Procores recently released BIM tools are taking full advantage of 3D modelling in the field

Construction jobs are getting more complex, especially in large facilities; there, many different layers of installations can be required, and plotting out exactly what is supposed to be where from the blueprints can be a real challenge.

Building information modelling (BIM) has begun to provide some new approaches to understanding plans for construction sites, and mobile computing offers even more potential ways to improve the ability for teams across a work site to communicate and clear up concerns.

Visualization is one of the best ways to expand that understanding, and Procore’s recently released BIM tools are taking full advantage of 3D modelling in the field.

Procore showed the visual aspects of its BIM tool during the company’s Groundbreak event, and customers who are actively working with the software said it was proving its worth every day on the jobsite, for multiple work teams.

Noah Evans, virtual construction coordinator with U.S. Midwest contractor Harrell-Fish, explained that BIM is a very useful tool that makes it easier to recognize potential problems as well as to communicate those issues with the rest of the team. Being able to see the 3D model helps to avoid potential conflicts, ensure that all the needed materials are available, and offers many other benefits.

“The whole point of us using BIM is to get in there early – we’re building the job in the model before they build the job on the site. When we do that, we’re able to head off a lot of issues in the project,” Evans said.

BIM not just pretty pictures
BIM designs are a big part of the value proposition for any contractor, as it allows the architects and engineers to see exactly how building systems come together in the design process, according to Steve Jones, senior director of Industry Insights Research with Dodge Data Analytics.

“People like to make fun of BIM – ‘oh, it’s pretty pictures’ – but I can tell you, when you’re a designer, you have a certain amount of money to get the client to say yes, and stick with yes, and not come back and say ‘maybe we want to look at this.’ The degree to which you can visualize. . . this is financially important for architects. We can see this stuff in our heads, but how do you convey it to the client?”

The quality of design is higher when visualization comes into the process as well, Jones noted, and BIM allows design teams to see the project come together far more cleanly than with previous approaches.

From there, the challenge has been to take that design and bring it to the field in a more effective package – 3D modelling on jobsites has often been limited from use with mobile devices because of complexity and processing requirements.

Procore BIM is designed to allow teams to publish 3D models into the Procore iOS app, where they can be viewed from Apple devices on site.

“We get these install drawings, these 2D and 3D designs, put them on Procore, upload them into the drawings or documents tool, and the guys in the field can actually review them on their iPads,” Evans described.

The addition of a model viewer turns the design into a virtual experience – a user can hold their device up, engage motion tracking, and Procore BIM displays the model in a 3D framework, showing whatever portion of the design the device is pointed toward. A 2D plan is available at a touch, and the design can be moved around to show issues with potential clashes in the structure. That adds functionality for team members who may not be as versed with mobile technology.

“My guys in particular are a little bit older – they’re not used to flying around a model trying to get the right spot. What the sheet allows them to do is stand exactly where they want to stand,” Evans said. “You can have your walls transparent, so they can see the in-wall drop-ins. They can see the overhead clearly. They can stand wherever they want to see and make tweaks.”

Broad benefits from visualization
The benefits of using tools like Procore BIM are broad, Jones pointed out. His firm surveyed users regarding positives that they have experienced, and found that contractors have a number of key points that they feel are important.

“We gave them a long list of things and said to pick their top three, which forces people to really think about it,” Jones said. The results showed that contractors found they were reducing errors and omissions, experiencing better collaboration, reducing rework and cutting construction costs, while ensuring better predictability in cost control.

“This is the benefit of these fundamental digital transformation types of changes. I boil it down to one word – certainty. This is a wildly uncertain process. . . the more certainty you can bring, the better it is for everybody,” he said.