While building information modeling (BIM) is a very powerful electronic tool—potentially enabling unprecedented efficiencies and savings in the design, construction, and operation of healthcare facilities—its learning curve is steep. As the design and construction industry gradually learns how to utilize its great potential, the key will be effectively sharing and standardizing that knowledge.
Why BIM for healthcare?
“Of all the industries that are going to benefit from BIM, healthcare is probably the leading one,” claims Mario Guttman, AIA, senior vice-president, firmwide CAD director, HOK, San Francisco.
Explains David Throssell, 3-D CAD and data management leader for the London-based construction giant Skanska, “Because hospitals are very complex buildings with an awful lot of building services to coordinate with the structural elements, the idea of building a virtual model before you build it on-site is very attractive.”
Also emphasizing BIM's key role in the industry, Mieczyslaw (Mitch) Boryslawski, Associate AIA and founder of View By View, a San Francisco-based multimedia firm providing BIM support services, classifies BIM as a “must have” due to the complexity of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing on a typical healthcare project. “The BIM process, properly implemented, can streamline design, approvals, construction, and operations/maintenance for the healthcare sector's massive projects,” Boryslawski asserts.
Realizing this, many healthcare facilities are now requiring the inclusion of BIM as part of the preconstruction bid process.
In addition, BIM is turning out to be a great way for experienced designers to train younger team members. “Working on one file forces the team to communicate more, which leads to more ideas,” explains Matthew Petermann, design application technician, Perkins+Will, Minneapolis. “As each team member works on the model, others can see and comment on their work, which helps the entire team learn. It also provides us with the potential to recognize and resolve challenges earlier on.”
2-D to 3-D
Even with all these benefits, making the transition from 2-D to 3-D hasn't been so simple.
“We're still finding the tools in the box and trying to figure out how to use them,” says Roy Pedersen, AIA, principal, KlingStubbins, Cambridge, Massachusetts. “But once those tools are discovered—for example, using colors and patterns to make building elements pop out visually on the model—we can then share them with other team members and use them on other projects.”
Similarly, Guttman admits, “We're still figuring it out and learning how to build buildings using BIM.”
Prioritizing the transition to BIM, HOK has put in place five different CAD managers throughout the firm, calling them “Building Smart Champions,” to provide technical support for their designers. In fact, one current HOK success story has been the use of BIM for a giant, 1.2 million-square-foot healthcare project in the United Kingdom. When completed in 2013, the Royal London Hospital, with its 6,000 rooms inside two 18-story towers, will be the largest hospital in the city.
“With this project, we've raised the bar for BIM,” claims Miles Walker, vice-president and firm-wide CAD manager, HOK, London.
Not only did the firm determine that the size and complexity involved with coordinating more than a half-million pieces of equipment for the project absolutely required BIM, but by delivering the architectural design as a BIM model, the contractor, Skanska, and subcontractors were encouraged to follow suit. With limited BIM experience, Skanska proceeded to hire Throssell, who is now spearheading a major BIM mentoring effort within the firm. What started as individual teaching and coaching, along with weekly group workshops, has slowly been taken over by the building team members themselves, Throssell explains.