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According to recent research, smart cities are expected to swell into a multi-trillion-dollar market within the next several years, primarily driven by governments investing in technology to keep up with urbanization and its related challenges, such as the need for improved energy infrastructure and more effective ways of dealing with vehicles. 

The research also found that a major area of growth will continue to come from the smart building segment, which is the building block for all smart city development. As such in order for the construction industry to keep pace with smart city development and the required level of collaboration necessary to connect all the building elements from the planning phase to completion, is only possible with advanced tools that provide the insight to more efficiently plan, design, construct and manage buildings and infrastructure. Without advanced tools and technologies to support the smart building segment of growth, the efforts to create a smart city become exponentially more complex and the potential for loss of information inevitable. 

Get Smart 

Cities and their construction partners that lack an effective means to collaborate and share information over the life of the project will struggle to remain competitive and sustain projects and will indelibly require far greater budgets from what is usually a very small public coffer. 

It’s clear that one critical element of the smart city development process begins with building information management adoption. BIM is transforming the construction industry—changing the way multidisciplinary project teams collaborate at every stage to deliver significant efficiency and cost savings. 

The construction industry and project collaborators, including specifiers, builders, developers and engineers, must be equipped and ready to manage not only the influx of “smart” requests, but also collaboration and communication silos these projects often face. 

High-quality project information from BIM data allows project stakeholders from every phase to communicate and coordinate from the start. Asset data, both current and historical, is available in the cloud for review and use by all project players at all times. Potential clashes among contributors are foreseen and revealed before any site work has begun. BIM provides the means to share information while pooling different disciplinary expertise, yielding better project outcomes. 

Why BIM? 

Whether cities are looking to build new smart structures or to retrofit existing buildings, there are several ways BIM can help put them on a path to success. For example, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority recently used BIM to modify the country’s Metro Red Line as part of its quest to be the smartest city in the world technologically. 

Studies in the U.K. and the U.S. suggest that out of every dollar spent on construction, 35% of that cost is wasted. For the U.S. construction industry, that translates to about $140 billion per year, or roughly eight times the amount architects, engineers and designers are paid to conceive buildings. 

Industry research has found that once BIM is applied to a construction project, accurately coordinated information at the pre-construction stage leads to fewer costly onsite change orders, which are reduced by more than 45%. The average cost of a change order, if it occurs, is cut by 55%. 

Without BIM adoption, the construction industry loses time, money and the ability to capitalize on the influx of smart city projects. 

Smart City Revolution 

Some U.S. cities and states are taking matters into their own hands by placing a BIM mandate in their project solicitations. In 2009, Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to require all public works with a budget of over $5 million and new public construction with a budget of over $2.5 million to use BIM. Not long afterward, Texas followed suit with its own BIM requirement for state design and construction projects, and Texas has been joined by many cities and counties like New York City and Broward County, Fla. Even the epicenter of the U.S. Government, the Capitol Building, was updated using BIM drawings, which the Architect of the Capitol described as “21st-century approach to field coordination and quality control is a model for the future of construction.” 

While it is unlikely a federal BIM mandate will happen any time soon, what is likely to happen is that the construction industry within these cities and states who apply BIM standards and models to their projects are going to continue to lead the smart city movement, while saving time and money in the process. Without BIM, the road to smart city status will be arduous for everyone from elected officials to local leaders in construction, business and technology alike. 


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