Construction Modeling

Overview

As a general trend in the AEC industry, modeling began with design professionals and was later adopted by contractors, primarily for coordination and fabrication. Previous research by Dodge Data & Analytics on BIM use in North America shows that adoption by contractors has now exceeded design professionals. Contractors continually expand the types and uses of models they build and increasingly integrate them with other tools and technologies to work more efficiently and improve productivity. Construction firms are achieving outcomes through model-based processes that would have been considered unattainable just a few years ago.

This study focuses on the developing practice of construction modeling, specifically by examining which types of contractors are producing models for what uses and how much value they are providing to improve project processes and outcomes.

Key Findings

Construction Modeling

Enlarge

Modeling by Trade Contractors

Site, Structure and Shell

Frequency and Value of Construction Modeling for Site, Structure and Shell

This chart combines two key indicators for modeling by three types of trade contractors (site, structure and building envelope). The two key indicators are:

  • The percentage of respondents who report seeing relatively frequent modeling by each of these specialty contractors (i.e., those selecting sometimes, frequently or always, versus seldom or never).
  • Among that group, the percentage who places a high or very high value on the construction modeling being done by that trade.

Structural Fabricators Continue to be Active Modelers

Aligning with all previous BIM research by Dodge Data & Analytics, structural fabricators are reported to be active modelers, with over two thirds (68%) of respondents reporting that structural fabricators model frequently. Important in this new research is the very strong (88%) rating for the high value of their contribution to model-based project processes.

Building Envelope Offers Opportunity

Building envelope contractors represent the most important opportunity for growth, where only about a third (34%) of respondents say they model frequently, while nearly three quarters (71%) of that group assigns a top value to their participation. This is a clear demand signal from the market and a potential competitive edge for model-savvy envelope contractors.

Site/civil/geotech Still Emerging

Site/civil/geotech contractors lag significantly in modeling frequency, and only about a third (38%) of the respondents who see frequent modeling from this discipline assign a high value to it. These findings suggest that this market segment needs development of both skills and beneficial use cases to increase demand and activity.

Systems and Interiors

Frequency and Value of Construction Modeling for Systems and Interiors

This chart combines two key indicators for modeling by four types of trade contractors (HVAC, plumbing/piping, electrical and interior construction). The two key indicators are:

  • The percentage of respondents who report seeing relatively frequent modeling by each of these specialty contractors (i.e., those selecting sometimes, frequently or always, versus seldom or never).
  • Among that group, the percentage who place a high or very high value on the construction modeling being done by that trade.

Mechanical Contractors Dominate the Ratings

Mechanical contractors have demonstrated rapid adoption of modeling in previous BIM research by Dodge Data & Analytics, and that trend is reinforced here with high frequencies reported for both HVAC and piping/plumbing modeling. An additional finding in this study is the nearly unanimous (93% and 91%, respectively) top-level rating for their value to the BIM process. Virtual coordination and model-driven prefabrication of mechanical systems have helped to establish the value of BIM on complex projects in all parts of the world. It can be expected from these ratings that modeling by mechanical contractors will be a baseline expectation across the industry in the near future.

Opportunity for Electrical and Interior Contractors

Modeling by electrical and interior construction trades is much less frequent (by half and by two thirds, respectively). However, they both earn high marks for value, so the demand is clearly there for increased engagement in model-based processes by these trades.

Greatest Unmet Demand

Low-frequency modeler with most potential value

Respondents who reported low frequency of seeing modeling by specialty contractors were asked to select the one trade contractor they believe would provide the greatest value to projects if the frequency of theirmodelingactivityincreased. Thechartshowswhatproportionof those votes was cast for each trade contractor.

Building Envelope and Interiors in Highest Demand

Aligning with the previous findings on frequency and value of construction modeling, the building envelope and interior trades are highlighted as being able to provide the greatest value by increasing their participation in modeling.

Uses for Construction Models

Six uses of construction models

Frequency and Value of Six Uses for Construction Models

This chart combines two key indicators to evaluate six purposes for which project teams use construction models. The two key indicators are:

  • The percentage of respondents who report seeing relatively frequent use of construction models for that purpose (i.e., those selecting sometimes, frequently or always, versus seldom or never).
  • Among that group, the percentage who places a high or very high value on the usefulness of construction models for that purpose on their BIM projects.

Value Ratings Far Exceed Frequency

With frequency ratings ranging from 11% to only 28% and value ratings starting at 42% and going to 64%, the demand for more construction modeling is very strong across all six uses. The most extreme example is Crew Locations and Workforce Planning, with only 11% reporting frequent implementation, but over half of those respondents (55%) citing top value for the activity. This 5X gap between frequency and value is the highest across all the uses evaluated.

The frequency/value ratio for Safety Rule Checking in the Model is almost as far out of synch(11% and 52%, respectively) as that for Crew Locations and Workforce Planning, and it represents an emerging application that can have a tangible positive impact on a critically important aspect of construction: worker health and safety.

The other four uses for construction models all generate value ratings over twice as high as their frequency ratings. The message to industry is clear: more construction modeling.

Unmet Demand for Model Use

Low-frequency model use with most potential value

Respondents who reported low frequency of seeing models used for these purposes were asked to select the one construction model use they believe would provide the greatest value to projects if its frequency could be increased. The chart shows what proportion of those votes applies to each use.

Site logistics and work packaging/sequencing in highest demand

The two uses cited as the most potentially valuable by those who do not yet see them used frequently are Modeling for Project Site Logistics and Construction Work Packaging and Sequencing. These are also the two uses cited as most valuable by those who report seeing them frequently, so this finding further confirms their importance.

Authoring Construction Models

Authoring Models for Specific Uses

Respondents who report seeing construction models for these six specific purposes relatively frequently (i.e., at moderate, high or very high frequencies) were asked to identify which one party most often authors the actual models: the design team, a consultant, a specialty contractor or the general contractor (which includes construction managers and design-build contractors). The chart shows the responses from general contractors who are typically in the best position to know the source of construction models on their projects. (The responses from architects and engineers do not vary significantly from the contractor responses.)

General Contractors Dominate Authoring of Construction Models

As the data shows, the general contractors currently do the majority of construction model authoring. This is not surprising because the six model uses addressed in this study apply to aspects of the overall project, rather than being trade or discipline specific.

Other Model Authors

Specialty trades are most frequent among the other three sources, especially for Crew Locations and Workforce Planning and Temporary Works. This is an important trend to watch as their modeling skills become applied to more than just their specific scope of work.

Consultants are used most frequently for Safety Rule Checking in the Model, which is appropriate for an emerging practice. Design teams are not currently producing a significant percentage of construction models, but this may change over time as integrated and collaborative project delivery processes gain more traction.

Information Mobility