Should BIM become a LEED Requirement?

It can be a struggle to hack your way through today’s acronym juggle in just about any industry, but especially in the AEC industry (it’s an acronym itself!). There are UAS/UAV (aka drones), LiDAR scanners (aka light detection and ranging), BIM (aka building information model), and many others in the alphabet soup.

With alternative project delivery methods, like design-build becoming more common, BIM or ‘building information models’ are becoming increasingly more popular. As technology like IPADs and other software providers make these models and the information from them more accessible, especially to guys in the field where it is needed most. BIM is a 3D model representing physical assets from entire infrastructure pieces like buildings down to the components like columns, mechanical ducts, and underground utilities.

LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council is perhaps one of the most popular green building initiatives having been deployed internationally. This system includes a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods.

LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. They do not explicitly tell you how to achieve LEED, and yes there are best practices from past projects, but they do however provide a framework. Using BIM for a project could be a part of this framework.

Using BIM is a method that can help designers achieve LEED status. The model enables architects/engineers to evaluate and certify that the proposed structure meets LEED standards, for example by running thermal analysis. These models can also be used, for the critical documentation process to achieve that LEED status, something that is easy to overlook. The information attached to or derived from the models can be used throughout the building life cycle.

As technology that compliments BIM continues to improve, such as augmented reality, additional benefits can be realized. This example can help reduce paper on the jobsite, reducing waste is certainly a LEED goal. Maybe even more beneficial is the incredible impact that having BIM has on facilities management, the most expensive part of the building life cycle.

While it is not an explicit requirement today, BIM will become a more common tool in the framework to achieve LEED in the coming years. We think it may even warrant a discussion on whether BIM should qualify for additional credits.

Do not let those airspace authorizations expire without reading this first!

LANNC has rolled out across the country, so that means you can fly your drone wherever you want through the digital approval process, right?

Nope - not yet anyway.

LAANC currently only works for air traffic control towers that are FAA operated, whereas the contract towers are not yet utilizing the LAANC system. How big of an issue is this? There are over 500 ATC towers, and of those, over 200, or nearly half of them, are contract towers.

To learn more, follow this link FAA Waivers and LAANC or reach out to our team.

*Image from

Is a lack of LOD definition hurting your Civil Infrastructure Model?

Image courtesy of  LOD Planner

Image courtesy of LOD Planner

As the use of Building Information Modeling increases every year it is easy to ask “when will some of the same standards that are afforded to buildings be incorporated into the infrastructure side of construction”.  Over the past several years efforts have been put into place to develop standards to define the Level of Development requirement via the model. Much of these efforts had a prior focus on building elements such as windows, doors, structural elements and MEP systems leaving a gap when it comes to the infrastructure work on a project or infrastructure projects as a whole. Sometimes the a blanket LOD is applied to a project that is clearly higher than what the team wants or needs for successfully coordinated civil sitework.


Why are BIM execution plans vague when it comes to civil infrastructure

Image courtesy of  LOD Planner

Image courtesy of LOD Planner

When the BIMForum published its latest iteration of LOD guidelines in 2017, it provided a comprehensive guide to help define what each model element and dataset should look like that was to appear in the model.  However, some essential elements were left out. With the exceptions of bridges, most infrastructure work fails to appear in the guide at all.  Even if you dig into the site utility section, the definition explanation at its highest level of detail of LOD 200 providing approximate sizes, vertical control, and apparatus.  As the definition is extremely vague, this does not offer enough guidance for clear BIM Execution Plan language leading to misunderstandings and scope gaps during implementation. The lack of an industry-wide standard and a tool for which we can utilize to plan our modeling efforts are dramatically affecting projects.

Why do we need more definition

Image courtesy of  LOD Planner

Image courtesy of LOD Planner

While the lack of development of an infrastructure model might not seem like much of an issue at first, it can wreak havoc on a project, especially on projects where the infrastructure plays a huge role or is the primary focus.  Not having consensus on what is necessary to provide to the project can have detrimental effects, leading to project coordination oversites, schedule delays,, and cost overruns. So how can we change this pattern? We believe that there is a way to move towards a more clearly defined and understood definition of the requirements.  In the right hands, tools such as LOD Planner are helping projects determine these requirements earlier in the project.  By providing easy to understand visuals, LOD Planner allows team members to plan and visually scope model requirements. The best part is they do this for not only buildings but infrastructure work as well.  By going through the planning process in LOD Planner team members can have an understanding of the requirements necessary for the project as well as the timeline to deliver them. It is without a doubt that this tool significantly helps improve modeling and BIM coordination deliverables on any deployed project.  LOD Planner is a massive stride in the right direction when it comes to infrastructure modeling.

Stay tuned to see how FlywheelAEC is working with LOD Planner in the future! 

Using UAV Aerial Imagery for Drone Safety Monitoring

Using UAV Aerial Imagery for Drone Safety Monitoring

With the rapidly growing prevalence of drones on the construction site, it is no surprise that safety personnel are quickly starting to use this aerial intelligence to analyze project safety.  Drone imagery and data does not replace project observations but for larger projects where site walks are not a quick or easy, drone imagery can provide valuable information at the ready in a safe, controlled and repeatable manner.

What to look for in a BIM Sitework Consultant

Whenever you are starting a new project, one of the first things to coordinate is the sitework. However, often this is one of the items that never gets incorporated into the BIM plan. So if you are considering bringing on board a consultant to help you model and coordinate the sitework here are some things you should consider:  

Find a consultant with a background in the full sitework lifecycle

There are a lot of BIM consultants available on the market today, but very few of them have experience or knowledge of civil and sitework.  Consultants that focus on this type of work have a background in civil planning, design, and construction and will add immense value to your team.  They will not just create a 3D model of your project but will consider key constructability and design factors while doing so. Since sitework can be one of the most critical elements of the project, proper planning, coordinating and reviewing designs is vital.  The best consultants come from an engineering background and will also understand how the work is put in place, allowing you to push information to the field and eliminating duplicate work. A truly valuable consultant will bring lots of experience and knowledge about sitework to the table.

There is a big difference between Sitework and MEP Modeling

There is a reason that plumbers do not typically install site drainage.  It is a different ball game. So if you are hiring a consultant to help you design, model and plan coordination of civil and sitework elements, you want to hire one that is familiar with that type of work.  Sitework requires completely different types of pipe, fittings, valves, and components that are not typical to MEP. Having the right tools to model this correctly will deliver a much better end-product. Many MEP consultants will try and convince you that it is just pipe, but the rules for sitework are much different, and since you are working underground you have additional considerations to keep in mind.  Also, a real sitework consultant will understand the installation and the most efficient way to deliver the information to the field.

Understanding the end user of your sitework model

Understanding who and how the end-user will utilize your sitework model is very important.  There is a lot of automation in the sitework trades including laser graders, machine controlled dozers, robotic total stations, and drones. These tools help keep sitework contractors efficient on large projects. Understanding the deliverables for the sitework contractor to use with these tools is critical. Also, sitework contractors work in tenths of a foot, not in fractions of an inch, which can make a big difference when creating final deliverables.  It is critical to making sure that all the work that goes into these models is trusted and put to good use. Understanding how the associated trades work is key to making useful deliverables.

Picking the right tool for any job is important. When selecting a sitework BIM consultant, the same rules apply. Finding the most qualified team that can add the most value to the project will pay off in the long run.


Use of Blockchain for timely subcontractor payments

Construction companies have struggled to find ways to efficiently pay subcontractors on projects for as long as they have been in business.  Often subcontractors end up waiting months to receive payment on invoices because of manual processes that are paperwork-heavy. However, there may be some relief soon as a lot of companies are investigating using Blockchain to facilitate this payment cycle more electronically.

Problems with the current process

Each month a subcontractor is required to submit a pay requisition to the general contractor.  This pay application, usually due to the GC on the 20th, is to include all of the work for the current month including projections through the end of the month.  Once that pay application is received, it is reviewed by the GC and either approved or rejected. Unfortunately, this is not what triggers the payment to the subcontractor.  That pay application gets lumped together with other subcontractors and then submit to the owner on a pay application of its own. This process often requires several reviews by the owner, architect, and lender on the project to ensure it is entirely l accurate.  Most contracts need the GC to submit their pay application by the 25th of the month, and after approvals, they will have funds within thirty days. However, approving the pay application is only part of the paperwork. GC’s, Subs and second tier subs are also required to provide additional documentation like lien releases, sworn statements and project updates before they can receive payment.  This process can drag on for 30-120 days causing cash flow problems for subcontractors to buy materials and pay labor. The current method has flaws, and we need to find a way to fix it.

Where Blockchain could help payments

As you can see from the process, many gates must be passed through in the payment process, and many of those gates have manual controls.   Using Blockchain could potentially solve this problem. Many companies are specifically interested in the use of Smart Contracts, which allow users to automate information reconciliation.  If parties have a connection to the Blockchain then documentation and work status could be checked automatically, it could eliminate the need for manual inspection. Also, we could link these contracts together, automatically funding subcontractors as soon as a GC contract is funded, eliminating the need for unnecessary delay in between.  By connecting the contracts, you could enable additional types of 3rd party financing and supply chain options. Linking this type of information together on either a public or private Blockchain would potentially change the processing of construction payments.

What needs to happen for Blockchain to work

Many things would need to occur for Blockchain to enable faster payments in construction.  

  1. Increased digitization of the industry: This won't work if we can’t digitize the verification of work, application process and documents associated.  Unfortunately, construction is one of the least digitized industries.

  2. Subcontractors will need to be more transparent:  Since the chain will track payments up and down, the chain of all involved will need to be ok with more transparency into their financials.  

  3. The industry will have to adopt regulations to support Blockchain:  Our industry is full of individuals who are trying to defer risk. Many legal processes would need to be adapted to support and accept blockchain payments and to release risk.

These barriers are not insurmountable.  However, it is going to take time and effort to evolve to support this type of thinking.  Groups such as the Construction Blockchain Consortium are actively working to transform our industry.  It is undoubtedly an exciting time to be in construction.


More flying space, for more project opportunity!

The FAA has officially announced the expansion of the LAANC program to airports nationwide. What this means is that now it is quicker and easier for FAA Part 107 licensed drone pilots to gain almost instant digital approval to fly most job sites and projects that are within controlled airspace.

Currently there are 6 airports participating in the “beta” version of LAANC. In the coming weeks LAANC will be rolled out nationwide to over 500 airports.

In the manual process, it can take a long period of time (90 days or more), to get an approval to fly in any controlled airspace. With so much development taking place near airports, the current slow approval system complicates our ability to make flights happen exactly when we need them to.  Who wants to wait 90+ days?!

In the next iteration of this new digitized waiver/authorization process, we will be able to schedule drone flights during key phases of the projects, without delay, and complete aerial mapping with much shorter notice. Our network of 400 pilots who span the country are ready and willing to fly whenever we need them. Thanks to LAANC’s newly expedited process, we plan on keeping them busy.

Learn more about our drone services and how we can help your next project!


Author - Timothy Long (

Almost 25 years ago, I worked for a gentleman who made the following statement to me while going over some field sketches of existing conditions, “One day we will place a little black box in the center of a room and it will take all the measurements for us.” I have never forgotten these words, yet I never realized that this premonition would happen in my life time. Twenty-five years later, we are pretty much there, although instead of a black box, we use a scanner much like your typical tripod surveying transit. And now I am the one promoting this idea to others.

Scanning has become an integral part of today’s work flows for AEC industry leaders. It has made the task of collecting data easier, faster, and therefore more economical. The big draw back for most companies to utilize this new technology has been the cost to implement it, since as with all new technology, it has come with a large initial price tag. It is important for firms to remember that just like with all new technology, the price will decrease as the usage increases.  Luckily, this shift is happening right now.

Back in November at #AU2016, Leica unveiled their new scanner, the #BLK360.

The little black box my teacher described 25 years ago is now a reality, and it is amazing. The Leica BLK360 is so small that it can fit in a back pack and weighs only 2.2 lbs. It stands at .54 ft. tall and is .32 ft. in diameter. It collects 360,000 laser scan points per second, takes less than 3 minutes to do a full dome scan in standard resolution and 150 MP spherical image generation, and has a range of 60 meters (or about 200 ft.) with an accuracy of 4 mm.

What makes this so amazing is that not only is it small and easy to use, but is priced so almost any business can now afford to utilize entry level laser scanning. The typical price for a quality scanner these days is in the realm of $50,000 to $150,000, but the BLK-360 is set to start at around $16,000. The Leica BLK-360 will become available in March of 2017 and you can pre-order now.

With such an affordable laser scanning option, I believe that the BLK-360 can also prove to be an asset on the architecture side (for example an architect who is doing a renovation to a building, they can have all the existing condition in minutes compared to the conventional way which could take days of measurements and drafting). I am also curious to see what comes of this new affordable technology in the civil-survey and site construction arena; range is a concern for large projects. Also, will the BLK-360 prove as durable and accurate as promoted? Here at Flywheel, we’re determined to put this technology to the test, in the real world, and integrate it into our in-house toolset and workflow.

While there are numerous advantages to using the Leica BLK-360 as a surveying asset, there is one potential drawback: purchasing the software necessary to use the device. Currently, the BLK-360 only works with Autodesk ReCap Pro 360 on an IPad Pro, so users are forced to subscribe to these tools. Even with this potential drawback, the Leica BLK-360 is an amazing piece of technology that is going to improve AEC workflows.

What is next? It can only get better from here. As science and technology continue to evolve, concepts that once seemed impossible are quickly becoming our reality. (At this rate, we may be saying “Beam me up, Scotty” for real.) So, let’s all get out into the field and have some fun. With newly affordable scanners, we can all participate in the reality capture phenomenon.