BIM | CIM Implementation: Reducing Design Errors and Improving Collaboration

The Challenges and Benefits of Implementing a BIM | CIM Design

Implementing a true BIM | CIM design and project, especially your first one, is not accomplished easily. There will most definitely be some hiccups and some growing pains experienced along the way. You may even find yourself reaching a breaking point of frustration where you think that the only viable option is to go into survival mode and let old habits kick in, essentially abandoning the model completely and reverting to throwing some additional 2D components on the plans to make sure the printouts and the final deliverable(s) look good.

If you or your company has any intention of handing off design models electronically to a client or contractor, or if there is an expectation for you to produce an as built model after construction, this finishing touch workflow of adding 2D components will not put you in an ideal situation, as it will be much more difficult to update your model dynamically later on through the remaining phases of the project.

As most of you know, traditionally, design costs and efforts typically take the biggest hits during the intermediate and final design phases of a project. With a fully implemented BIM | CIM project design, costs will be more front loaded and taper off as the project design development progresses. Your company and clients will need to understand this significant change, as it will affect where dollars and hours need to be allocated throughout the design development process.

Additionally, working in a 3D model-based environment drives an individual to really think about what they're designing and how it impacts the rest of the project. More time is spent upfront detailing a 3D model dynamically and intelligently in preparation of drawing generation and detailed analysis. As a result, any changes or revisions you encounter during the latter phases of the project design will take significantly less time to update and adjust. It's at this point that you will begin to realize the major benefits behind generating a BIM | CIM design.

During project initiation or startup, all project stakeholders should be sitting down and looking at the overall picture of the project, documenting what they want the final constructed product to represent, and collectively best determine how to get there. 3D models have the potential to contain much more rich data and valuable information than your typical 2D designs, making content more useful to us during the design process and for downstream uses, but can also leave us very exposed to unforeseen errors and omissions. Model Managers and Project Managers must work closely together to manage risk here.

Building Blocks for Design Excellence

BIM | CIM Execution Plans, or Digital Delivery Execution Plans, are becoming more commonplace, where design teams collaborate early on to put together a document outlining all of the BIM | CIM Workflows and Uses to be applied throughout the project lifecycle that will be most beneficial to reach that final constructed product. This phase is probably the most critical as the flow of the remainder of the project will be determined here.

Although there are way too many BIM | CIM Uses to list here, we must recognize that each Use has its own purpose/function within a project’s lifecycle and can be used in either one phase of the project or multiple phases (Planning, Design, Construction, Operations). Each project comes with its own unique set of requirements and design intricacies, so we certainly don't want to go overboard with defining all of the Uses that can be applied if there is no real value added to the outcome. That said, we really want to stick to the BIM | CIM uses that are required to achieve the expected final delivered product.

It's quite often said that there are four common BIM | CIM uses that definitely should be applied to all projects regardless of which market you may be developing a design for. These four fundamental BIM | CIM Uses are: Design Authoring, Drawing Generation, 3D Coordination, and Design Reviews.

Design Authoring is the process in which software is used to develop a 3D+ model based on information required for accurate translation of the design. With Quality Control (QC) having a place in every phase of design and every BIM | CIM use, we should note that the QC process related to design authoring typically focuses on the accuracy and completeness of BIM | CIM elements at a granular level during interdisciplinary design, while the 3D Coordination and Design Review BIM | CIM Uses provide a broader look at interdisciplinary design and focus more specifically on errors and completeness. In practice, these lines are not distinct, and quality plays a pervasive role like it does in all aspects of the project lifecycle.

The most important factor to consider when modeling Existing Conditions is determining the Level of Detail (LOD) needed in the model. This is typically addressed while developing scope and fee and should be discussed between the project manager and a lead modeler. We should note that designing with an imprecise Existing Conditions model will create constructability issues and will create a risk to your company. On the flip side excessive detail increases survey costs and processing time, so there needs to be a level of balance here to identify LOD and boundary to limit overruns.

Next, we have drawing generation which essentially means the process of taking our BIM | CIM components and creating drawing sets (i.e., Issued for Bid, Construction, etc.). The broader objective here is to define model elements once and use that information with no loss of accuracy or integrity to generate your drawings. This improves the overall quality of the drawings and reduces effort and errors in the design process.

For most projects, plans are the primary deliverables so drawing generation really isn't a new concept. The difference between drawing generation before and after a BIM | CIM implementation is that designers can now show information in any 2D Plan View rapidly with little to no loss of precision or accuracy. Plans, profiles, sections, and detail sheets can all be generated from your model.

Next, we have 3D Coordination, which is more often referred to as Class Detection. 3D Coordination is the process in which 3D design software is used to identify spatial interferences of modeled objects such as structural elements, utility pipes, pilings, etc. in one or more 3D models. The goal of 3D Coordination is to eliminate major system conflicts prior to construction. 3D Coordination is a continual cycle throughout the design process and should begin prior to the first project milestone as defined in our BIM | CIM execution plan.

On the flip side, the time to start 3D Coordination and frequency can have budgetary implications. 3D Coordination on conceptual drawings can potentially produce false positives. Because elements have approximate dimensions and solutions to design challenges and constrained areas have not been investigated. Furthermore, excessive 3D Coordination can waste time and project budget.

We should also recognize that we should not rely solely on 3D Coordination software to verify that there are no conflicts with your project. Yes, clash tools are helpful in identifying physical conflicts, but everything has to be set up perfectly for 3D Coordination to work as a sole basis for verifying your design. Ultimately, the responsibility of avoiding conflict falls on the design team, and a no conflict report from a program is not a basis to defend a problem within the design.

Lastly, we have Design Review, and by that we mean nothing more than taking our 3D design models and/or drawings and sharing the content with other project stakeholders. Design Review isn't typically formalized, but it does typically take on two primary purposes.

The first is to verify quality with a focus on problems that are otherwise difficult to identify. The second is to communicate design information to other designers or outside audiences as quickly and accurately as possible.

Projects require us to deliver services that meet a high standard of care, necessitating plans free from errors and omissions. Compared to omissions, errors are relatively easier to detect since they are visible on our drawings or in our models. Omissions are challenging to identify as they do not appear on plans or in our models. BIM | CIM can assist in identifying omissions by providing a comprehensive view of the project, which also helps identify constructability concerns.

Another aspect of Design Review requires communication of design intent, which can also have a couple challenges. First, audiences may lack the technical skills and software required to navigate 3D files, making it an accessibility issue that design review meetings can overcome through in-person discussions, teleconferencing, and media sharing. Secondly, different groups of designers or stakeholders have varying interests in design, presenting a content challenge. That said, we’ll need to have a good idea of the anticipated audience and what design information is necessary to include that is most relevant.


As I'm sure you've realized already, there's quite a bit of information, planning and collaboration that goes into properly executed a full BIM | CIM design project, with many considerations and decisions to be made along the way. If you're just getting started on implementing BIM |CIM at your workplace, I hope I've been able to shed some light into the overall process. Whether you’re just starting out or are seasoned vet and well into implementing BIM | CIM at your workplace, please reach out and connect! Would love to have your experiences and stories shared through AUGIWORLD Magazine for all our readers to learn from!