Choose the Right Tool for the Job

BIM Applications for Airport Design, Construction and Management


Use the right tool for the job. This common sense advice can be applied to the use of BIM (Building Information Modeling) technologies as a tool for airport design, construction and management.

BIM is a digital representation and shared knowledge resource of physical and operational characteristics of a facility. As a three-dimensional tool with an embedded database of facility data, it can serve as a reliable basis for decisions from earliest design conception through the facility’s entire life cycle.

Its technological capabilities are well-founded, tested and grounded. However, because it is such a powerful tool, there is a learning curve to be able to apply it to its fullest capacity. The first step in successfully integrating BIM into an airport is education. All parties must have a true understanding of what is achievable, practical and cost-effective when using BIM.

It is also important to work with clients to discuss and understand both their needs and their desires. The BIM toolbox offers many options, and it is essential to match these options with the needs of all stakeholders — from the owner who may wish to simulate appearance, performance and cost to aid in the design decision and approval process, to the facility managers who will monitor and maintain the systems on a daily basis during the life of the project. Surveying the team’s stakeholders at the inception of the project and collectively agreeing upon the desired uses will ensure that the selection of tools is appropriate.

Holistic Team Approach

The planning and design phases of a project are generally the easiest phases for airports to integrate BIM. BIM adds value by creating design documents that are more efficiently coordinated.

Where many systems cross vertically and horizontally in airports, spatial coordination of building systems during design can virtually eliminate problems previously encountered during construction. One study shows 18 percent of construction costs typically come from change orders. When the design team implements BIM strategies, that ratio drops to 12 percent. When the entire project team embraces BIM, change order costs drop to 3 percent. But to gain the true value of the tool, all team members need to work toward an agreed outcome.

This is where an execution plan comes in. It is one of the most important components in establishing a structured approach to BIM. This document should identify BIM uses, project goals, procedures, and requirements for modeling, collaboration and communication. The execution plan assigns responsibility for systems, categories and subcategories of elements to team members and lays out the Level of Development (LOD) and spatial coordination requirements for those systems at various points in the design and construction process. It defines deliverables and quality control requirements at each phase. In addition, the execution plan should define the technology infrastructure-- software, equipment and hardware, and the approach to update that technology in order to maintain continuity during the process.

To ensure uniformity and consistency, the execution plan sets forth the directives, how they will be monitored, and audits at scheduled intervals. It is important, as an airport, to acknowledge that such monitoring is a necessary and independent ancillary task to the overall scope of work for design and construction efforts.

BIM can be used to eliminate the loss of information as a project transitions from the design team to the contractor and finally to the owner. It is essential to establish contracts for all parties that are consistent and referential in order to ensure that each project team is enhancing or referencing information that they have acquired during their particular phase of the project. The owner’s contract for each party should anticipate and acknowledge data transfer between phases and the reciprocal obligations of each party to participate in BIM.

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