It’s been said that a good idea is one that can be encapsulated in 10 words or less. The challenge of delivering Building Information Modelling (BIM) can be summed up in only six.
So what do these six words and three key phrases mean, and what can we all do to achieve the real advantages BIM is capable of delivering?
1 People collaborating
Delivering BIM demands collaboration among the design professions, information and knowledge providers, contractors, sub-trades, product suppliers and local authorities. And not forgetting building owners and occupiers.
However, someone needs to take a leadership role in bringing these currently isolated players together in a meaningful way. This will allow the industry to jointly establish the legal, contractual and organisational tools and guides that will ensure all can collaborate in an open but controlled environment.
These include new forms of consultant contracts, new approaches to tendering that will allow the contractor to be brought in to the project earlier, new forms of project-based professional indemnity insurance, new forms of protection for IP, and new ways of enabling the building process.
The building model is the means for bringing the players together, but rules need to be set and protocols agreed.
2 Integrated processes
The industry currently operates within separate silos of knowledge and activity, often connecting with each other only after significant progress has been made and building forms set.
Preliminary designs, developed designs, documentation, estimating, costing, tendering, project managing, construction and setting up — all are currently disconnected and disjointed.
BIM allows all parties to operate to and through a single digital model of the project, from day one to occupation and beyond. This requires not just a legal change, not just a technological change, but a cultural change for all involved. Again, leadership is essential, something which is sadly missing in the industry today.
A viable model is already available across the ditch. The Australian Institute of Architects and their fellow engineering professionals at Consult Australia have combined to promote the concept of BIM/IPD, IPD standing for Integrated Project Delivery.
This work provides a convenient pathway for New Zealand to develop its own approach to integrating the design and construction processes.
3 Interoperable technologies
Interoperability is about developing neutral platforms for the digital objects that will be used to populate a building model. A neutral structure and a standard way to describe the attributes and data is required to add real value to what are essentially dumb objects.
A great deal of work has been done on this challenge internationally, by BuildingSmart
(www.buildingsmart.com.au) and by the associated IFD group (www.ifd-library.org). New Zealand needs to step up and either adopt this international approach or develop its own.
The major software vendors have also established their own object libraries, but can sometimes take a cavalier (perhaps commercial?) approach to interoperability. As Autodesk was once quoted as saying: “Interoperability is easy. It just requires everyone to use our software.”
It cannot be entirely blamed for having that attitude as it operates in a competitive environment.
What is needed is a neutral object library to suit New Zealand products and New Zealand projects. Similarly, an agreed neutral product database and an associated archive of information on construction products would add significant value.
There are plenty of overseas models that can be adapted to get this essential work underway in New Zealand. All it needs is someone to step up.
Implementation of BIM is at a tipping point. Serious action is needed to prevent its introduction being little more than 3D CAD on steroids. It also requires all involved in the design and construction industry to recognise the need to address the necessary changes in the way we currently operate. Separation will not cut the mustard — collaboration is the key.
The 2013 National BIM survey
The 2013 National BIM survey followed an earlier survey in November 2011. Conducted by Masterspec in conjunction with NBS (UK) and with support from BRANZ, RMBF, NZIA, ACENZ and the MBIE-sponsored Productivity Partnership, the survey attracted 426 respondents.
Some key results from the 2013 survey were:
• A steep increase in those who currently use BIM (57% versus 38% in 2011)
• A reduction in those neither aware of nor using BIM (2% versus 12% in 2011)
• A solid increase in those who will be using BIM in one year’s time (72% versus 68% in 2011).
However, 69% of respondents agreed that the industry is not yet clear enough on what BIM is, and there is more work to be done to ensure that the real advantages of BIM are realised.
BIM is a digital representation of the complete physical and functional characteristics of a building project. To achieve this requires a cultural as well as a technological shift.
The industry is beginning to address the challenges involved in a successful move to BIM, and work has commenced on a National BIM Guide. However, there is still much more to do, including:
• Agreement on a national, neutral classification system for BIM objects,
• A national library of BIM objects, to provide consistency and certainty,
• Education and training at all levels of using BIM technology, and
• Research into what impact the implementation of BIM has on design and construction teams operating in this new environment.
The survey points to significant increases in BIM awareness. However, there is a danger that the industry will continue to operate in isolated clusters. For the real benefits of BIM to be realised, all members of the design and construction industry need to work together as a team.
The full report is now available to download from www.masterspec.co.nz.