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Bhushan Avsatthi

Health Care

BIM Increases Efficiencies and Optimizes ROI in Healthcare Construction

In future-ready infrastructure, BIM will lead the way

Published: Wednesday, December 21, 2022 - 12:03

The very nature of healthcare construction and its specific infrastructural and functional needs pose significant challenges to the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) sector. Crucial hospital spaces such as operation theaters and critical care centers need fail-proof connections to life support systems. Heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) installations, electrical and plumbing fittings, and fire systems all need to be designed around healthcare needs.

Given the sensitive nature of the spaces, there can be no room for design errors or inaccuracies. And then there’s a plethora of building codes at national, state, and local levels, ranging from design codes to operational codes that must be complied with to ensure the safety of healthcare facilities. These ensure that hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics can withstand disasters and keep operating in emergencies.

But the intricacies of design, operational needs, and compliance in healthcare construction are difficult to meet with traditional 2D design tools and outdated digital systems. Furthermore, healthcare construction is highly capital-intensive, requiring granular costs and schedule optimization, as well as compliance documentation for any approval. Building information modeling (BIM) can solve these challenges and pave the way for safer hospital structures, maintenance, and asset management across entire building life cycles.

What is BIM?

Building information modeling is a process of creating an information model of a building based on data, and then managing different requirements by tying project processes to that information model. The soft copy of the information model is created and rendered in 3D modeling software (the 3D model), and you might say the hard copy is the building itself.

The central data model carries all relevant information, from legalities to weather data, in addition to conventional construction data like structural, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC elements. The principal advantage of using BIM is that you can connect it to any advanced system or software that runs on data and get outputs. This ranges from documentation to safety and alarm systems.

With BIM, you enter the era of Construction 4.0 and 3D-printed houses, and you can build digital twins for post-construction management and predictive maintenance. It puts the potentials of sci-fi construction into your hands, but even today BIM is mostly used in the design and preconstruction phase. Architects and engineers only scratch the surface of its capabilities.

In conventional healthcare construction projects, BIM helps stakeholders collaborate with a 360-degree view of a virtual replica of a building, whose design they can manipulate. The 3D parametric model automatically updates all associated elements with appropriate reflections of any parameters changed. So, it becomes easy for architects, contractors, manufacturers, and other professionals to collaboratively plan and design a building, and detect and resolve all architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing clashes during the preconstruction stage.

Project estimates and asset management become easy with BIM because coordinated BIM models provide exact material quantities and detailed information about components for error-free onsite installation. The central information model carries detailed information of all assets, including the manufacturer, model, and warranty. This makes facility management and future repair and maintenance of buildings a breeze compared to the traditional design approach armed with 2D tools.

Global healthcare construction holds a $400 billion business valuation. This includes state-of-the-art hospitals, research campuses, telehealth centers, and specialty clinics.

What are the challenges of healthcare construction?

Healthcare construction, whether new or existing, calls for building designs that are often complex and entail a high level of safety and hygiene compliance. The need to stay within estimated budgets while meeting architectural and structural requirements, quality guidelines, and industry best practices can be pretty daunting. Frequent change of scope also has schedules going haywire.

The challenges intensify if any refurbishment needs to be done when the facility is completely operational. Special care will need to be taken and meticulous planning involved to ensure a safe, hassle-free experience for users.

BIM offers solutions to healthcare construction challenges

The healthcare construction industry needs to zero in on specific opportunity areas to remain competitive. Focusing on these areas will unlock project efficiencies and guide positive business outcomes.

Adopting BIM methodologies can deliver better results by integrating a wide range of information to achieve:
• Refined architectural and structural designs
• Better trade coordination and collaboration
• Accurate scheduling and cost
• Improved workflows and visualization
• Detailed and functional MEP systems
• Excellent onsite safety

Based on a survey conducted by University of Southern California students Ji Wu and Derek Wong with architects and contractors from 85 AEC companies, 96 percent of the respondents had used BIM for their projects, out of which 74 percent were healthcare projects.

How BIM benefits healthcare construction

BIM brings substantial benefits to the healthcare construction sector in terms of optimized cost, time, and project efficiencies. Let’s have a look at the various features and benefits of this construction technology to understand how it affects construction efficiencies in the healthcare sector and, subsequently, the project ROI.

3D Architectural BIM Model
Architectural BIM model

MEP BIM model
LOD 300 Revit model

Hitech Digital partnered with a construction company in Egypt to create BIM models for a hospital building with architectural, structural, and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) details. The BIM models were required in LOD 300 and needed to comply with AIA standards. Hitech BIM engineers worked on converting the input PDF files into 3D models in Revit. All clashes were detected and resolved at the design stage. The final output, a federated BIM model of the hospital project, was delivered well within time and saved the client 30–35 percent in project costs.
Read case study.

Project visualization at the preconstruction stage

The greatest strength of BIM lies in its ability to enable all stakeholders to visualize the project at the preconstruction stage itself. The visualization is enabled through a three-dimensional view of an information-rich parametric BIM model. This capability of BIM allows all stakeholders to suggest changes before site construction, based on an informed and studied virtual view of the building. This significantly reduces reworks at a later stage, construction time, and costs.

The BIM models are visualized in the light of key hospital activities, equipment, workflows, and patient outcomes to identify potential issues. The fact that medical professionals have been an integral part of the preconstruction walk-through and simulation process adds valuable and actionable insights into key healthcare facility requirements.

Clash detection and resolution increases efficiency

3D BIM models, with embedded detail of the project across disciplines, help stakeholders visualize the hospital building construction as a consistent ecosystem. This helps in detecting and resolving clashes, both within and across disciplines, before they become serious issues on the actual construction site. This makes the whole process efficient and streamlined.

Collaborative BIM models ensure a fluid process

BIM supports a collaborative approach so all disciplines can access, view, and work simultaneously on a single 3D model from any location or device. Combining all aspects, this “federated” model keeps all the teams on the same page, which includes knowing design and construction constructability, material quantities, cost estimates, and requests for information.

The coordinated approach helps analyze and resolve clashes, fine-tune construction scheduling, generate material lists and quantities, understand logistics, and respond quickly to design changes or site issues.

4D BIM manages complexities of project scheduling

The need to build healthcare facilities on time and within budget requires precision scheduling of materials, equipment, and resources. Combining BIM with other, related models for schedules and logistics— called “4D BIM”—plays a crucial role in project planning by getting all stakeholders on the same page regarding the phasing schedule. With highly accurate scheduling simulations, project teams can look at multiple options and select the most appropriate one at the design phase.

Accurate timeline simulations help project stakeholders understand what comes first and what needs to follow. This gives a better sense of spatial requirements and equipment layouts for several types of diagnostic, treatment, or testing equipment and room plans. Involving healthcare personnel like doctors, surgeons, administrators, and other medical staff in the 4D scheduling process helps to identify workflow clashes or conflicts between construction and operations.

The University of Virginia Health System Hospital receives 20 patients via helicopter each day. The 440,000 sq ft hospital required an extension without affecting operations of the healthcare facility, but the helipad was close to the actual construction and working cranes. Using 4D BIM simulations, project stakeholders and the pilots were able to safely and efficiently manage operations for 22 months.

5D BIM gets your cost estimates right and keeps a check on the budget

5D BIM is a natural fit in the healthcare building process because it effectively enables construction professionals to demonstrate the behavior of 3D BIM models and how costs will be affected. Healthcare infrastructure requires visual and data modeling capabilities to leverage enhanced predictability that translates into an efficient definition of project scope. With parametric formulas, healthcare facilities can produce accurate costs on specific design, materials, phasing, site conditions, and various other parameters to determine accurate information in the owner’s timeline.

As the project unfolds, various teams develop a clear understanding of the proposed design and cost drivers. With so many moving parts in healthcare construction, owners must get an accurate description of the cost because it’s information that has a huge impact on project funding. As data are developed in real-time, the design and estimation cycle is reduced significantly and creates a positive effect on healthcare project efficiency and budget.

The future of BIM in healthcare construction

As the demand for construction increases, global healthcare spending is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 5 percent between 2019 and 2023. This is likely to create myriad opportunities for this sector. For strategizing beyond 2020, the project stakeholders will need to navigate through uncertainties by factoring in historical data and current technology drivers.

Among these factors are rising healthcare costs, alternating patient demographics, evolving consumer requirements, and complex technology ecosystems. Healthcare systems will need to focus on infrastructure that facilitates intervention and prevention rather than treatment. BIM will be the tip of the spear to build healthcare facilities that are fast paced, efficient, and sustainable.


There’s no option but to provide citizens with healthcare facilities that are state of the art. World leaders are looking at solutions to expand, upgrade, and modernize existing healthcare facilities while building new ones.

Health infrastructure has attracted global attention, thus creating potential to stimulate great demand for various construction services, particularly BIM, which will lead the way for healthcare professionals and stakeholders to build future-ready healthcare infrastructure through scalable and flexible processes and technology.

The healthcare sector has shown a substantial upcurve, and AEC firms need to implement and monitor healthcare construction carefully.


About The Author

Bhushan Avsatthi’s picture

Bhushan Avsatthi

Bhushan Avsatthi is an architect with more than two decades in the field. He oversees the BIM division of HitechDigital, managing multiple teams of architects, structural and MEP engineers, LEED consultants, and energy modeling experts. He has spoken at various international BIM conferences and is deeply involved in green initiatives. His thoughts on global best practices in building design have been published in multiple architectural and engineering journals.