Director, Russell Wrapson explains why we don’t call it BIM anymore. We like digital construction technology for optimisation as opposed to management.
Building Information Modelling was hailed as the saviour for the construction industry bringing engineering, architecture, and construction together to eliminate inefficiency and waste through technology. However, confusion about what BIM actually is, the reluctance and pace of adoption, the limits of some of the software and the complexities of the design process has not only hindered its progress but made the canonical BIM process a bit of a pariah for some.
The costs of BIM
Technology, for all its promises, doesn’t always make life easier and quicker, especially in the early stages and BIM software can be slower than AutoCAD. As early adopters of BIM we have now been working with Revit for 10 years plus now. Software that can take some time to master and is an expensive investment in both time and money. Especially if the partners they’re working with are using incompatible software and so the idea of BIM being the efficient solution becomes redundant.
And if it all goes wrong, whose fault is it?
Where does the BIM buck stop?
Working cooperatively is fantastic in theory but it still requires agreement, leadership and management to prevent working in a shared environment descending into a chaotic free-for-all.
- Everyone involved needs to commit to using agreed processes through the entire process – reverting to non-BIM processes or introducing new software can both be detrimental to a project. Although they might seem the answer to lack of capacity or capability, they harm the process.
- The sharing of information has to be managed and overseen to ensure it not only is relevant and expected, but that it is at the right level of detail; otherwise, changes might be made based on information that is incomplete or invalid
- A reliance on what’s in the model, without raising questions or concerns might mean that communication between the participants has broken down. BIM processes, like traditional design, require investigation and adjustment as the project progresses. As information is added and changes happen – associated risks need to be identified.
One of SWJ’s promises to its clients is ‘investigation’ – not making or relying on assumptions, but working in the BIM environment may lead to a false sense of security and if there is a problem, without an agreed process, a designated and effective leader, where does the buck stop – or the blame lie?
The legal implications of using BIM software have yet to be tested which is another concern for many.
Creating a digital ecosystem with technology
What we at SWJ are looking to do is start a project or design process with a view to achieving greater cooperation, accessibility and understanding. If we insist that all ‘partners’ come to the project using BIM software we know we are creating issues for ourselves and the project. The fact of the matter is BIM has not been universally adopted, for many reasons, and this coupled with design processes, adoption and management – all outlined above – means we do not insist (or evangelise) on BIM software and processes.
Despite being early adopters of BIM software, we want to choose the best software for the job with a view to improving cooperative working and producing designs that can be easily understood by the client and construction partners.
BIM is a dirty word
For me, those that jumped on the BIM bandwagon as the cure-all for waste and inefficiency did themselves a mis-service. BIM as a mandate only seemed to further alienate the concept, which when done correctly, with the right considerations and for the right projects is effective.
While we all still aspire to the BIM processes because of UK government requirements, in reality using the BIM acronym can be demotivating for many people who have had negative experiences with either the technology, people or processes involved – rather than with the idea of more efficient working. We want to promote the use of digital construction technology – using information sharing and digital modelling to test and refine a project with an end goal of eliminating risk and producing a design that everyone has contributed to and can be easily understood by all. If we in the construction industry as a whole, could all work towards Building Information Optimisation or Building Information Cooperation – these seem like much better solutions, and descriptions, for what we are looking to achieve.