LeanBIM: Unleash BIM Possibilities and Make Lean Construction Even Leaner

The main goal of implementing Lean Construction is to generate value and to minimize waste. This value can be maximized by implementing BIM alongside with Lean Construction1,2. It is assumed that the full potential for construction projects can only be reached when their adoption is integrated, as they are in the IPD approach 3.

Figure 1: The dependence of benefit realization of Lean Construction principles, BIM, and production in construction3.

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is “a project delivery method that integrates people, systems, business structures and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to reduce waste and optimize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication and construction” 4.

The synergies between Lean and BIM has been a topic of research recently. The high level of visualization provided by BIM helps reduce production variability and cycle time. It also ensures that the requirements of the end user are met. These synergies have been nicely summarized on previous posts in the Lean Construction Blog.

What is LeanBIM?

LeanBIM may be defined as implementing BIM alongside with lean concepts in order to maximize the value generated while minimizing waste and resource consumption to a degree that is higher than implementing either of them independently5.

Thinking beyond X,Y and Z for leaner construction

One of the most common myth about BIM is that it is a 3D representation of a building, which is untrue. Some people misunderstand “Building Information Modeling” because they are focused on the terms “Modeling” and “Building” and forget the importance of the “Information” component. Yusuf Arayici & Aouad define BIM as “the use of the ICT technologies to streamline the building lifecycle processes to provide a safer and more productive environment for its occupants, and to assert the least possible environmental impact from its existence, and to be more operationally efficient for its owners throughout the building lifecycle.”[6] Notice that the definition doesn’t include the word model or 3D.

Some people have a hard time with 4D or 5D because they can’t visualize the 4th or 5th dimension. The good news is that you don’t need to visualize it. Just understanding the nature of each dimension will make it easy to accept the concept of nD. Dimensions are not directions, dimensions are independent coordinates of information. X,Y and Z use the same scalar units but they store independent data defining building’s shape, dimensions, etc. nD models can contain more data in different dimensions such as time, cost, sustainability, lifecycle management, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Do we really need “n” dimensions?

The connection between BIM and Lean is actually the virtual design and construction of the final product. We virtually build the building before doing so in real world. Considering that the number of dimensions stored in a project will depend on the capabilities of those involved and the maturity of the technology, however, the multi-dimensional capabilities of BIM allows parties from different disciplines to work together to have a single artifact to work with. This enables all sorts of simulation and modeling to predict the performance of the final product before construction even starts. As a result, BIM models are not only created for construction purpose but can be used for cost estimation, sustainability measurements, facility management, etc.


Lean provides the framework for understanding waste, while BIM enables the project team from different disciplines to work together in order to achieve the lean ideal of removing it. Without a collaborative project delivery system it is not possible to get the full benefits from BIM. According to research I conducted on Lean and BIM professionals, the availability of a legal framework that support collaboration and the lack of professionals in this field were the top challenges facing LeanBIM implementation. In fact even being able to do clash detection, quantity takeoffs, and scheduling from the model can be hindered by some contractual relationships. It is also known that BIM implementation requires a huge initial investment in IT infrastructure. As the world economy move towards a knowledge-based economy, the data stored in the BIM models become increasingly more valuable. The price that we pay upfront to implement BIM will be a small investment for all the benefits that we can obtain downstream.

Figure 2. Challenges facing LeanBIM implementation (0 = very low, 5 = very high) 5.


1. Dave, B., Koskela, L., Kiviniemi, A., Owen, R., & Tzortzopoulos, P., 2013. Implementing Lean in construction: Lean construction and BIM. CIRIA, C725. London: CIRIA.

2. Koskela, L., 2014, October 13. The implementation of Lean Construction and BIM should be integrated!

3. Sacks, R., Koskela, L., Dave, B. A., & Owen, R., 2010. The Interaction of Lean and Building Information Modeling in Construction. Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 136(9), 968‐980.

4. Integrated project delivery: an updated working definition. (2014, 7 15). The American Institute of Architects, California Council.

5. Younes, M., 2015. Reshaping Construction Management for Sustainability and Resource Efficiency. Implementation of LeanBIM Concept in Construction.

6. Arayici, Y., & Aouad, G., 2010. Building information modelling (BIM) for construction lifecycle management. In S. G. Doyle (Ed.), Construction and Building: Design, Materials, and Techniques (pp. 99-118). NY, USA: Nova Science Publishers.

Additional Resources

Sanvido, V., 2008. Building Information Modeling Drives Lean Construction Management. Tradeline Inc.

Arayici, Y., Coates, P., Koskela, L., Kagioglou, M., Usher, C., & O’Reilly, K., 2011. Technology adoption in the BIM implementation for lean architectural. Automation in Construction, 20(2), 189-195.

Dave, B., Boddy, S., & Koskela, L., 2011. Challenges and opportunities in implementing lean and bim on an infrastructure project. Highways Agency - UK.

Koskela, L., Owen, B., & Dave, B., 2010, April 15-16. Lean construction, building information modelling and sustainability. Eracobuild Workshop. Malmö, Sweden.

Wang, X., & Chong, H.-Y., 2015. Setting new trends of integrated Building Information Modelling (BIM) for construction industry. Construction Innovation, 15(1), 2-6.

Pink, D. 2009, ‘DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’ Penguin Group. New York.

Featured Post


Introduction to SMED: A Neglected Method in Lean Construction

Exchange of Dies, refers to a method in the Lean Production System that is used for quick, simplified and efficient production set-up and changeover from one product/process to another, which often constitute the major causes of production downtime (non-productive time/stoppages). It is one of the foundational blocks of a continuous, improved production flow.

SMED Read more


Teaching Lean Construction II: Last Planner

Glenn Ballard and Greg Howell developed the Last Planner System of Production Control throughout the 90s1. At the same time, Lauri Koskela was working on developing a theory of production which provided the theoretical framework for the LPS2. The LPS has been successfully implemented and is becoming an important part construction management3. However, the transition from theory to practice has not been easy.

Teaching LeanRead more


Implementing Lean Construction: The Major Pitfalls

Implementing the Lean Production philosophy in the construction industry has been discussed since the early 1990s. With an increasing attention to the subject, a growing body of research and many successful implementations by the industry, “Lean” construction has stood the test of time and avoided becoming another management fad.

Teaching Lean Read more

Copyright © 2015- Lean Construction Blog