The definition of Building Information Modeling (BIM) in the Handbook of BIM (Eastman, Teicholz, Sacks & Liston 2011) encompasses a lot, starting from a technology to embracing the whole construction process. BIM is then defined as:
“BIM (Building Information Modeling) technology, one or more accurate virtual models of a building are constructed digitally. They support design through its phases, allowing better analysis and control than manual processes. When completed, these computer-generated models contain precise geometry and data needed to support the construction, fabrication, and procurement activities through which the building is realized.”
BIM has several dimensions, from BIM 3D (modelling), BIM 4D (planning and scheduling), BIM 5D (budgeting), BIM 6D (sustainability), BIM 7D (facility management) and BIM 8D (safety).
In principle, the eighth dimension in the BIM concerns safety and accident prevention in the construction site. According to the study done by Imriyas Kamardeen in 2010, we can consider three aspects in this context: determining the risks in the model, promoting safety suggestions for high risk profiles and proposing risk control and job safety on the job for the profiles of uncontrollable risks. In other words, BIM 8D adds the safety dimension to the model, by predicting possible risks in the operational and construction process, as well as adding safety elements and risk indicators.
Initially, Gibb Haslam, Hide and Gyi conducted, in 2004, a detailed review of 100 construction accidents in the United Kingdom and reported that in 47% of cases, at least one design change reduced the risk of injury. Later, in 2006, Behm analyzed 450 reports of construction worker deaths and disabling injuries in the United States. Therefore, in a third of the cases, it was reported that the risk that contributed to the incident could have been eliminated had safety measures been implemented. Soon after, in 2008 in Australia, Creaser confirmed that 37% of deaths in the workplace had project-related issues and the issues appeared to contribute to at least 30% of injuries.
There is an argument that one of the most effective means of dealing with hazards is to eliminate them at source, that is, Prevention through Design (PtD). BIM assisted PtD can address this process more effectively and economically, in comparison to the traditional method.
For the construction phase, BIM can be utilized to share safety information between all professionals. With the objective of identifying more risks at earlier phases. Additionally, the parametrization of BIM objects with safety information can help construction site professionals in addressing risks with more ease.
Workers safety at the facility management phase with BIM, have all the as-built information at there disposal, and therefore can analyze the possible approaches and most risks mitigated beforehand.
Therefore, BIM can influence positively all the construction phases, helping eliminate unnecessary risks. BIMSafety R&D project aims to address these safety issues in all dimensions by developing a normative document, studying the current state of the art applications, to creating an extension module for BIM software.
The relevance of this new approach to risk management in the construction sector is justified by five key factors:
1) Despite the decrease in the amount of work in the construction sector, a high number of occupational accidents and illnesses continues to occur, with a considerable financial and logistical impact on companies.
2) The commissioning and maintenance management of buildings have been taking on a gradual importance in its life cycle.
3) The current method of managing occupational risks proves to be inadequate: prevention in the design phase is non-existent and prevention in the construction phase is based on procedures considered tedious by those who must implement them and little integrated in the task planning. This framework gives rise to a spirit of devaluation of this problem, making risk management assume, in terms of both risk assessment and control, a characteristic that is not integrated in the design, construction and maintenance of the building.
4) Building Information Modelling (BIM) tools are gaining more and more importance in the elaboration and use of architectural projects, structural and other specialties. In the case of the prevention of occupational risks, BIM still does not have the same importance it has in other specialties.
5) For legal reasons: Bearing in mind the general principles of prevention, there is an urgent need to take into account the state of the art, namely in terms of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to provide more effective risk management.
In view of this panorama, Xispoli Engineering and the School of Civil Engineering of the University of Minho established a strategic technical-scientific connection, with the objective of developing a research and development project in the area of professional risk prevention with the use of BIM tools, namely the partial automation of risk management activities in the design, construction and exploration phase of the building.
Having already published the first steps taken for this approach, it is now necessary to try to fill the existing technical-scientific gaps:
1) There is no normative document on the transmission and use of risk prevention information;
2) There is no organized library, systematized and available on the Internet, of objects linked to risk management, implying the need to perform the modeling and parameterization of the object to be used;
3) Although some countries have already submitted proposals, an expeditious way of integrating the risk management in the modeling software has not yet been found or tested;
4) There is no case in Portugal of a practical application of BIM in risk management in the design, construction and maintenance phases;
5) There is no technical implementation guide available on the international market, nor documents evidencing state-of-the-art practices that reflect the legacy of what has already been done.