Opinion

Taking Ownership

 

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is changing the way projects are conceptualised, designed and built. With the recent developments in hardware technologies and the emergence of cloud based computing, BIM adoption is gathering pace, as owners, developer, designers, contractors, operators and others in the construction industry look to capitalise on the benefits of using BIM.

Owners are now mandating BIM on projects and though the construction industry is equipping itself with the necessary skills to adhere to BIM requirements, the immediate reaction is that implementing BIM would be costly, outweighing the benefits. Designers add on the cost of building BIM that they need for their design processes, while contractors ask for added funds to recreate models from 2D or 3D models to meet their functional requirements.

Project Managers see managing a BIM project a huge investment in skill sets and time, to understand the BIM data exchange requirements between the project parties. There is the amount and quality of data or information being passed on between partners in a project. In the new workflows defined by adoption of BIM processes, designers are often reluctant to offer their Design Information Models (DIM) to the constructors, and are in favour of offering just 2D information.

The industry views this reluctance stemming from the increased risk related to the design and the fact that they are sharing critical design information. In projects where designers give the constructors the DIM model, the constructors complain about the lack of flexibility and quality of data of the DIM and often develop their own models.  Most of the modelling is done without keeping in mind the owner’s motivation to use BIM on the project, but just the mandate to use BIM on the project. Ultimately the owner is faced with an inflated cost just to use BIM on the project, with disparate opinions on how BIM should be used.

How does an owner confront the challenges and barriers to adopting BIM? 

To seek a solution to this problem, owners should first understand the benefits of using BIM on a project. The owner should then identify key areas where his projects will benefit from the use of BIM. The owner cannot expect to gain the benefits of using BIM, by only mandating BIM on the project, but should take the initiative in leading the implementation of BIM on a project. Owners could examine their internal workflows and identify methods and tools that could deliver projects more efficiently.

Role specific training workshops will help designers, contractors, project managers and other project participants understand the specific goals of the project. Reviews of pilot projects could assist in internal data gathering and equip key members of the owner’s team to understand BIM, so that they can join in leading BIM on the project. Once the owner’s team is set up to understand and deliver BIM, different contract types can be explored to achieve the maximum benefits to all parties involved. A trusted BIM advisor can educate the owner’s team to understand implications of using BIM on project team selection, streamline adoption processes and verify that the project team members deliver models in line with data and functional requirements that meet the BIM specification. A BIM Execution Plan will set up communication and information sharing protocols for project participants, defining data required at various stages of the project.

Most owners try to use BIM to improve processes, both internal and external throughout the entire building life cycle. Owners often tend not to specify in detail, the deliverable requirements and specifications. By developing requirements based on well-defined deliverables, owners can ensure that the stakeholders understand and deliver the BIM’s to specifications. These deliverable requirements can include BIM Infrastructure requirements, coordination models, schedule simulations, model quality control requirements, protocols for coordinating BIM’s and also requirements of the facility management models. The owner can thus basically control the data content and standards in the model, without having to engage in the process.

The owner can use available software to check the model for compliance to the deliverable requirements. The owner has to keep in mind that the data and information in the BIMs should be available in his facility management systems to obtain the benefit of using BIM during the operations phase. Intelligent Building information systems to monitor performance of the building via digital dashboards etc, will draw on the information in the BIM databases to enhance the operations and the performance of the systems. The data collected by these systems can be used to optimize the design of future projects. Thus ensuring that other project participants meet data deliverable requirements while creating the BIMs, offers the owner a complete digital database , while also delivering the benefits of using BIM throughout the planning, design, construction and operation phases of the project.

Organisations like The BIM Hub and buildingSMART educate owners to understand BIM, assist with BIM specifications and work alongside owners as trusted advisors to ensure benefits and return on investment are ‘truly’ realized on their projects. Using OpenBIM, we can ensure that the right project information is available in the right format at the right time to project members, while giving owners an insight into the project health throughout the lifecycle of the project. Further, advise on the right type of contract, ensures that project participants share the benefits and risks on the project, thereby creating a collaborative, open project environment. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) could be one potential solution, with all partners in the project coming on board earlier and defining BIM requirements/ specifications earlier in the process.

The industry is still seeking answers to the above problem of defining contracts which share risks and benefits to all involved parties, answering questions like what should be modeled by the designer, what is the level of detail required and how much data can a constructor re-use from the DIM.

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