NECA TransmissionsNotes from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry
  • Dan Walter Sees the Future: BIM on Every Project

    Posted on Aug 02, 2011 by Dan Walter

    NECA Transmissions features posts from CEO John Grau and other NECA staff and leaders about industry projects or issues they are following. Today's post comes from Dan Walter.

    Building Information Modeling has been around for a while, starting with 2D CAD and continually evolving as better software and hardware became available. But, 2011 might be the so-called tipping point -- the point where using BIM on construction projects is the rule, not the exception. Up to now, BIM has been used on big jobs, design-build jobs, or demonstration projects. BIM software and the computers needed to run it is expensive. Not every construction contractor, general or sub, could afford to buy it. The fact that different projects required different software didn’t make it any easier to get into BIM.

    BIM requirements are showing up on more traditional delivery systems like design-bid-build. Clash-detection features inherent in BIM allow for the discovery of problems much sooner than they would have been discovered in the field using traditional layout techniques and field engineering. And the better coordination that results from using BIM can mean shorter schedules and fewer claims. Everyone benefits when projects run more smoothly.

    But as BIM is required on more projects, some new questions arise. Questions like, "how many iterations should an electrical contractor be expected to perform as part of the base bid?" Or, "at what point does solving the interferences identified by clash detection become redesign?"

    The second edition of The National BIM Standard – United States has been released by the buildingSMART alliance for a 30-day public-comment period; it’s scheduled to be published later this year. This version includes best practices and guidelines. NECA is a member of the buildingSMARTalliance, and a NECA member sits on the board.

    The current BIM standard doesn’t address the questions posed here, but NECA is actively working with other industry stakeholder to get answers to these questions. I am active in a coalition that includes members from NECA, the Mechanical Contractors Association of American (MCAA) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) to determine how contactors might respond to these questions. The enthusiasm expressed by the participants for this effort is clear, our contractors and the industry will benefit from their efforts.

    The industry is just beginning to see the benefits that BIM can provide. And, I believe that when everyone benefits from the advantages provided by BIM, BIM will be used on every project.

  • 'Tis the Season

    Posted on Nov 21, 2008 by John M Grau

    No. not that season. At least not quite yet.

    It’s the season for 2009 construction economic forecasts. The reports are coming across my desk, and they don’t paint a pretty picture.

    I mainly rely on the annual forecast produced by McGraw-Hill Construction. Other groups that try to crystal ball the construction economy are the U.S. Dept of Commerce, the Homebuilders association, the General Contractors, the Architects and the Portland Cement Association.

    I look most closely at the forecasts for non-residential markets because that’s where the bulk of NECA members earn their bread and butter. Those markets had been doing well the last few years — until now. Overall, non-residential building is predicted to decline by about 10 percent next year.

    The biggest decreases are predicted for office buildings, hotels, retail stores and manufacturing facilities. The more stable markets are power, transportation, and health care and educational buildings.

    One ominous note in all these forecasts is that they present a best-case scenario. In other words, they assume that the government efforts to unfreeze credit markets and stimulate the economy will work. It they don’t, all bets are off.

    An economist at a recent meeting of the Construction Users Roundtable predicts that after the current downturn runs its course, there will be a steep increase in construction and that workforce shortages will be greater than ever. That’s a warning to us that we can’t stop hiring and training apprentices even in a down economy.

    So my read on all this is that contractors will be burning through their backlog in 2009. The last half of next year and a good part of 2010 may be tough times. Bidding for projects will come back in 2010, with construction starts rebounding sharply in 2011.

    This all presumes, of course, that you believe economists know what they’re talking about.

About NECA Transmissions

NECA Transmissions is a collaborative effort from CEO John Grau and NECA staff to provide insight and feedback on key issues from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry.


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