Talks about Building Information Modeling (BIM) have been going on for decades. It really started off in the 1990s, when both technology and standards started to see the light (Archicad in 1987, IFC in 1995, Revit in 2000, etc.). Still, in 2021, some have a negative or false opinion about it or even think they still have time before it begins to be the norm. Why is BIM not a constraint, and what are the benefits?
First of all, many stereotypes are stuck to the image of Building Information Modeling (BIM). The first one that comes to mind is the cost of buying new technology and training employees or hiring specialists. Software prices may have been high 20 years ago, but today, there is something for every budget with a range of solutions. As for training and competency, it is the same; there are now thousands of people mastering tools and work processes because of natural evolution towards technologies because universities are integrating that in their programs, and even because the government is pushing companies to train their employees by providing financial support (this is the case in France for example with the "Compte personnel de Formation" or "Personal Training Account" in English which is part of the continuous professional development). When it comes to implementing software like Microsoft Office, for example, do you question the price? Or are you reluctant to send your team to health and safety training?
Interoperability and the loss of information when exporting into Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) is the second stereotype. Indeed, open BIM standards (IFC and BCF (BIM Collaboration Format)) have taken time to develop and are still evolving to capture all aspects of the AECO industry. It also took a while for software providers to meet these standards and ensure that their users can work with the outside world. But today, the technology and standards are ready for you to have all the data you need. Learn more about IFC by watching our webinar here.
The last one would be the complexity of following international standards like the ISO19650 (previously PAS 1992). As you read through these standards, you realize how much preparation work you have to do before you start anything, and it may seem like a hassle. But processes are as complex as you want them to be. Start small, only share documents, so you stop sending an email every 5 minutes (and thus stop being a mailman!), then share 3D models. Perhaps start drafting simple common rules, etc. You don't have to do it all at once. Taking it one step at a time will help motivate your team and get better results.
But as with any change in a person's life, the real reason why Building Information Modeling (BIM) is perceived as a constraint is the fear of the unknown. More precisely, it is the fear of something that we cannot fully comprehend and that disrupts our current work processes. For a long time, a higher sphere only understood the concept of BIM, which brought it "down to earth." BIM was a mystical topic, which did not help to overcome this fear of change.
Because time has passed, knowledge has traveled between all layers of the construction industry; BIM is more accessible and mastered by a greater number of professionals. So to stay competitive, you need to recognize that fear and rise to the challenge. There is still time to position yourself as a leader in a field that many people fear or do not capture. See article: What are the drivers of new clients acquisition?
There are many ways in which BIM is positively impacting a project's life. The most important thing is that it brings all the stakeholders together. Never before in history have there been such synergies between clients, consultants, and main contractors, who finally rely on each other to get quality information. The disruption of technologies, standards, and processes has forced actors to rethink their goal: are we delivering a physical object with no intelligence behind it, or are we delivering a set of data that lives throughout its lifecycle?
When you set up a common platform for each stakeholder to exchange their files (BIM, 3D, or 2D, it doesn't matter), you are already running a BIM Level 1 project! Add to that a brief BIM Execution Plan (BEP), and voila, you can say you are officially handing over a BIM project to your clients.
Openly sharing 3D models has allowed professionals to understand complex details better and detect early design errors that would be very costly if discovered on site. The graph below shows the impact on planning and the cost of resolving issues. It is also feasible with 2D information, but the margin of error is greater than in 3D. For example, the architect was designing in 3D but delivering in 2D on a real construction site, and the structural engineer did everything in 2D. At some point in the design phase, the architect moved the position of one of the concrete core walls, and the engineer changed it on all floors, except the ground floor, and a bit late anyway for the site team. The concrete core was poured out of plumb, and that impacted everything down to the cladding! With a 3D model, this discrepancy would have been clear from day one.
Automation of repetitive tasks
Another positive impact of BIM is the automation of repetitive tasks. A few years ago, you could find architects assigned to draw each door of a project; today, you can find these same architects duplicating 3D objects or even programming. The tool is doing it automatically. It is the same for every actor in the industry.
The technology serves its users, it is designed so that people can focus more on other tasks. For example, if they spend less time designing simple building elements, they can spend more time on developing complex systems or buildings. They might also spend more time on the human side of their work, developing contacts that are crucial to maintaining or expanding the company's business.
For sure, all of you have heard the term "Digital Twin". Digital Twin is the fact that there is an exact digital replica of your building. Having a digital twin allows stakeholders to find the correct information at any time. It is your single source of truth. No more time wasted on finding the product used for the shower heads so you can give that to your BREEAM Assessor, only to find out three months later that it was replaced with something else. Or providing a paper Operations and Maintenance manual to the building owner, knowing that only 10% of it is useful and no one will open it.
See article: The Digital Twin – from vision to action.
The last point worth mentioning is that BIM is a reality. Not only are professionals embracing it, but also more and more countries are adopting it. Governments from all over the world are requiring it for publicly-funded projects. Scandinavian countries led it, and then shortly followed by others in Europe and the rest of the world.
See article: In Which Countries Is BIM Mandatory for Public Projects? As this article explains, in some countries, even private developers lead the change.
This essentially means that Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been adopted by a large enough portion of the market to cross the chasm of the new technology adoption lifecycle. This concept of chasm in adopting innovation in technologies was developed in a book by Geoffrey A. Moore, Crossing the Chasm. The author explains what many knew from experience that implementing innovative technologies is not a linear process, and only products that cross the chasm will last.
So, where do you want to position yourself on the graph above? Do you want to join the early majority wave, or are you still skeptical?
Bianca Giorsetti, Regional Manager French Speaking Countries at Catenda.