For large general contractors, BIM (building information modeling) is no longer just a competitive advantage; it is a way of doing business. The more a company uses modeling technologies, and the associated BIM processes, the greater the return on investment.

Take for example, McCarthy Building Companies, www.mccarthy.com, St. Louis, Mo. The company has used BIM for years, but continues to find new ways to improve value and reduce project costs. Recently, McCarthy broke ground on a new patient tower, parking structure, and central utility plant at the St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif.

According to Todd Foos, project manager, McCarthy, one of the biggest challenges of the project has been relocating all of the hospital’s utility services prior to the demolition of the existing parking structure and construction of the new tower. In order to meet this challenge head on, McCarthy worked closely with the hospital to develop a plan to complete the infrastructure work with little disruption to the hospital.

The new tower will include sustainable features such as an energy-efficient building envelope and mechanical systems that improve efficiency. Building a hospital with complex MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) systems requires McCarthy to use design and construction technology—as well as a collaborative team approach.

McCarthy is using a combination of IPD (integrated project delivery) and design/build methods on this project to improve efficiency from design and fabrication through construction.

On this particular project, McCarthy and subcontractors are using technology from Autodesk, www.autodesk.com, San Rafael, Calif., as well as Google SketchUp.

The technology helps identify challenges before they become a problem onsite, and allows team members to create and work from one model throughout all stages of the project. In the end, the technology helps improve the decision-making process, and allows team members to perform “what if” scenarios.

The tools benefit all the stakeholders on the project, according to the Jim Bostic, AVP Construction Division, St. Joseph Health System, www.stjoe.org, La Palma, Calif. He says the organization has determined the best way to understand, evaluate, and make decisions at each critical point is through the use of BIM.

The St. Jude Northwest Tower is scheduled to be completed in summer 2014 and open in fall 2014. As a result of the collaborative efforts and the technology, the team has lowered the original target budget by approximately $14.5 million.

While this is another success story of a large general contractor using BIM fully throughout a project, smaller construction companies can also realize the value BIM can provide. At its core, BIM can provide coordination and clash detection using 3D models—which is a great way for contractors to start using BIM. Down the line, construction companies and owner organizations can incorporate 4D scheduling, 5D estimating, and even 6D facilities management.

Some might say BIM is exiting the early adopter phase and is becoming more mainstream in the construction industry. Are you prepared for this technological shift in construction?