Is BIM the answer?

As a collaboration commentator and occasional BIM speaker, I was one of several bloggers recently asked to comment on the UK’s BIM push for a Microsoft technology blog. As often happens, 90% of what I wrote ended up ‘on the cutting room floor’ (read the full post – including other people’s contributions – here). Just in case anyone’s interested, here’s the rest of what I wrote ….

Is BIM the answer to stabilising the industry?

Construction is an information-intensive industry and has historically been reliant upon exchanging lots of paper. Word-processing, email and computer-aided design (CAD) have accelerated much of the production and exchange of information, but the sector hasn’t really started to work with data. BIM provides an opportunity to digitise many of our processes, reduce our reliance on exchange of paper (or electronic paper) and support more collaborative ways of working. The BIM push since 2011 has already involved much detailed work on industry information standards, workflows and supply chain relationships, and if we can maintain a three-pronged push on people, process and technology we may slowly start to see the industry transformed. I say ‘start’ as there are still large parts of the industry who are either oblivious to BIM or regard it as irrelevant.

Do you think BIM and ERP integration is the future?

Too many people regard BIM as just 3D design, but BIM adds time (so-called 4D) and cost information (5D) to the equation. By incorporating cost information into information models, we start to improve visibility of out-turn costs, and streamline the flows of cost-related information up and down the supply chain. For larger organisations which deploy ERP there will clearly be benefits. However, construction is very fragmented, with lots of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) which use more traditional financial management tools, and these also need to be tuned to the project-based nature of much construction work. BIM is helping digitise construction, but digitising construction payment and financial management will take longer, and many SMEs, particularly in the domestic repair and maintenance fields, will be relatively untouched by the BIM revolution.

What do you think will encourage the adoption of BIM?

One reason we have seen extensive interest in, and take-up of, BIM has been the push from the UK government. With public sector client bodies responsible for around 40% of the industry’s turnover, the BIM mandate cannot be ignored, and it has accelerated the pace of adoption. Several private sector client bodies have also jumped on the BIM bandwagon, increasing the momentum. Another factor in adoption will be the sharing of case studies; we have growing evidence that BIM can help deliver projects faster, at lower cost, and exceeding clients’ initial expectations because it helps teams collaborate and innovate. And the development of industry-standard approaches to information creation and data-sharing also reduces a major headache – we are becoming less concerned about the applications and file or data formats we have to use to share asset information.


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