Sep 08

The Benefits of BIM-Based Material Selection

Innovative Collaboration: 2050 Materials & Microsol Resources

Disclaimer: This article is a collaboration between 2050 Materials and Microsolresources

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is changing the way architects and construction contractors approach and deliver challenging projects. BIM simplifies material selection, too.

The construction sector is one of the largest industries globally with about $10-12 trillion spent on goods and services. At the same time, the industry has been slow to embrace digital technologies, relying instead on more traditional approaches to doing work and delivering projects. This lag is changing now as construction contractors are facing several major challenges. 

A strong demand for infrastructure projects is colliding with a shortage of skilled labor, and increased demand for data transparency from stakeholders. Traditional project management methods are simply no longer enough to meet these demands. Building information modeling holds the key to meeting stakeholder expectations and securing the future of construction businesses. 

Put simply, BIM allows architects, engineers, and contractors to create a digital description – or model – of every aspect of a building before breaking ground. Throughout the duration of the project, stakeholders can monitor progress and predict how potential changes to details at this stage will influence the overall outcome of the project. 

Implementing BIM-Based Material Selection Strategies

Material selection is one of the most complex aspects of any ambitious construction project. Influenced by factors such as cost, availability, and environmental impact, the selection process can be time-consuming and fraught with uncertainties. 

Implementing BIM-based material selection strategies allows contractors to eliminate the majority of those uncertainties. The digital model makes it possible to predict how specific choices would alter the final product and its long-term impact on owners, tenants, and the environment. Rather than relying on experience alone, utilizing BIM allows contractors to combine data with experience and deliver better overall results.

Take a look at and experience easy material selection in a library with over 20,000 products populated with sustainability data from EPDs and other certifications as well as an easy to use comparison feature to objectively compare product sustainability.

The Benefits of Integrating BIM in Material Selection

The best way to understand the potential impact of BIM on material selection is to consider individual factors and benefits in more detail. The successful implementation allows contractors to combine these and achieve the most noticeable impact. 

Four of the main benefits of BIM integration in material selection include: 

  • Enhanced construction efficiency 
  • Optimized sustainability 
  • Streamlined project costs and project planning 
  • Maximized building longevity

1. Enhancing Construction Efficiency

BIM increases construction project efficiency by supporting decision-making processes from the decision stage to the final days of completing the project. Based on a digital model of the project, contractors can simulate the impact of different materials on the final result. 

BIM software also allows project owners to connect to subcontractors and suppliers to share project details without delays, duplications, or lost data. This makes it easy to check not only how one material would perform in a certain space compared to another but also simplifies checking availability. A marginally cheaper material that is suffering from supply chain issues may cause costly delays to a project whereas a slightly more expensive alternative that is immediately available could save money in the long term. 

2. Optimizing Sustainability

As extreme climate events increase in frequency around the world, the need for sustainable building solutions is becoming ever more obvious. BIM-based material selection helps contractors understand the environmental impact of their material selection. 

The software allows users to calculate the carbon footprint of materials under consideration, making it easier to choose a sustainable option in the early stages of the project. As construction is underway, contractors and subcontractors can easily update their initial data and provide accurate figures to leadership teams. 

When building managers start looking for tenants, having access to accurate environmental impact data becomes a selling point that will make it easier to attract desirable, long-term tenants.

3. Streamlining Project Costs and Planning

Managing construction budgets and keeping projects on schedule and on budget has traditionally been challenging across the industry. As events like the coronavirus pandemic or the Ukraine war continue to disrupt global supply chains, material costs have spiraled and deliveries have been delayed. 

BIM in material selection helps project managers connect with suppliers and gain access to real-time supply chain information. While this type of access may not prevent delays entirely, it can function as an early-warning system, allowing contractors to adjust project plans or choose alternative materials. Within a few clicks, stakeholders can quickly simulate the impact of these changes and make the most informed decision possible. 

Moreover, creating a digital model can bring potential problems to light before they become obvious during the actual construction process. That means contractors do not need to wait for a problem to arise. Instead, potential issues become obvious early on and can easily be prevented. 

More insight on effective carbon budget management tools in this quick read.

4. Maximizing Building Longevity

Strange as this may sound, BIM allows contractors and other stakeholders to look into the future. The software has the power to let architects, designers, and contractors see how specific materials will age in a certain climate, for example. 

As extreme weather events are happening more frequently, choosing longer-lasting materials that can withstand a variety of conditions will become more important in many parts of the world. Replacing major parts of a project is both costly and time-consuming for building owners. BIM makes it possible to make better choices throughout the construction process.

Challenges and Limitations in BIM-Based Material Selection

Building information modeling has the potential to transform material selection with the help of real-time data. The benefits of implementing BIM far outweigh the potential challenges. 

Some of those challenges include the implementation itself. In an industry that has traditionally relied on a different approach, digital transformation will require a shift in the mindset of contractors and others. 

The data available for calculations and predictions can create another challenge or limitation of BIM. Where there is limited data, building information modeling results may be less accurate. 

Having said that, none of these challenges or limitations outweigh the potential benefits of BIM in material selection. Adding data to experience allows contractors to remove the guesswork from their process and deliver outstanding results, on time and on budget. BIM is a critical part of the future of material selection and construction overall. 

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