Amanda Comunale and Shaun Hughes of Victaulic, a producer of grooved mechanical pipe joining systems, share their knowledge on how BIM (Building Information Modelling) is progressing in the US and the UK
What do you think about the current state of BIM in the US?
Amanda Comunale: BIM in the US is a process that owners and project teams have adopted really well. Unlike in other parts of the world we don’t have a full BIM mandate affecting every single project, except in government-run jobs. Overall, BIM-enabled technology offers tangible results in the construction process and that is why I feel it has really been pushed.
In the US, a study from Autodesk showed that 60% of project teams and 73% of owners think BIM significantly improves collaboration and teamwork. Project teams have realised that BIM is not just something for their drawing department, but in fact, is a total business process to be adapted. Furthermore, the data that is being driven by the model can holistically affect the entire company.
Do you think the government should mandate the use of BIM in the US, as they have in the UK?
Amanda: I think for federal projects it is an option and it is mandated in most state and federal run projects. Unlike in the UK we don’t have a government agency over the private construction sector, so I don’t think we will ever have a full BIM mandate.
However, I do think we will see more and more projects becoming solely processed using BIM because that is becoming the current construction norm.
How do you think BIM can help ease the ongoing skills shortage?
Amanda: I think BIM-enabled technology in fact brings individuals into the construction industry. We now have access to data which can be programmed to automate different things. This allows people that perhaps have more of a business background as opposed to a construction background to do tasks.
We have also been able to transfer responsibilities that used to be based in the procurement or project management departments and bring those skills into the coordination team.
As we look to fill the skills shortage and the labour shortage, I think that BIM-enabled tech is one of those processes that should be at the forefront of it.
How do you see the future of BIM implementation in the US?
Amanda: I think it will allow for more partnerships, with the general project team working alongside the engineers and the owners upfront. By focussing on skillset review and training, we will also be able to prepare for and take advantage of new software, hardware and products as they are implemented.
Where are you on your BIM journey?
Amanda: Whilst we are excited to learn more about the full spectrum of uses of BIM, we are already one of the industry leaders in understanding its key benefits and how to apply it to projects.
It’s very important for the industry to know both that new technology which enables the BIM process is constantly available at the right price points and that there are partners in the industry to learn from or share best practices with.
Can you tell us about some of the projects you’ve worked on that use BIM?
Shaun Hughes: The vast majority of projects we’re working on now use BIM. We use coordination software like Autodesk Revit and I would say most of the major projects we work on, especially in London, are being designed and developed that way.
How do you think BIM has helped these projects?
Shaun: I think it helps the project team leader to get organised and make decisions earlier, as they are receiving input coming directly from the engineer.
Thanks to better communication as a result of applying BIM, the project manager and team can also flag issues and make relevant changes onsite at an earlier stage in the process.
Therefore, everyone can be more organised within the project to help deliver on time.
Did you face any major problems and if so, how did you overcome them?
Shaun: Not really within the software, because most people are moving towards Autodesk Revit. In the early days, there were some challenges, as some designers felt more comfortable using other software packages due to the routing on them.
Since then, I think Autodesk Revit has become more acceptable. Some of the tools that we’ve developed, for example, Victaulic Tools for RevitTM, have helped a lot of people utilise the product itself in an easy and more effective manner.
What do you think of the UK’s willingness to use BIM?
Shaun: With large projects, it is becoming the norm. Aside from that, there is still some resistance from people, such as those still working with other software packages.
It is at the forefront of what the industry is doing in relation to major projects and I think that is now starting to have a ripple effect onto other projects.
What would you say to anyone that was thinking about using BIM on a new project?
Shaun: I would definitely recommend it, as it allows them to become more up-to-date on planning and more organised.
I would also advise them to use BIM at the earliest possible stage in the project in order to reap the benefits. I would also suggest making sure that it is brought in and engaged from the conception stage all the way through to the completion of the construction project.