The latest AECbytes viewpoint is from Stuart Carroll of US IT provider Beck Technology. In BIM: When Will It Enter “The Ours” Zone?, he responds to an earlier article on Building Information Modelling (BIM) by John Tobin (Proto-Building: To BIM is to Build), and echoes my own, often-repeated view (see post, for example) that it’s more about people and processes than technology.
Stuart says that BIM is a “catalyst for change in an industry that has historically been reluctant to change” but “so far that change has been limited.” He continues:
“What BIM has done so far is change the way that architects design and produce drawings, the way engineers design and the way contractors coordinate with subs, but has not changed the way that disciplines work with each other. Its impact thus far has primarily been within each discipline or practice. … More and more, BIM enables users to achieve a parametric 3D rendition of a building with the byproduct of creating requisite drawings and documents. This replaces the highly error-prone and labor-intensive traditional process of creating construction documentation in which, plans, elevations, sections and details typically don’t match due to the fact that they were created as 2D disconnected drawings. …”
I heard a good illustration of this yesterday from the project manager of a major office development in the City of London. Even though the team wasn’t deploying BIM, the routine use of 3D modelling tools to design the structure, concrete reinforcement and all the mechanical and electrical works had dramatically increased the efficiency of design coordination. Design clashes – between structure and ductwork, for example – were quickly identified by the nominated design leader for each zone and solutions agreed. Outputs from this process were then produced as 2D drawings to be shared across the supply chain using the BIW collaboration platform. It’s a modest sign that the UK industry is at least heading in the same direction as its counterparts in Scandinavia, the US and parts of the Asia-Pacific rim, but we still have a long way to go before we reach “full software integration and its goal of full-team collaboration” (as Stuart terms it).
For this day to arrive, as Stuart goes on to say, there have to changes to processes and technologies. He talks about realigning the traditional roles of architect and contractor, the emergence of new BIM tools that further blur the line “between who uses the tools and what they are used for”, contracts and legal issues, etc. It’s a somewhat daunting list of potential obstacles, but he also points out that there are people prepared to work in a much more collaborative manner – both technologically – he cites recent BIMStorm events (eg: BuildLondonLive – see post) – and socially – he mentions charrettes (see my recent post on this too).