As the wind whips through the top floor of an unfinished eight-story office building a block west of the White House, Steven Denbow points to metal air ducts as an example of work that wouldn’t need to be redone.
The 29-year-old senior project engineer for Balfour Beatty Plc (BBY) ran three-dimensional simulations before construction began, finding hundreds of clashes, or design elements that interfered with each other. When the software indicated water pipes would intersect the ducts, he requested changes so workers didn’t have to rebuild parts of the $29 million project.
Armed with iPads linked to the newest plans, work orders and information requests, specialists such as Denbow are leading a shift to building information modeling, or BIM. New types of jobs are being created, such as modelers, and updated skills are becoming mandatory for designers and contractors. As builders recover from the worst downturn since World War II, such tools are changing processes used in design and construction.
“The goal is to eliminate problems before they happen,” says Denbow, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering and was trained on the software at Balfour Beatty. “This saves time and money in the long run, which is what everyone wants.”