The implementation of Lean Construction and BIM should be integrated!

lauri Koskela

Both Lean Construction and Building Information Modelling (BIM) have gained visibility in the last ten years or so. These two initiatives for improving construction have been supported by their respective communities of early adopters, academics, consultants, and, regarding the latter, software vendors. But there has been hardly any interaction between these two camps, says Lauri Koskela.

However, less than ten years ago, pioneering contractors in the US realized that Lean and BIM have a very good synergic fit, and started to promote these two initiatives in tandem. After that, there has been academic research, which has identified the interconnections between Lean and BIM at a detail level but also provided an initial proof.

The message is clear: Whether we are advocates of Lean or BIM, united we are stronger!

Indeed, BIM contributes directly to lean goals. The prime example is clash detection, which prevents inconsistencies between designs from different disciplines proceeding to the construction phase. But there is more. BIM can effectively support lean processes, such as collaborative planning or first run studies. The facility can first be constructed virtually for pruning out of planning problems.

Moreover, auxiliary information systems can be used in connection to BIM to enhance lean processes. For example, the cost or carbon footprint of a design can be rapidly analyzed. This allows for more cycles of design iteration than earlier.

Finally, lean processes facilitate the implementation of BIM. Lean is characterized on one hand, by predictability and discipline, and on the other hand, by collaboration, learning and experimentation. All these features are very worthwhile in the implementation of BIM, a complicated novel technology, all the possible uses of which are not clearly visible at the outset. 

Thus, the implementation of BIM should not be thought, presented or organized as a stand-alone initiative – all the efficiencies inherent in BIM can hardly be pressed out without embedding modelling within a lean construction environment. Conversely, in companies and projects with mature lean construction implementation, BIM should be positioned as another lean tool.

The message is clear: Whether we are advocates of Lean or BIM, united we are stronger!