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Why BIM is so important to our industry

Anne Kemp | 15 Dec 2014 | Comments

I’ve been working on the UK Government’s BIM programme for three years now and learned an immense amount on the way – the rewards, the challenges and the pitfalls of implementing BIM across a wide range of organisations – both from the points of view of the client and the supply chain.

The first thing which has been impressed on me is that BIM demands clear and unambiguous project management, a lean approach and a collaborative engagement throughout the delivery team. The second point is that BIM could and should be used for anything that is built. The fact it considers a project across its whole life cycle and in the wider environment in which it sits makes it a particularly powerful tool. With a BIM project, you start with the end in mind.

The roll-out of BIM should begin with understanding the decision-making process.

Personally I find that Brad Power from Havard Business School sums it up perfectly: “Process is about action….The problem is, in this explicit focus on process-as-action, organizations overlook a much more powerful process performance lever — day-to-day operational decisions”. Drive Performance by Focusing on Routine Decisions, Brad Power, Harvard Business School, January 2014

Once understood, you can identify what is the minimum data required to support that process, and how that needs to be presented so it is understandable and accessible to the people who need to make the decisions. Ensuring decisions are recorded and retrievable at any stage is key so that the knowledge of how and why a particular part of the infrastructure was developed is preserved for use throughout its operational life. Once you have this defined, then you are in a great place to exploit 3D modelling and visualisation to its maximum potential.

However, if, for example, a client’s desired project outcome is to develop an integrated component of a smart city with in-built sensors and responders a key requirement will be ensuring that the supply chain is incentivised to share longer term objectives with the client. This is why we will continue to see different procurement methods being trialled and collaborative working appearing as an imperative across much of the industry.

What is abundantly clear is that roll-out of BIM is a significant change programme and being able to win the hearts and minds of project managers in taking ownership of BIM adoption, is imperative.

In many ways, BIM addresses explicitly the problems identified by Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink (2007:264). “We live in a world saturated with information….But what I have sensed is an enormous frustration with the unexpected costs of knowing too much, of being inundated with information. We have come to confuse information with understanding”.

So, embracing BIM is not about reacting to a mandate from the UK Government, although that has provided valuable drive and focus on how to make roll-out industry-wide a practical reality. It is much more about needing to embrace the opportunity to become more efficient and effective in our delivery and to remain competitive on the global stage.

I firmly believe that BIM is a necessary pre-cursor to the industry’s ability to respond to and manage big data, and the drive towards future-proofing cities (including the smart city concept). Furthermore, as determined at an innovation summit held earlier this year for senior leaders, BIM underpins much of the industry’s ability to innovate within a stable, safe environment.

So in summary, for now, I would single out five key points for why I believe BIM is important to our industry:

  • It converges information production with sound engineering judgement and design
  • It provides wider, faster access to comprehensible and integrated information
  • It fosters instinctive but rigorous collaboration and better decision making
  • It harnesses innovative technologies and harvests intelligence from big data
  • It enables reflective, adaptive thinking to incorporate whole life and integrated systems approach within the wider geographic context.

To find out more about our work around BIM click here