Top Ten Synergies between Lean Construction and BIM

Lean Construction and Building Information Modelling (BIM) are important transformation drivers for the construction industry1. Recent research shows that there are considerable synergies between the two2. The synergies extend from the design phase to the construction and facilities management phase3. This post gives an overview of the top ten synergies between BIM and Lean Construction2.

1) Reduce end-product variability
Better evaluation of design alternatives with their functional properties (ie. thermal, acoustic, wind etc) can reduce variability commonly introduced by late client-initiated changes during the construction stage. BIM models have been used to evaluate design, constructability and space clashes which leads to improved quality in the field. Also, the extended integration of BIM with industrial CNC (Computer Numerical Control) systems enables complex prefabrication of construction components, which reduces product variability in the field.

2) Reduce production variability
Automated quantity takeoffs which are linked to BIM models are more accurate than manual processes. Additionally, changing the design at a later stage also changes the linked quantity files; this further ensures that the quantities are always accurate. Moreover, a change made in a section or plan is automatically reflected to all other sections and plans, maintaining the design consistency. BIM models provide a single, complete-life cycle data repository that reduce variability due to coordination and project-data handover issues between the stages in the project-life cycle.

3) Reduce production cycle-durations
Quick turnaround of structural, thermal, and acoustic performance analyses; of cost estimation; and of evaluation of conformance to client program, all enable collaborative design, reducing cycle times for the design phase. Also, parallel processing on multiple workstations in a coordinated fashion (without the need of integration and coordination of the different 2D models) reduces design cycle times. Better design consequently leads to better optimized and more accurate operational schedules in the field with fewer conflicts. This further reduces cycle-times in the construction phase. Moreover, having a complete data repository free of soft and hard clashes on a BIM model reduces the extended cycle-times related to information need and constructability issues in the field .

4) Reduce batch-sizes towards single-piece flow
Automated generation of drawings, especially shop drawings for fabrication of steel or precast, enables review and production to be performed in smaller batches. The information can be provided on demand, which allows for the production of just the right piece at the right time.

5) Use pull systems
In the pull system, components used in the process are only replaced once they have been consumed or needed by downstream work units. So, upstream work units only produce enough to meet their downstream customer demands controlling the work-in-progress. Construction drawings can be pulled by construction crews when needed from a BIM database preventing design drawing overloads or push. With the integration of BIM quantity take-offs, company Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and suppliers’ ERP systems, just-in-time basis material and consumable logistics can be supported for the field through timely coordination between the construction field and suppliers.

6) Verify and validate value generation
Virtual prototyping and simulation due to the intelligence built in the BIM model objects enable automated checking against design and building regulations. This makes verification and validation of the design more efficient. Visualization of proposed schedules and visualization of ongoing processes verify and validate process information. Clash checking and solving other integration issues verify and validate product information.

7) Decide by consensus
As all aspects of the design intent and its parameters are captured in a 3D model the client can easily understand it. The requirements can be captured and communicated in a thorough way as early as the conceptual development stage. Also, BIM visualization features have been used for client and stakeholder engagement, and in the Last Planner meeting sessions for improved communication and coordination during the construction phase. At the conceptual design stage, rapid turnaround to prepare cost estimates and other performance evaluations enables evaluation of multiple design options for participatory decision making.

8) Ensure consistency of requirements
In sets of 2D drawings and specifications, the same objects are represented in multiple places. As design progresses and changes are made, operators must maintain consistency between the multiple representations/information views. BIM removes this problem entirely by using a single representation of information from which all reports are derived automatically. Sharing models among all participants of a project team enhances communication at the design and construction phases even without producing drawings.

9) Standardize work processes
BIM based animations of production or installation sequences can be prepared. These guide workers in how to perform work in specific contexts and are an excellent means for ensuring that standardized procedures are followed. Also, BIM models now can perform automatic safety checks and take precautions on the models as necessary (ie. barriers around slab holes or safety proximity warnings), which increases site safety standardization. Construction companies started to use BIM models to train their workforce on safety and quality issues in the field.

10) Visualize production process
Modeling and animation of construction sequences in “4D” and “5D” tools provide a unique opportunity to visualize construction processes. This enables identifying resource conflicts in time and space and resolving constructability issues with their cost impacts. Moreover, it facilitates process optimization improving efficiency and safety and can help identify the bottlenecks. The improved use of wearable/mobile devices with cloud databases (i.e Autocad BIM 360) contribute to an ubiquitous BIM visualization. Also, the integration of Virtual Reality, BIM models and wearable/mobile devices supports further visualization and process transparency options in the construction and maintenance phase.

There are many more synergies between Lean Construction and BIM that are discussed in Sacks et al. (2010)2. In my future posts, I will provide some real life-cases in which these synergies were realized within different construction life-cycle stages.


1. Eastman, C., Eastman, C. M., Teicholz, P. and Sacks, R. (2011). BIM handbook: A guide to building information modeling for owners, managers, designers, engineers and contractors. John Wiley & Sons.

2. Sacks, R., Koskela, L., Dave, B. and Owen, R. L. (2010), The interaction of Lean and BIM: a conceptual analysis. Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 136 (9) 968-980.

3. Dave, B., Koskela, L., Kiviniemi, A., Tzortzopoulos, P. and Owen, R.L. (2013), Implementing lean in construction : lean construction and BIM. CIRIA.

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