The dichotomy of BIM

Dichotomy of BIM modelThere’s no doubt that BIM is seen as key for the engineering and construction (E&C) industry as it looks to digital transformation to tackle some seemingly inherent challenges such as budget overspend, project delays, and quality control issues.

In fact, a Zion Market Research report predicted BIM market value would reach $10.36 billion by 2022, up from $3.52 billion in 2016.

Governments have been mandating the use of BIM across infrastructure projects throughout Europe and beyond to streamline major development projects and, in turn, find a way to increase productivity in the E&C industries.

We’re even seeing more BIM related job titles appear such as BIM Manager, BIM Co-ordinator, and BIM Specialist as the industry embraces the methodology.

But with all of this attention, there still exists a thought that BIM is just 3D modelling, it’s only for experts, and that it is only used by a fraction of the teams on a development project.

This is incorrect. With so much focus on BIM being positive for the industry this doesn’t add up, so why is there such a contradiction?

BIM undervalued/under-utilized

One of the challenges for BIM is that it’s surrounded by myths that deter different people and teams involved in a development from adopting it.

As mentioned, people still see BIM as just being 3D modelling used primarily by design and construction teams. However, modern BIM is so much more than that. It forms a key part of a common data environment (CDE) – namely capturing, storing and sharing key information across an asset.

A connected BIM solution can also link data and documentation enabling an audit like trail for objects within a model.

Even the long form of the acronym is confused, with some uncertain whether the ‘M’ stands for modelling or management. It prompts the question, does BIM suffer from an identity crisis?

Probably not; it’s more likely the result of how the methodology has evolved and is now being used much more widely across a development.

BIM is also challenged by common issues synonymous with software solutions such as:

  • Reduced productivity because people need to be trained how to use them
  • Addition of costs to a business
  • Here now, obsolete tomorrow

The reality is that yes, people do need to get used to using software and data may need to be ported across from other systems, so this can take time; and there will be a financial cost to using new software.

But these things need to be understood over a longer term. The time and cost savings, and other benefits these solutions provide far outweigh the initial pain and price.

In the specific case of BIM, the data captured should provide a vital repository for information related to clash detection and asset handover, and also to create a baseline of information to use when planning or preparing for future developments.

Its obsolescence is negated by how BIM has evolved over time, as well as how it’s being mandated as the solution of choice by governments and increasingly by owners/clients globally. There’s no doubt BIM is here to stay.

Another criticism of BIM is that it is only for large projects or big companies, but as the methodology has evolved so has the functionality. Modern BIM is all about accessibility, extendibility, and collaboration.

A connected BIM solution should help manage all the information on a development. It must be able to be used by teams across a development regardless of how big or small. It needs to be able to work with multiple data sources, file formats, standards (IFC, BCF, COBie), and industry recognized tools.

It should also be accessible on numerous devices whether someone is in an office or on site.

How do we encourage active use of BIM?

Overall, there needs to be better education around BIM and its many uses. That will be helped as more digital skills and greater reliance on technology come into the industry. However, there is an onus on BIM solutions themselves evolving to keep pace with requirements.

Modern BIM solutions need to provide the security, certifications (FedRAMP etc.) and disaster recovery needed to instill confidence in users. They need to be fast, reliable, and able to integrate with other solutions in a company’s technology ecosystem regardless of where they’re being used.

Reporting and dashboards should be available to provide greater information and control. The solution needs to be relevant to all teams regardless of size – providing data, documents, measurements, and location for each object on a model whether it’s windows, cladding, or a fire extinguisher.

Perhaps most importantly, it needs to be easy to use so you don’t have to be an expert to get what you need from the solution. Taken together, these attributes can encourage wider use of BIM across the industry.

Read more about BIM here.

Rob Phillpot

Rob Phillpot

VP Product Strategy at Oracle's Aconex
Rob Phillpot is the VP of Product Strategy at Oracle's Aconex, a leading collaborative construction and engineering management software.
Rob Phillpot