Design is one of the most important aspects of any construction project. Because of its importance, it often comes with a variety of challenges, from incorrect scaling to missing essential elements.

Modern construction processes, such as building information modeling (BIM) and lean construction, can help to combat these common issues and make the entire construction process more efficient.

Learn more about BIM and lean construction, as well as their effects on design management, below.

What Is Building Information Modeling?

Building information modeling (BIM) involves storing all attributes of a building in a single file, which various team members can access and manipulate. It allows everyone to collaborate and make adjustments as needed, ensuring that no essential elements get left out.

Effects of BIM on Design Management

BIM is helpful in all aspects of the construction process. However, it’s especially helpful during the design phase.

With BIM software, designers can create 3D models of buildings and get input from other key team members, including architects and engineers. Getting this input early in the process helps them to make informed decisions and saves them from having to go back to square one and make changes based on feedback from others.

BIM software also helps with design management because it includes helpful visualization tools that address things like structural integrity and clash detection. These tools ensure the building doesn’t just look good but also that it is designed to last.

What Is Lean Construction?

Lean construction is a type of project delivery process. It stands out from other approaches because it uses Lean methods and principles, including maximizing stakeholder value, reducing waste, and emphasizing collaboration.

The primary goal of Lean construction is increasing productivity, profits, and innovation.

Lean Construction Principles

There isn’t one specific way for design and construction teams to utilize Lean construction. However, all plans and processes center around the following key principles:

  • Identifying Value from the Customer’s POV: Focuses not just on what the client wants to build but why they want to build it.
  • Defining the Value Stream: Identifying all the processes necessary to deliver value to the client.
  • Eliminating Waste: Targets and strives to eliminate eight types of waste:
    • Defects: Anything that is not done correctly the first time
    • Overproduction: A task is completed earlier than scheduled or before the next task can be started
    • Waiting: Workers are ready, but the necessary materials have not been delivered, or a prerequisite prior task has not been completed.
    • Not Utilizing Talent: The right person is not matched to the right job
    • Transport: When materials, equipment, or workers are moved before they are needed
    • Inventory: Materials not immediately needed are considered excess inventory.
    • Motion: Unnecessary movements, like the distance between workers, tools, and materials, create wasted motion
    • Over-Processing: This happens when features or activities are added even though they have no value to the client
  • Ongoing, Uninterrupted Workflows: Ideally, Lean construction projects are continuous and flow from start to finish without interruptions or delays.
  • Collaborating and Communicating: Ongoing collaboration and communication prevent interruptions and increase efficiency.
  • Continuous Improvement: Team members identify opportunities for improvement and apply them to the next project.
Effects of Lean Construction on Design Management

By implementing Lean construction principles during the design process, team members can streamline building design and avoid delays or interruptions by communicating continuously with workers from other teams (construction managers, architects, etc.).

This ongoing communication also allows for easier idea sharing and contributes to increased innovation -- meaning better results and more value provided to the client.

Abiding by Lean principles while designing can also help to prevent various types of waste during later stages of the project, including defects, unnecessary motion, and over-processing.

How to Incorporate BIM and Lean Concepts into Design Management

Design teams can use building information modeling technology and Lean construction concepts to simplify their jobs and produce better outcomes for clients.

For example, adopting BIM software makes it easier for designers to communicate and collaborate (i.e., executing one of the core principles of Lean construction) with other workers and project stakeholders.

When everyone works together and adjusts the model based on their unique knowledge and skills, it’s easier to create a finished design that meets all requirements and allows for a more efficient building process.

Utilizing BIM software will also help designers avoid making decisions that could lead to waste later on in the construction process. For example, they can ensure all aspects of the design are correct (and don’t leave out any important details), which helps to prevent delays and defects.

Challenges and Limitations of BIM and Lean in Design Management

While BIM and Lean construction principles offer many benefits to the design management and overall construction process, they also come with some potential challenges and limitations.

The following are a few of the most significant ones to keep in mind:

  • BIM software can be expensive, meaning it may not be accessible to smaller teams and those with tight budgets.
  • BIM software can be challenging to learn, especially for less tech-savvy designers, creating a learning curve that could temporarily slow down the design process and create delays in the construction process.
  • Team members -- especially higher-ups -- must all buy into the use of BIM technology and adoption of Lean construction principles; otherwise, there will likely be issues with communication and collaboration, which can then create waste, delays, and other obstacles.

The good news is that transparent communication and adequate training can prevent many of these challenges.

Before teams begin utilizing BIM technology or implementing Lean technology, it’s critical that they take the time to educate members on the value of these tools and processes, as well as how they will be used in their various roles.

Final Thoughts

Building information modeling and Lean construction can offer significant benefits to design management practices. They can increase efficiency, minimize waste, and create a culture of continuous improvement.

Although BIM and Lean construction come with some possible downsides, the potential benefits to workers and clients outweigh them in most situations.

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With over 10 years of experience as the Director of Marketing at Microsol Resources, a technology consulting company for the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries, she is a marketing leader who develops and launches brands, nurtures clients and creates demand-generation activities. She is passionate about delivering innovative and effective marketing solutions that align with the company's vision and goals, as well as the needs and expectations of its diverse and loyal customer base.