Stephan Jones, Segment Manager of Trimble MEP, examines how best those heading-up the BIM vanguard can help to get other more cynical businesses on-board. Unsurprisingly, it’s collaboration and not elitism that’s the key…
The UK government deadline for BIM Level 2 compliance has arrived, and the construction community is rapidly being divided into the haves and have nots. The haves can be split into two subgroups, those that have made the grade through the enablement of their technology providers, and those that are now fighting spreadsheets and who are probably questioning the sanity of all that extra work.
Among the ‘have nots’ group, it is easy to be disparaging and level accusations of Luddism, but is that fair? And what are the reasons behind what will soon become non-compliance? Also, should those of us sitting comfortably on the bandwagon get off and understand their perspectives and challenges?
The first question that needs to be asked is whether BIM will benefit everyone equally and have government and, particularly, system providers done enough to cleanly and justifiably scoff and dismiss any and all sob-stories?
The UK BIM Task Group has done sterling work in producing the PAS’s (1192-1/2/3/4 and 5). They’ve been out in the wild for some time, and best of all, are free to consume courtesy of the UK Government licensing deal. They have, however, been slightly schizophrenically pitched between technical experts in the construction software industry and so-called experts. As a result, they have arguably not reached the wider audience needed for the take-up and realisation of benefits.
Beyond the PASs (which this commentator has read, appreciated and valued) are the software solutions. There are those that are inherently BIM, based on the quality of the information they drive their users to define, intrinsically through their use, and those that more strictly adhere to BIM through the provision of a COBie out facility, being the most specific of the requirements in the UK BIM Level 2 mandate. These software implementation standards and approaches are not mutually exclusive, but they don’t necessarily support each other as well as they could either, and the purveyors’ claims may well obfuscate the right and the wrong of one solution or another. This can result in message and focus dilution and general befuddlement of the target customers.
Subcontractors are especially dependent on the demands of the general contractor. This demand has been written into contracts without the detail or process to either back it up or render it effective. Clash detection is a significant tool in the armoury of good coordination, yet the downstream matching of installation to plan, through the use of laser setting out (consistently across trades) often results in delivery coordination issues seemingly negating all that upstream investment. Even when best practice is followed, the functional coordination is often overlooked leading to inaccessible access panels, dampers that can’t be serviced and maintained and air handling unit filters that can’t be replaced. To ease BIM engagement, the what, when, and probably why, need to be contextualised for each trade and commitments made to ensure that discipline is maintained. Otherwise, the benefits for each and all will be diluted by the failure of a single project participant. Subcontractors need to feel the benefit to both commit and then invest in BIM. A recent discussion with a leading US M&E contractor showed that good practice backed up by clear engagement requirements that included penalty clauses for failure to deliver the right information to the right quality at the right time, has catapulted their business forward, all driven by BIM-esque principals.
Other constraints include the sheer cost of mounting a campaign to adopt BIM. It’s not just buying a single new piece of software; that software will likely link in with other point solutions, and each will require extensive training, a shift in job scope and a differently skilled/capable worker. All this adds up to significant cost, which, due to the nature of the industry is traditionally allocated against the project cost-centre. This is reasonable when the BIM level of engagement repeats on subsequent projects, but more difficult when you are a medium tier contractor whose work portfolio is not 100% populated by BIM projects! In instances like this, it’s valid to remember that buying-in BIM services and expertise can be of real value.
In conclusion, and in the hope that you will by now agree that Luddism is not an appropriate characterisation for those questioning or struggling with BIM, it’s clear that further effort is required by those in a position to do so. We need to translate, condense, make real what is required, show how to do it and probably offer a bit of support in investing in the capability. ■
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