I have spent a few hours recently talking to groups and individuals about building information modelling (BIM). My perspective is one fashioned by experience in working in construction collaboration software – a field that is still almost completely 2D – but I find that some of the issues relating to adoption of BIM are simply an extension of the issues faced in adopting any kind of collaborative approach. This usually boils down to an assertion that successful collaboration only 20% technology, the other 80% is all about people and process.
This, I think, applies equally to BIM. And others echo my thoughts. I have just been reading Mike Whaley’s article, There is no ‘I’ in IPD – the latest Viewpoint article in Lachmi Khemlani’s excellent AECbytes newsletter – and he makes a similar point in respect of the need to build teams, to get people out of their old-style silo approaches and embrace an integrated, collaborative approach. He seeks to encourage:
- Trust (commitment that we were all working together)
- Enthusiasm (that this was an exciting group of people to work with, and that it was a good project)
- Appreciation (of the various skills that everyone brought to the project)
- Mutual respect (often based upon previous project experiences)
The workshop process he advocates sounds very similar to the approaches employed on numerous UK projects undertaken on a “partnering” basis since the 1994 Latham Report. He also favours the co-location of teams. This is something that has yet to be widely employed in the UK (but was used successfully on the Heathrow Airport T5 project). Mike then discusses the potential of BIM technology to enable integrated working, and is clear that the existing BIM solutions are still in need of development:
“In an ideal world, the full integration would eliminate the need for the ‘remodeling’ from one phase or team member of the project to the next. But the development of one all-encompassing ‘mega-model’ that will work for all the disciplines is probably somewhere out there in the future.”
Like other commentators (see my posts US structural engineers warming to BIM, and 2D to 3D: still a work in progress), Mike has also found marked differences in the speed at which different disciplines, subcontractors and suppliers have embraced BIM:
“… many of our subcontractors and suppliers are more advanced at modeling than our design partners. … for aspects such as ductwork, etc., the manufacturing industry has been doing modeling for years to coordinate with fabrication equipment. This has allowed these industries to be ready to “jump” on the BIM bandwagon faster and, quite honestly, has also given these sub-contractors financial advantages in this tight market by allowing them to pre-fabricate, thereby reducing waste and improving schedule/delivery. On the other hand, many of our design partners are opening the “box of BIM” only now.
“… we have a few design partners that have really embraced BIM technology and, as we look for strategic alliances on projects, this is becoming an important characteristic to us in our team selection process. As IPD becomes the preferred project delivery method, there may very well be some design firms that will unfortunately be left behind because of their lack of ability to provide strong BIM modeling.”
This final point hints at the challenge many design firms now face regarding BIM: should they invest now (ie: during a recession) or wait until the industry/technology/demand develops still further? (see my posts BIM boom? and Information modelling for greener buildings).