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The dilemma of building clients

Six theses on the application of the BIM method


Gruner AG
Andreas Wirz, CDO
Andreas Wirz

In discussions around BIM, the question about the role of the client and the efficiency of the method arises again and again. Another issue that comes up is what should be defined and, of course, what added benefit the BIM method offers.

In general, arguments such as increased efficiency, transparency and process optimization speak for the BIM method. But are these true, and aren’t they already included in the basic ser-vices?

Below is an overview with six theses for the application of the BIM method. These are organized according to the dimensions of digital construction.

Thesis 1:

Setting digital requirements leads to clear process flows and more transparency.   
Facts: A wide variety of usage agreements and room tables are created in text documents and spreadsheets for a project nowadays. Keeping these up to date is a logistical challenge for every planning team. Today, online platforms are available to record room, zone and system requirements. These are usually connected directly to the rooms in the model. How much of the information should be entered can be defined for each individual project. For the client, this basic data is an important source of information, both during construction and operation. The electronically readable form also allows for automatic verification of the models with the requirements.
The client’s role: As a first step, the planning team must create a central database based on a multidisciplinary room plan that contains all usage requirements. The operation and administration can be handled by the planning team. Such platforms are fee-based and require reimbursement by the client. The added value such a database brings to the construction and operation more than offsets the costs.

Theses 2 and 3:
Transparency and decision-making tool

Modeling in 3D instead of planning in 2D results in increased transparency of the spatial relationships for the client. These can be understood quickly and easily, making decisions faster and more informed.
Facts: Planners are tasked with learning 3D modeling, which requires several projects before the process can be carried out efficiently. The application of 3D has been established in the planning industry for years and is widely used. The main change is that the entire project is created and exchanged in 3D. The processing of technical or photorealistic images is also quite labor-intensive. New technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality are additional tools that can assist with decision-making for select questions. Simple technical visualizations can be generated using any of the better modeling tools available today.

This logic applies to existing as well as new buildings. Existing structures must first be scanned in order to create a basic model. The associated costs are considered additional services.

The client’s role: 3D planning requires the planning team to provide a 3D model that can be used for both spatial decision-making as well as visual communication with other stakeholders. If photorealistic representations are desired, this must be defined and compensated accordingly. In case of multi-party teams, the client must also ensure that all team members are versed in 3D planning.

Thesis 4:

Model-based scheduling allows for increased efficiency, which means a shorter construction time and therefore lower costs.

Facts: Today, scheduling is mostly done using spreadsheet tools. The quality depends on the site supervisor who carries this out. If a model exists that is divided into elements which correspond to the construction process, a technical visualization of the construction process is possible without much added effort. This is easy to understand and can be readily used to carry out the construction.

For projects with challenging logistics and scheduling, a visualization of the construction processes followed by an interdisciplinary optimization between planners and builders makes sense. This process requires more time during planning, but can increase efficiency and help prevent mistakes.

The client’s role: If the client commissions the planning separately from the construction, he must request visually supported scheduling from the planners. The same applies to subcontractor and general contractor mandates.

Thesis 5:
Costs, quantities, masses

Service specifications from models increase transparency.

Facts: Extracting quantities and masses from models is generally easy if the model is built according to the cost considerations and the software permits it. Targeted use of this option can prevent costly overshoots. However, it is essential to always keep the data in the model updated during construction.

The client’s role: If planning and construction are commissioned separately, the client will know the exact level of use after construction. This is accepted by all sides. With subcontractor and general contractor mandates, it makes less sense to practice this level of cost control.

Thesis 6:
Simulation und Berechnungen

By directly comparing the models to calculations or simulations, better results can be achieved.

Facts: Today’s simulation calculations make it possible to simulate entire buildings and facilities. The result can be a number of calculation variants to find the optimum. In the vast majority of cases, the model serves as a reference. However, an additional calculation model is created that can be easily adapted to the new reference model if changes are made. This results in increased cooperation.

The client’s role: Should a task require comprehensive variant comparisons because of social or technical influences, requesting a comparison model for the calculation is recommended.



Yes, building clients must grapple with the subject BIM.

However, they can limit themselves to the basic requirements and leave detailed arrangements to the planning team or BIM manager.