obstacles.

Impacting both fabrication and installation, the use of collaborative, constructible 3D models throughout this stage allows for proactive clash detection, reduction of bottlenecks, and faster collaboration with the architect, structural engineers, and even the owner. Taking advantage of these opportunities, the MEP detailer can save a tremendous amount of time and money on both ends of the project and help produce a better product overall.


#3. BIM alone does not optimize the fabrication process

For all its utility in the design phase, the usefulness of BIM falls off as your project enters fabrication. Like any construction phase, MEP fabricators require project information specific to their day-to-day tasks, and standard BIM simply does not have this capability.

The answer: content-enabled models.   

By passing a content-enabled, constructible model to the fabrication shop, detailers and project managers offer shop managers all the benefits of that data, including greater confidence in the measurements and instructions provided. With the right solutions installed, data from the 3D models can be seamlessly integrated with cutting machine automation platforms, enhancing the fabrication process even more. At this stage, the model’s value to the scheduling and budgeting aspects of project management improves efficiency and reduces costly waste.


#4. BIM alone does not ensure fast and efficient installation

By default, BIM lacks any in-depth information about real-world installation. Subcontractors in the field are not particularly concerned with design files — they need actionable details on how parts are to be fitted or how components interact.

The installation phase is improved in much the same way as fabrication using constructible models. By taking advantage of the right technology, every subcontractor, foreman, and manager on the jobsite has access to the same information. Collaboration can happen in real time as needed, streamlining budgets and schedules. As a result, every aspect of the complex building process becomes more efficient and profitable.


#5. BIM alone does not facilitate long-term structural maintenance

All too often, BIM becomes an obsolete asset after completion of a project. All of this important building information goes to waste once the structure is operational. In most projects it isn’t made clear just how valuable content-enabled models can be for ongoing maintenance initiatives.

Even after the project is completed, The Constructible Process offers benefits for owners and facility managers who can use the as-built constructible models as robust reference material to inform ongoing maintenance requirements, energy and space optimization, and future remodel or upgrade projects. The ability to pass along as-built constructible models to a new owner could even increase the resale value of the property.


Are you ready to go beyond BIM?

Following The Constructible Process is the key to a successful building project workflow for MEP contractors in the modern construction environment. No other process incorporates the most advantageous technology and best practices in the same seamlessly-connected way — producing optimal speed, efficiency, and profitability without sacrificing quality.

If you’re ready to explore The Constructible Process further, start by downloading your free copy of The MEP Contractor’s Guide to Constructibility.


Get your free copy of The MEP Contractor’s Guide to Constructibility

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