The final in the series of blog posts for the MPA exploring Big Data in major projects.
There is great emphasis on using building information modelling (BIM) for construction projects which has been mandated by the UK government and other countries. But how can the use of BIM prepare project for big data analytics?
What is BIM?
Many believe that BIM is merely a technology or simple evolution of 3D design. However, BIM is actually a process; it is the entire process, across a project lifecycle, from conception to information management and 3D modelling (that is to say, not simple 2D lines but a virtual representation of each building element with specifications and unique characteristics). Each model element is tagged with attributes that can be used to extract information to use in different applications.
The current situation
Aligning project data structures can be challenging on major projects as different departments have different objectives. For example, the cost management team will focus on cost centres and this will influence the Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS) following a standard method of measurements like CESMM, NRM, or RMM. On the other hand, planners focus on sequencing and logic relationship between activities to model the construction methodology as needed using Work Breakdown Structures (WBS). The CBS and WBS are often hard to correlate, especially when there are many relationships between these activities. Figure 1 is a simplified, top-level figure to indicate the mapping for the cost centre. In reality, this would be broken down further to include concrete per grade, rebars by diameters, etc.
In addition to correlating individual cost activities to WBS elements, there are wider integration efforts required between systems, as illustrated in figure 2.
How can BIM prepare us for big data?
The application of BIM is the closest that project delivery and controls functions has come to big data within major projects. The potential for BIM is to have every department in the diagram above feeding into one data source, resulting in a single source of truth for major projects. It will allow the complex relationships seen in the diagrams to integrate and will firmly establish big data within major projects delivery and controls function.
On a current project, we are using 5D BIM to facilitate integration using model elements along with corresponding attributes and parameters. This means we can achieve integration between programme, cost, change and estimate. Having this dataset populated will facilitate the use of analytics to reveal patterns and increase cost and schedule predictability of projects. This use of BIM takes us a step closer to harnessing the potential of big data in the major projects environment.
Development of AI
In addition to this, we can work with AI to develop BIM and better utilize big data. The benefits of artificial intelligence are widely recognised and, with rapid developments, are opening new horizons to several industries. There is great potential for the construction industry to successfully adopt this technology including through the use of machine learning algorithms to revolutionise the way projects are being managed. A recent report by McKinsey revealed an interesting pattern in productivity trends by ONS in the last 20 years which indicated that industries that have adopted digitisation have increased productivity.
BIM will help pave the way for big data in major projects, especially within the project delivery and controls function. We can already see examples of this in practice with the use of 5D BIM. Having a rich dataset, along with the advancements in artificial intelligence fields will open new horizons and possibilities to the construction industry.
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