After all these years, it still amazes me to hear people discussing, arguing and trying to define what BIM is and who it’s aimed at. BIM is certainly not a new thing. So, let us begin with dispelling a few common myths.
The conceptual underpinnings of BIM go back to the earliest days of computing. As early as 1962, Douglas C. Englebart gave us an uncanny vision of the future architect in his paper Augmenting Human Intellect. I hear people still discussing who BIM is aimed at.
Let's start by breaking down the acronym to better understand the concept:
BIM – Building Information Modelling
STOP thinking of ‘Building’ as:
a structure with a roof and walls, such as a house or office.
And start thinking of ‘Building’ as
the action or trade of constructing something.
Yes, that’s right… it could represent a house, office, landscaping, power station, process plant, mine, bridge or highway, entire town or city centre, county or country.
facts provided or learned about something.
what is conveyed or represented by a particular arrangement or sequence of things.
A representation to show construction or appearance of something.
To simulate a concept, process or operation of a system
BIM is for everyone working within the Built Environment whether that be concept, design, construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance and even demolition. Now we have that cleared up, let’s move on…
It is my humble opinion, there are three types of company personas when it comes to BIM and I believe I understand why each one is what it is. I think it all boils down to what their collective BIM vision is.
(Persona type A) Those with the ability to think and plan the future with imagination and wisdom. Or as Dr. Emmett Brown said, “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour....”
(Persona type B) Those working in denial of where the industry as a whole is going and who are suddenly dragged kicking and screaming, still clutching tightly onto their traditional software and workflows.
(Persona type C) Those who are blindly led down the BIM path because of mandates, but without really understanding what and why they are doing what they are doing. reluctantly buying software they think they don’t really need, getting some essentials training (which the users may or may not wish to learn), and possibly hiring a BIM Manager or Coordinator, who says they know Revit or other such BIM authoring software. We've all met...
We will come back to persona type A companies later, but for now let’s discuss person type B and C. These companies are often mandated to adopt BIM by either the owner / operator in the private sector, or by government in the public sector e.g.
In the UK, the Government Construction Strategy published back in May 2011, stated that the '...Government will require fully collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) as a minimum by 2016'. This represents a minimum requirement for level 2 BIM on centrally-procured public projects from April 2016.
Whilst I’m not saying that organisational change management is always easy, the very fact that it’s defined by a framework should give you some peace of mind in that, if you follow the path and don’t stray off (remember American Werewolf in London), you will reach your destination in once piece.
The BIM framework outlines everything a company needs to successfully adopt BIM in 4 stages.
This framework can also be aligned and incorporate any specifications required by government, such as those required in the UK to achieve level 2 BIM e.g.
What’s not so clear cut and has no such framework is a company’s BIM vision, and for me this is just as important as all the specifications, processes, software and training.
A company must be driven by its vision statement:
A vision statement is a company's road map, indicating both what the company wants to become and guiding transformational initiatives by setting a defined direction for the company's growth.
And if you’re a design, build, construct, operate type company, then your company vision must (in my opinion) incorporate your BIM vision, and everyone from technician to CEO must share and drive this vision. It’s no good going about this half-cocked, buying some software, doing some basic staff training, or even hiring BIM manager and telling them to ‘get on with it’
I’ve experienced this first hand in a practice where they hired an excellent BIM manager. The design were bought the software and machines and all trained on the essentials (essentials - there’s a clue in there somewhere). Then within a couple of months the honeymoon was over and the proverbial wheels fell off. ‘Tell us the reason’ I hear you all shout.
Simple. There was no buy-in and agreed vision from the senior partners and so life for them carried on as if nothing had changed.
They overrode what they didn’t like in terms of workflow and standards. They continued to dumb things down by exporting data back into 2D formats. They said they were too busy to learn, when really, I believe they were too embarrassed to hold their hands up and say we need help to get this and to be fair, it’s often not easy asking for help from often junior people, when you’re a senior partner.
They weren’t part of the plan from the get-go. Several didn’t attend the various presentations about BIM. Didn’t get involved in the overall BIM framework. Didn’t have / share a vision of what BIM was going to do and where it would take the practice.
Visions are interesting things and are made up of two elements: quantitative and qualitative data or information (there’s that ‘I’ in BIM again).
Quantitative data is information about quantities; that is, information that can be measured and written down with numbers. Some examples of building quantitative data we are all familiar with are things like it’s dimensions, areas, door and windows schedules etc.
BIM mandates from governments are driven by quantitative information, but what about the qualitative aspects that BIM can offer?
Here is where I believe the ‘I’ in BIM could be interpreted in a way we have all evolved to understand our environment. Sight - we have long used visuals in the form of perspective renders and walk-throughs. But what about true spatial awareness, emotionally feeling, sound and smell?
We aren’t there yet in terms of smell, but imagine a little way further into the design future. A virtual environment where not only can you walk around a proposed restaurant, but you can hear the noises and smell the food and coffee. It works – hands up who has shown people around a house your selling and placed fresh flowers and brewed some good coffee?
This type of information provides insights and understanding into a project that can’t be counted or mathematically analysed. It’s the ‘human’ aspect - that feeling you have about something as a sensory being.
Developing a BIM Vision
To develop a full BIM vision, companies need to understand what all the possible opportunities are, as well as all the possible requirements and undertakings. In other words, a persona type A company – they have the vision and it’s integrated in their BIM framework.
Welcome the BIMberg:
Does what’s above the waterline ring true with any of you in terms of your company’s general awareness on BIM? I like the BIMberg for two reasons:
Firstly, it’s a great way to quickly get a grasp on the bigger picture without writing a thesis. Whenever I carry out a technology session for a client, the feedback is always positive with comments such as “that makes so much sense”, “now we finally understand how this all ties together” and “we didn’t realise you could already do all this!”
Secondly, think about what happened on the 14th – 15th April 1912. If you don’t take a berg seriously. If you don’t understand it, plan for it and manage it, it’s going to hurt when it hits.
That may sound harsh, but this is time and money we are talking about. Put it this way… anyone fancy betting their salary or company on a hand in Black Jack, or a throw of a dice?
This is where working with a great consulting company pays dividends – ah come on… you knew there would be a pitch in here somewhere along the line.
No, seriously. That’s what we do. We work with clients to develop their BIM vision, as well as their BIM framework.
Step 1 in my book, is to look at what’s on offer in terms of deliverables from BIM.
Step 2 is deciding where your company wants to be in the short, mid and long term. Build that vision.
Step 3 is developing and driving the BIM framework with its 4 steps.
So, if you’re based in the UK and would like more information on:
Then get in touch through the button below:
And just for a bit of fun, I've created a BIM word-search. There's 50 words and phrases to find. See how many you can find.