Who is best placed to take BIM forward?

  • Building Design Expert
  • 9 years ago

“Is BIM anything like AutoCAD?” – I overheard an experienced and qualified architect say a few days ago. He’ll be asking “can I get it with fries and a coke” next.

Building Information Modelling is a ‘Process’ that includes a 3D architectural design and modelling package. BUT, it does not stop there, because that is just the first step. I am not going to bang on any more about what BIM is, or is not. I would like to refer you to my previous blogs on that element:

I listened to the recent web broadcast by Building Magazine on ‘Collaborative BIM – BIMing up’. To be honest I wasn’t expecting much, if only because the industry knowledge on the subject is unnervingly scant. I was pleasantly surprised therefore to find a collection of people who actually had a positive take on the subject. If only because they have been doing it, successfully, for some time.

So who can take it forward?

Private Architects and Architectural Practices, and Building Design consultants of every discipline –
We know only 20 – 25% of UK architectural practices are using 3D CAD modelling software, so this presents a huge first hurdle, with the rest on 2D and rotring pen. Whilst some are keen to refer to BIM under a 2D umbrella, in practice it barely keeps the rain off your shoulders, and is never going to cut it. So come on guys the industry (and the world) is changing. I know – Money! especially at the moment. it’s an unfathomable dilemma for some.

So is the small to medium sized practice doomed in consignment to the sidelines. No, absolutely not, as long as the BIM ethos is embraced using both arms. A Bear Hug being the minimum requirement.

But, as they say, “where there’s a will ……..”  there may also be BIM. If you really ‘Need’ to implement a BIM regime – You must find a way. BIM is the future of design in the built environment. Beg, borrow (probably, don’t steal). Design teams need to invest in whatever way they can. Gradually and incrementally will do. BIM is a moving target with a bullseye that is getting smaller. Leave it too long and you will struggle to see it.

Multi-Disciplinery Practices –
After the 3D CAD hurdle, the next one is inter-discipline co-operation. The architect’s on ArchiCAD, the structural engineer’s on Revit and the M and E guys are on Bentley Microstation. Currently software development means that is just not going to work on any practical level. Oh yes, speak to Graphisoft and Bentley and you may well get the sales pitch that 3D CAD is fully interchangeable with Revit via DWG. This is a prime example of where sales pitch and reality are at opposite sides of the river, and the pontoon bridge between them has more than one loose mooring.

Enter the offices of the large multi-disciplinery practice, and everyone’s on Revit, or ArchiCAD, or……. Well, probably Revit for the engineering stuff actually. The point being that ‘Collaboration’ between design disciplines is not hindered by technology getting in the way. Everyone is on the same hardware, using the same software. This is a massive hurdle that has been overcome in an instant. The business of design communication and exchange of ‘Building Information’ becomes a free flowing two-way street where ‘Design’ moves to the top of the hill where it belongs.

Main Contractors –
It’s no secret. The construction industry is struggling right now, and contractors are at the sharp end, pinching every penny they can to make up a pound. ‘Design and Build’ has fashionably become a Client solution of choice. It takes the project cost management from the client and places it with the main contractor. – Good move if you are the client as you now only pay one bill. AND good move if you are the contractor, as you can manage all project related costs to ensure your tender is the most competitive it can be. But of course we know not all projects are suited to D & B.

D & B contractors, by the nature of their set up, are able to cherry pick their design team to co-ordinate designers, sub-contractors and technology to form as straight a line as possible.

What’s in it for contractors? – Cost savings. This resonates most loudly on larger projects – of course. But the principle applies equally across the board giving diminishing rates of return as the contract sum reduces. But from reported experience from the £60m contract for Leeds Arena; the commitment of the main contractor BAM Construction, to commission, manage and procure the entire project based on BIM has yielded positive results. These can be allied to Design Management, particularly design clash detection, which has produced around £360K in savings in the first 6 months of the project. Health and safety issues have been more easily managed, and because the highly specialised supply chain has had to be involved earlier in the project design and procurement process, this has led to vastly improved programming and on site efficiency – equals – more cost savings.

Who wins? – Everyone.

Right now. Today. The building design practices positioned to move BIM into main stream are few. To therefore prescribe that BIM is driven by traditional building design processes is not practical. The multi-disciplineries are playing their part in a niche sector of the market, as they always have, and are well placed to move forward. But that will always be on their terms, as they play their own game. What about the rest?

Some one must take the lead initiative. The vast bulk of architectural practices are either unable or unwilling to pick up the baton. But if the ‘BAM’ experience is repeatable then why not put the whole project procurement process into reverse, at least until BIM becomes steady on its own three legs. The contractor must, by definition, play a key role in BIM implementation, so why not let them lead the way. If D & B can be assigned to BIM as a default starting point, this can provide the legitimacy to the process we are looking for.

Who is best placed to take BIM forward? – The contractor, that’s who.

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