The 3-D craze isn’t only confined to your local multiplex. It’s breaking out a new dimension (literally and figuratively) in hotel construction projects thanks to the advent of building information modeling (BIM). The concept has existed since 1987 but has only recently begun to gain traction in the lodging industry. BIM enables the design team to create a virtual 3-D blueprint and share it with property owners, contractors, and subcontractors so that all parties are working off the same information. While the use of BIM requires additional investment of time and money up front, that is theoretically balanced out (and then some) by its steady construction process and by its elimination of the conflicts that can arise due to less precise planning.
For example, say you have a mechanical contractor running air ducts, another contractor installing sprinkler piping, and a plumber putting in sanitary lines, and they all have to run in the same general space with no room to spare. If the process isn’t coordinated with precision, you’ll encounter conflicts and may even need to do the same work twice.
“With the BIM model, they draw everything three-dimensionally on the computer and you can fly through it,” says Bruce Collins, director of develop- ment for OTO Development in Spartanburg, S.C., who started using BIM about a year ago. “On an engineer’s two-dimensional drawing, they might draw the width of a piece of duct, but they don’t show it jogging up or down unless they know they’re moving from one floor to another. The BIM allows you to discover issues prior to construction rather than discovering them in the field.”
As important as the 3-D modeling is, equally vital is the collaborative aspect of BIM that forces clear communication. Everything is documented in a central location and all updates can be tracked by anyone at anytime. And the usefulness of BIM does not expire when the project the engineers, all the sub-contractors. And through that, you get buy-in from everybody.
As important as the 3-D modeling is, equally vital is the collaborative aspect of BIM that forces clear communication. Everything is documented in a central location and all updates can be tracked by anyone at anytime. And the usefulness of BIM does not expire when the project is complete. “At the end of the construction process, the BIM model can serve as management software for the building in scheduling maintenance and ordering materials and equipment,” says Jason Kliwinski, president and founder of Designs for Life, a green design and construction firm based in Lambertville, N.J.
The key to making BIM work is that everyone involved commits to the process. As with all things involving cutting-edge technology, there will be old-school professionals who don’t fully embrace it. “Whether you’ll find success is all in how you manage it,” says Nick Gisewite, a project manager with Turner Construction who recently used BIM in erecting the new Hilton Garden Inn in Washington, D.C.’s West End neighborhood. “It’s about creating a team environment where you engage all the parties: the owner, the architect,the engineers, all the sub-contractors. And through that, you get buy-in from everybody.
“At the beginning of the process, you might have 20 people, spread all over the country, get on a call and work off of one screen, modeling while you work through teleconferencing and videoconferencing,” Gisewite adds. “Some of our engineers were not comfortable working in that environment at first. So there is a learning curve. But if everybody is willing to learn, you can get there with relatively little pain.”
BIM is still in the very early stages of catching on in the hotel industry. Kliwinski notes that BIM is “typically only discussed for large new construction” or major renovation projects, as smaller hotels outside major metropolitan areas don’t warrant its use. Collins estimates that only about 5 to 10 percent of OTO’s new projects are incorporating BIM. But he says, “Now that we’ve experienced the benefits, we’re trying to push it more and more.”
Gisewite projects a similar upward trajectory for BIM. “I think it’s the way of the future,” he says. “If you’re not using it now, you will be using it soon, and if you don’t, you’ll be out of the game.”