Any construction project owner will tell you they would like building permits faster. The adage “time is money” is particularly apt in construction, as delays are costly. There are many ways to make the permitting process quicker and more efficient, but we believe there is a future where your BIM and reality capture will become an integral component to greatly reducing the approvals process.
Just how long does it take to get a building permit for commercial construction today? In New York City it takes eight weeks for the city to do the initial plan check for major new commercial buildings, and believe it or not, this is actually one of the fastest jurisdictions for reviewing plan submissions. This does not even include the inevitable changes that can happen that force the ownership team to revise plans. Once the ownership team revises plans, they have to repeat the process, perhaps adding another eight weeks or more. (The review is on a first come, first served basis. So, the review may extend beyond eight weeks.)
With rising interest rates and inflation raging, letting assets lie idle is especially costly. Interest rates are continuing to rise, and the Fed is expected to continue raising rates. In an October 2022 article, Reuters said, “The Fed’s benchmark overnight interest rate is currently in the 3.00%-3.25% range, and policymakers have signaled they expect it to rise further to 4.6% next year….”
Anything that can move construction forward should be welcome news for owners and the GC’s who win the bid for that project. So, let’s consider how your BIM and reality capture data may improve the building permitting process.
Advantages of using BIM
By the time ownership teams develop the materials necessary to obtain a permit, they have spent a great deal of time and money. The project has already been through conception, financing, planning, development, and more. By the time you reach the plan submittal stage, you are anxious to move dirt and start construction.
If the permit is rejected and you have to return to the drawing board – or at least do some erasing – it’s costly and frustrating.
If permitting plans were replaced or supplemented with a BIM submission, you could automate plan reviews with model-based code compliance checking. Automating the process of determining compliance with building regulations, codes, etc. results in plans with a higher degree of compliance. Finally, you could easily review any changes to plans in process to ensure they were compliant.
BIM reviews for model-based code compliance are quicker than if the task were completed by people. Automated BIM reviews enable designers and code reviewers to devote more time to other tasks, including addressing issues with compliance that are detected by the automated code compliance checking process.
If a permit is rejected and plans need to be resubmitted, resubmittal time can be sped up. As the team makes the necessary adjustments, permitters can be part of the live design process by immediately reviewing and incorporating comments for faster resubmission.
BIM and model-based code compliance speed up the permitting process and have the potential to minimize human error and save owners much time and money. Technology, like Avvir, can ensure that construction is completed according to the approved permit drawings and enable projects to proceed as envisioned.
Current barriers to adoption
Studies show that just 19% of New Year’s resolutions are kept after two years; 77% don’t make it past a week. Why is change so hard? People are creatures of habit. Many people/businesses do things because of a “that’s the way we do things” mentality. With that said, there are barriers to implementing BIM.
- Trust – There may be a lack of trust in the software since some are unfamiliar with it. If all the stakeholders, such as AHJ (authorities having jurisdiction), engineers, contractors, etc. trusted that the software can assure compliance with the code, changes would occur.
- Utilization – BIM usage in the U.S. is growing but is still not the norm. A Spring 2022 survey from Oracle found that 50% of respondents use a BIM on between 76% and 100% of their projects, and 23% incorporate BIM processes on all projects. In order to truly force adoption, owners must require the implementation of BIM. Similarly, legislation could be passed to enforce the use of BIM and model-based code compliance.
- Need for “Paper Trail” – Even when a team robustly utilizes BIM, the ultimate deliverable is still a 2D set of permit drawings. Drawings are easy to catalog. Sign Offs can be physically stamped onto a paper which allows for a very clear paper trail of what was approved and when. The problem with this methodology is that the model must also be frozen in time and ends up becoming disconnected from the living model. This opens up an opportunity for information loss and missed scope.
- Code Checking – Building codes are regularly updated and changed. Keeping track of the changes is a task in itself. To get the most out of BIM’s model-based code compliance and offer a thorough check for code adherence, databases need to be up to date. Governing authorities could maintain a database of building codes so they could automate the process of checking adherence to the BIM. Developing a machine readable database on the front end is time consuming. However, that effort will save time on the back end. Also, database maintenance could become standard practice anytime an amendment or new addition of code is approved.
- Code Interpretation – There are other challenges to using BIM to check for code adherence. Some building codes leave room for interpretation, which does not translate well to automation. In addition, building codes are not standardized nationally, as each AHJ may have its specific code.
Moving forward with BIM
There are certain parts of the permitting process that are out of your control but by utilizing a BIM to automate a baseline adherence to code, it would be possible to drastically reduce the permitting review process. One example of a good step towards automated permit reviews is ComCheck. ComCheck automates and speeds up the process of confirming energy code compliance checking for commercial buildings. However, while the software is appreciated as a reliable means for verifying compliance, it checks for a very narrow set of requirements.
Avvir offers one big piece of the solution. Previously there was no systematic and accurate way to connect the BIM to the reality of the job site. A BIM-focused reality analysis platform, Avvir provides critical insights and closes the loop by updating the model throughout a project. With Avvir, you have much more assurance that what you have designed and permitted, is what is actually being installed.
If you’d like to learn more about how Avvir’s platform can connect your BIM to the reality of your job site, check out our solutions page.