Study highlights BIM’s ‘isolation’ from the construction industry

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According to a new study, BIM knowledge and practitioners are ‘isolated’ from the rest of the industry

The Designing Buildings Wiki team – the knowledge resource for the built environment – analysed six million pieces of data generated from users of the site to discover the knowledge needs and how they are connected across subjects.

Architect Dr Gregor Harvie, co-founder of the Wiki, said: “We cross-referenced our 5,000 articles with six million data points, scrutinising a range of factors including: connections between subjects, the popularity for subjects, the number and duration of views, and the age, sex and location of readers.

“Our findings have generated a series of never-before seen maps of construction industry knowledge, allowing us to draw some surprising conclusions about what knowledge is available, what knowledge people want and what needs to change. This report asks a crucial question – is construction industry knowledge fit for purpose?

“What is very clear from the ‘heat’ maps we generated is that BIM is very isolated and is not connected with other subjects and is probably accessed by a breed of BIM experts, rather than embedded as a need across the industry.

“Generally speaking the 25-34 age group are interested but this goes down with age. I think that presenting BIM as a very clever version of CAD is not that helpful.

“If it were seen as more of a quality management process, effectively standardising what most people do already, then people might be more engaged with it.

“It’s a bit like sustainability when that started – it was seen as something that was isolated and for the experts, but now it is embodied into every day working practices.”

The analysis also revealed the differences between what people need in terms of information and what is available.

Harvie added: “The report makes clear that industry’s knowledge creators continue to focus on niche research aimed at making the top-performing 1% of the industry better. But it is leaving the other 99% to fend for themselves.”

The report criticises the industry focus on niche research that does not impact on professional practice and calls for strategic leadership to oversee the creation of more practical guidance.

Andrew Morris, senior partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, said: “The likely impact of Brexit on the construction industry means it is vitally important to encourage the continued sharing of information and ideas, and ensure there are coordinated programmes of education and research.

“This timely report offers a number of strategic recommendations that can steer knowledge creation and promote the dissemination of knowledge to help the industry maintain its performance and improve its openness through a period of unprecedented change.”

The key findings of the report include:

  • The industry is lacking the strategic leadership needed to coordinate the creation and dissemination of knowledge;
  • The emergence of the internet has fundamentally changed the way practitioners access knowledge, but the industry has not kept up;
  • Knowledge that is difficult to understand, buried in long documents or locked behind pay walls, will not be used – even if it is critically important;
  • Practitioners need accessible, practical, easy-to-use guidance to help them carry out everyday activities;
  • In the wake of the Edinburgh schools defects and the fallout from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the report suggests the industry needs to get organised and stop leaving the dissemination of knowledge to chance – or more mistakes will be made.

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