Sunday, 1 June 2014

BIM Reality.

Every year we attend BIM Show Live and we all leave motivated and sure that the future of construction is rosy and we are returning to our day jobs in the perfect world.

There is a significant flaw in the BIM Show Live community however and that of the UKBIMCrew on twitter.

If you decide to pay money and give up time to go to an event such as BIM Show Live you are obviously committed to a different way of approaching things. This community has grown from around 100 to 700 paying delegates in three years. The flaw is that this is only one side if the argument. For those of us who attend we only see the positive aspects of change. We miss the issues or challenges because we believe so passionately in the fact what we are doing is right.

Im not changing my view in relation to BIM and I passionately believe the industry will benefit hugely in the future. However we do operate in the real world and 700 delegates at BSL it is only a tiny fraction of the industry.

The BIM technologies team are working on many live projects across the UK across a range of sectors with different clients, consultants and contractors.

Whilst we left BSL in April all enthusiastic about the future it didn't take long for us to bump back down to earth. Several projects which we are working on continue to be challenging.

The technology is straightforward, our  issues are always with standards and consistency across a design team. Design businesses are used to having control of their own standards for their own purposes. Every consultant will have their own approach and expectations. When an Information Manager is appointed they are unhappy about using a project standard which differs from their own.

The biggest challenge at present is demonstrating why this additional effort is necessary and where the benefit will be realised. Much of this data will not be used until the  operational stage and at present we can't show or quantify the benefit.

We are asking design teams to invest upfront without being able to show the benefit to either them or the project.

A simple example is the use of Uniclass 2 and NBS create. Traditionally we would produce a drawing and at a later date develop the specification. There is now a new workflow. When you add a component to a model you ensure it has it's Uniclass reference. This means that the object can be automatically linked to the specification. This is a fundamental change and means adding the reference early. 

Some consultants have become used to pushing responsibly further down the programme. Much of the detailed specification is carried out by the trade. Effective BIM brings this forward and asks for an earlier commitment. 

Clearly this is not how consultants have operated for several years and is potential additional work they had not anticipated having to complete.

The same is true of asset management. Traditionally at the end of construction information and data is added retrospectively. We are now suggesting this can be done more efficiently at the early stages. Again no fee allowance has be made for this so there is kickback from consultants. Without being able to demonstrate benefit clearly it is always a challenge to convince clients and consultants of the value.

Construction has traditionally be a disjointed process. To achieve an integrated workflow we need to rethink who does what when. Clearly by the nature if this some will end up doing more and some will benefit more.

There are no easy answers to the challenges we face. Those passionate about the benefits of BIM must also listen to the challenges others face. We need to find ways of minimising impact to the various groups. 

Critically we must hold our nerve in what we believe and should take time to invest in demonstrating the long term benefit. 

At times there will be a need for us to carry out activities to support the argument. This may mean taking onboard tasks which others should be doing themselves. This way we can demonstrate that the barriers are not technical or procedural.

Many barriers are more about culture and reluctance to change from what teams are used to. Whilst the argument around the benefits of BIM may be won academically there is still a long way to go to embed the technology and workflows into what we do consistently across industry.

Those passionate about making a difference need to understand this and we must realise this is a change which will take time to implement. We will continue to face negativity from industry. We have to listen and to find ways around the challenges.