Following in the footsteps of the General Services Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard and the Smithsonian Institute, Wisconsin has become the first state to institute a systematic adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) practices for state-funded construction projects.
The journey to full implementation began three years ago, when Gov. Jim Doyle signed Executive Order 145, which required state agencies to conform to higher environmental and energy efficiency standards. "It quickly became clear that BIM was necessary to meet requirements of the Executive Order on our $1.2 billion of annual construction projects involving more than 300 construction firms and more than 200 design firms serving 16 state agencies and the 13-campus University of Wisconsin System," wrote Bill Napier, a project manager for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, in an article published in the Journal of Building Information Modeling in Fall 2008. With more than 6,200 buildings in the state's portfolio, the shift in ideology necessitated a change in project delivery management. BIM soon emerged as the answer to the state's evolving needs.
The guidelines, effective as of July 1, 2009, mandate that all construction projects that exceed $5 million - new construction as well as additions and alterations - begin their A/E design processes with BIM and 3D software. The requirement also incorporates all new construction with at least a $2.5 million budget, as well as additions and alterations to existing buildings where at least 50 percent of the project is new work and the budget exceeds $2.5 million. Implementation is encouraged, but not required, for all other projects that fall below the $2.5 million threshold. Not limited to just the design process or A/E professionals, the BIM guidelines will permeate the construction project from beginning to end and will eventually include facility operations and management, Napier said.
Like with many implementations of this magnitude, the migration to full BIM adoption is not without its difficulties. "We accept any of the vendors that are also working on open standards and exchanges," Napier said, so the state expects to run into some interoperability problems, at least initially. But, Napier is optimistic. "We're following GSA's lead on this," he said. "In the long term, it's the right thing to do. In the short term, though, it's very difficult."
The state is an active member of the buildingSMART Alliance and FIATECH, which both champion interoperability and open standards.
Over a two-year period, the state's Department of State Facilities (DSF) approved nearly 700 A/E selections. Of that number, only 40 projects would have met the funding requirements for BIM implementation, and the state estimates that a large number of its A/E contractors are already incorporating BIM into their work. According to the BIM implementation announcement released by the Wisconsin Department of Administration on June 25, "The value of the implementation is that although these projects make up only five percent of the count, they represent $700 million, making up 60 percent of the advertised budgets."
Currently, the state has five active solicitations that exceed $5 million. As many as 18 more are expected between now and 2011.
The state engaged in a pilot program last year to monitor the pros and cons of BIM usage. The program involved 13 projects and $300 million worth of design-bid-build delivery work. Participants found that BIM improved their communication and helped them better understand project goals and complexities thanks to its visualization capabilities. Clash detection features also improved overall costs. DSF will continue to monitor those projects as they progress through the construction phase.
The guidelines are not set in stone. DSF is current accepting comments on the standards and guidelines at http://dsfbimstandards.forumco.com/default.asp. To view the DSF’s guidelines, visit http://www.doa.state.wi.us/dsf/masterspec_view_new.asp?catid=61&locid=4.
By Lanna Carter Broyles, Senior Editor, Construction Project Controls