In a previous post, “Big Incentive for Change in the Construction Industry”, we highlighted the low level of R&D investment – typically less than 1% of revenues – current within the construction industry. Analysts agree that growth and innovation within the sector requires the development and deployment of digital technologies. Chief among these is BIM, or building information modeling.
Embracing the big picture around BIM can help organisations to produce and work with an evolving, digital representation of a project’s physical, functional, cost and planning characteristics. Along with 3D spatial design parameters, the “digital twin” is an evolving digital asset, highly valuable to all stakeholders, ultimately forming the basis for operations & maintenance. BIM assets and related project documents are housed in a central repository called a Common Data Environment (CDE). The CDE ensures easy access and collaboration as well as data integrity and security.
A CDE enables stakeholders to work together more securely, implementing new, faster, robust working practices, integrate and coordinate activities and share data in real time, leading to fewer errors and greater efficiency.1 BIM has the potential to reduce a project’s lifecycle costs and carbon footprint by over 20% and substantially improve completion time, quality, and safety.2 The same percentage savings are also slated throughout an asset’s lifecycle through adopting BIM principles across the whole asset lifecycle.
From April of last year, BIM Level 2 compliance became a prerequisite for bidding on centrally procured public projects in the UK, and is steadily gaining traction in other countries. Hovering in the distance is the spectre of BIM Level 3. A sneak peek into what that is expected to include is available here.
Elements of a Successful Ground Game: Preparing for BIM Implementation
Because preparing for BIM should be a priority for any organisation looking to remain relevant in the coming decade, Aconex and Construction News assembled a panel of BIM experts to tackle the subject in December. Each spoke of the need for cultural adjustments to occur in companies before imposing a new way of doing business. Demystifying BIM and converting fear into enthusiasm was a common theme.
The panellists included Malcolm Stagg, Director of BIM and Digital Engineering at Skanska UK; Garry Fannon, Head of BIM at Willmott Dixon; David Miller of David Miller Architects; and Steve Cooper, GM for UK and Ireland at Aconex. Daniel Kemp, Features Editor at Construction News, served as moderator.
The webinar is worth viewing in its entirety. Several of the more important takeaways include the following.
Start Yesterday: Early Adopters Realize the Benefits of BIM
Steve Cooper says that as technology providers, Aconex are exposed to many organisations at different lifecycle stages of BIM adoption around the world, and they’re seeing significant change already. There is much momentum in the UK, but BIM is being pushed hard in other markets also. Those who embrace BIM fully will reap the advantages of being the early movers and innovators.
Start at the Top: BIM Management
A company’s biggest challenge is change management, so it’s critical that the right messages are coming from the top. Malcolm Stagg says Skanska’s global head flatly stated that BIM was integral to the company’s future and that he was assuming leadership. Initiatives were soon put in place to help change the culture. Communicating motivations is important, including the improvements in efficiency and the opportunities contingent on adopting digital technologies.
Reimagine Your People
Company culture can be a formidable barrier. Having people who want to work in new ways is a great advantage. Because the unknown can be terrifying, it’s important to demystify BIM and make it simple. Explain what it means for people personally, including the opportunities for career development. Help your people develop the new skillsets necessary, and begin preparing for new roles that include information manager and data scientist.
Create a Common Data Environment (CDE)
Garry Fannon of Willmott Dixon cautions against letting your CDE become a dumping ground for design information. BIM demands that the CDE be well managed so that everyone accessing the information can get hold of it at the right time. By connecting your CDE to your estimating software and your task management tool, to cite just two examples, you can improve your internal efficiency and processes and lessen the risks involved in decision making.
Involve Your Clients: Articulating the Benefits of BIM
While customers are generally enthusiastic about the benefits of embracing BIM empowered working practices, demystifying BIM includes making it simple to adopt. The requirements of the client are fundamental, so work these through with them and explain the difference BIM will make to their organisation. If you have templates or examples you can show, use them to help customers fully understand the benefits throughout the design and build process as well as after project handover.
Engage Your Supply Chain
Willmott Dixon mandate BIM Level 2 throughout the organisation, providing clarity to their supply chain. They’ve split their suppliers into tiers and use workshops to communicate what BIM means to them. Skanska bring suppliers together in clusters and spend a day exploring scenarios, setting expectations, and getting them to the point where fears are allayed and they have a much clearer path forward. David Miller says his firm is choosing their friends more carefully because they see such good results when everyone buys into working in BIM.
Emphasise Just-In-Time BIM Training
Training is fundamental. It should be just-in-time, focused on only the parts people need at the time they need them. Panellists employ a combination of corporate boot camps and on-demand training encompassing BIM tools and processes, business practices, and workflow. Providing access to experts that belong to the team is a key part of each firm’s process.
Tie Metrics to Objectives
All panellists agree that while it’s still early, it’s not too soon to put mechanisms in place to map improvements in productivity, cost management, reduced defects, and customer satisfaction. Steve Cooper says technology companies like Aconex provide access to robust reporting and insights, but adds that it’s important to link metrics to objectives. Knowing where you want to go allows you to use metrics as stepping stones to help you get there.
Accept the BIM Challenge
When companies choose to move forward quickly and embrace immature business models, it can be challenging and mistakes are inevitable. Accept this as a fair trade-off. Because in the end, BIM will reduce risk. By designing and building structures virtually before beginning the actual construction, companies lay the foundation for improved quality, safety, and completion times. In an industry with a history of time and cost overruns,3 these are great outcomes.
1 Digital in Engineering and Construction: The Transformative Power of Building Information Modeling, March 2016, The Boston Consulting Group, page 7
2 Ibid., page 2
3 Imagining Construction’s Digital Future, June 2016, McKinsey & Company, page 2