Marie-Pierre Mercier
Country Director
Expert Contributor

How Digital Transformation Will Impact the AEC Industry

By Marie-Pierre Mercier | Tue, 06/15/2021 - 09:11

I know digital transformation is probably not a term that you have read about for the first time. But for the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) industry, this is new and started to happen recently. Even with companies that are adopting new technologies, the pace is slow, probably because of the cultural barrier in an industry that was stuck in time for many years.

Now, the situation is different and the main technology that is leading big changes is BIM (Building Information Modeling). BIM is the holistic process of creating and managing information for a built asset. Based on an intelligent model and enabled by a cloud platform, BIM integrates structured, multidisciplinary data to produce a digital representation of an asset across its life cycle, from planning and design to construction and operations.

Since we are talking basically about a virtual construction before the construction itself, professionals can better measure strategic aspects like time and the quantity of materials and avoid mistakes while the process is already happening. With all these elements, the impacts are immediate. In this sense, companies can improve productivity, have better control of the process, manage materials, and integrate teams in a better way. The main result is to save time and money.

Besides that, BIM can provide a huge positive impact on the environment in terms of avoiding material waste. This, in an industry with one of the highest loss rates (30 percent) and that is responsible for a large part (15 percent) of all the garbage on the planet.

The numbers speak for themselves. In my experience, and from what we hear from our customers, we know that the BIM adoption can drive a reduction in losses of around an estimated 30 percent of construction costs to something around 5 percent. That is why this methodology, which is available for the management of any type of work, from large infrastructure projects, to small buildings, or even renovations, is transforming the civil construction sector.

Companies all over the world are advancing in BIM adoption, and in Mexico, we have prominent cases that show the system’s benefits. One is the construction of the new Hospital Móvil in Mexicali, in a record time of 23 days. Grupo Hermosillo, a design and construction company, led this project with the Fundación UABC, belonging to the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, using the BIM methodology with Autodesk software.

It’s important to note that for a building with similar characteristics, it usually takes around three to four months to complete the construction. However, the use of technologies such as BIM and its collaboration capabilities made it possible to reduce the time to complete the project by over 75% in comparison to others that use traditional methods.

This system, which is characterized by the use of cloud storage, also allowed Grupo Hermosillo to create 4D construction simulations, modeling and coordination of 3D engineering, and design review with virtual reality. Besides, it allows managing information in an intelligent way from planning, design, and construction, up to the building’s administration.

Beyond the benefits in terms of reducing construction time, the adoption of BIM methodology also contributes to improving the collaboration between different disciplines, promoting transparency, agility, and information flow. This was the case with Voltrak, a Mexican company dedicated to the supply of engineering, construction, maintenance, and energy services for the electrical industry, that sought to provide its services in coordination with the construction process.

Overall, the use of BIM 360 has enabled Voltrak to improve collaboration between the civil and electrical engineering disciplines. The nature of its services involves electrical, structural, hydraulic, HVAC, and mechanical calculations, as well as the design and documentation in drawings. The use of these tools has helped to streamline information generation and reduce errors in the field thanks to real-time modeling.

By adopting the BIM methodology, Voltrak has improved communication with its clients, as well as streamlining the processes of reviewing and submitting proposals and design modifications by being able to hold videoconferences on different platforms with clients, without having to interfere with or stop work in progress in other areas. The end result is a 20 percent reduction in organization, review, and documentation time between the different disciplines and specialties, which also has contributed to better environmental practices because the process is carried out digitally.

These are just two examples; however, building information modeling has become an invaluable tool that offers many advantages to the construction industry. Projects using BIM can have a greater chance of success and maximize efficiency at every stage of the project life cycle.

It’s worth noting that the AEC industry can boost other strategic sectors and help Mexico to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, while generating jobs. But for that, technology adoption is key and will make all the difference.

Photo by:   Marie Pierre