Embracing the Future of on the Job Communication
Advances in human communication technology have completely changed the way we live our lives. Gone are the days of archaic communication such as smoke signals, telegraphs, and messenger pigeons. Today we have, literally, the world of information at our fingertips. Society has embraced these changes, and we have witnessed a complete overhaul in how we communicate with each other.
The same technological embrace also applies to business. Many of us can work with just a cell phone that allows us to drive the many aspects of business forward. We have incorporated new technology in how we communicate through the project management side of the business including design drawings, spec books, estimates, the scope of work, schedule of values, billings, etc.
How Design and Construction Drawings Have Changed over Time
In years past, before computer-aided drafting (CAD), construction drawings were fewer pages and with a lot fewer details. Before the age of computers, someone had to build the project in their mind, then draw every detail out by hand or cut it out of another set of blueprints and tape it into the new drawings. These were still very well-designed projects but without all the excess information. Typically, if a question came up that was not clear on the drawings, we could work with the GC superintendent. They knew how to build things. The RFI process at that time was to go ask your GC superintendent, and he will get you the answer.
Different Schools of Thought
As CAD drawings became the norm, the number of pages in each set of drawings grew and grew. Architectural and structural plans that use to be 60 pages became 150-200 pages because all kinds of details were added by the CAD team. There could be four or five additional details in each wall. Multiply that times 50 walls and you can see why the plans continued to grow in size. Furthermore, the quality of the drawings started to decrease as the number of pages increased. You had new AutoCAD draftsmen designing buildings who didn’t know how to actually construct these buildings. The design firms had an ever-growing catalog of details to pull from and began adding these details to drawings in ways that couldn’t be built in reality. This put an additional burden on the general contractor and subcontractors to figure out where the problems were and how to modify the design to make it work.
So, what is BIM?
Building Information Modeling or BIM is described by Autodesk, a BIM software company, as “an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.” This new program’s utilization had grown tremendously in the design community and with construction companies who had embraced technology as part of streamlining their business.
Just as drafting tables and mechanical pencils have been replaced by computers and big monitors, so it was with 2-D CAD being replaced by 3-D/BIM. I first became aware of 3-D CAD in manufacturing in the mid-’90s as it was growing in popularity. I was really intrigued to see a 3-D model rotated around and with the ability to zoom in and see the details; it was very impressive. At the time, there were some design firms starting to use it in construction, but the computing power did not meet the needs of these big computer files and this new type of software.