BIM it isn’t just a 3-D model

My plan for this blog was going to be trying to explain some of the more technical elements of BIM.  The more I research Building Information Modelling the more aware I have become of the amount of software intricacies and the level of expertise required to fully understand what is going on with BIM models.  Not to mention things like COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange) compliance, a system allowing the data behind the graphic models to be shared in a spreadsheet format.

You will no doubt be pleased to hear that after attending the Green BIM Conference at The Building Centre last week my plans for the blog changed dramatically.  At the Green BIM Conference my eyes were well and truly opened to what BIM is actually all about and while the technology is incredibly important it is just the tool that BIM uses.  Every one of the speakers not only conveyed their knowledge of the subject but also their passion that BIM is a collaboration between all involved in the design and construction of a building.  Whether it was the Consultants, Architects, Main Contractors and even a Quantity Surveyor the message was the same collaboration from all parties is the key to good and efficient design.  The route to more energy efficient, cost effective buildings that are constructed with less waste and completed on time and within budget is by all of those involved being equal parties and all having an input form early stages, the 3-D model is just a by-product.

Hospital 3-D

There were a couple of points made during the conference that really stuck with me.

 The first was Chris Boyce of Capita Symonds describing a recent project they worked on where the design was done by all those involved sitting around a table with the BIM model on a screen and it being updated in real time.  This is completely different from my previous experiences of individuals sitting at their desks by themselves working on their individual aspects of the structure, emails going back and forth and meetings to discuss and change a weeks worth of different ideas.  While the current system is working it isn’t hard to see how it could be drastically improved.

A while later I was struck by a comment that came from Brendan Patchell of Rider Levett Bucknall.  The floor was opened to questions and it was put to the speakers that BIM would return the role of the architect to the project leader in terms of design and give back some of the ownership for the entire scheme.  The response was along the lines of ‘BIM will mean that there is no project leader, every one is and equal shareholder in the scheme’ this coming from a QS really demonstrates the attitude that those heavily involved with BIM share.  It is this attitude and ethos that will make BIM the biggest and I am sure the most successful revolution in the construction industry for many years.

CM_BIM team shot

I do however have some concerns over how this ethos will be implemented in the real world for all the construction industry.  To have early involvement from various contractors, consultants, specialist, architects, sub-contractors there needs to be a mentality shift away from the current ‘lowest price wins’ driven market.  The hurdle to overcome is getting all the relevant parties involved at an early stage but not be anti-competitive and without wasting a lot of peoples time doing design without the guarantee of an order.

I am approaching this very much from the point of view of our business which is a material designer/supplier that supports it customers that carry out the fabrication/installation of aluminium glazing systems.  However it would seem common sense from all levels of the construction process that supply chains are a good way of engaging the specialist and developing relationships.  To me the benefits for all parties are obvious

  • The supplier of the material is able to reduce the amount of companies they are competing against by having already demonstrated their products advantages.
  • The fabricator/installer is assured the system they are proposing is known to the main contractor and there is likely to be less competition from unsolicited quotations.
  • The main contractor can have confidence in companies and systems they will be using on a project are tried, tested and trusted and a level of backup and support is agreed.

While the criteria and assurances will be different there is no reason this cannot be replicated at all stages of the project.  Supply Chains operate currently for procurement and material or sub-contract supply across all market sectors and some companies administer them very well and reap the benefits.  For BIM to be rolled out across the whole industry I believe the supply chain needs to operate alongside and in harmony with it.  I have no doubt given the passion for BIM that this will happen and we are extremely lucky in the UK to be leading the way, have we found something to help repair our damaged economy and construction industry?

Personally I see a massive opportunity for our business to really get involved in the design of projects and help engineer solutions, which as well as being the interesting side of what we do (and what gets me out of bed in the morning) will help our customers when it comes to securing work in what is likely to continue to be a difficult climate.

For more info on our COBie compliant Revit BIM downloads for aluminium curtain wall, window and door systems



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