BIM Should Not Excuse Lack of Coordination


At best, the way we are implementing building information modelling (BIM) in the UK is becoming Monty Python’s “machine that goes ‘ping’”. At worst, it is a tragedy waiting to happen. I am not referring to the handful of flagship BIM projects making headlines, but to the day-to-day implementation away from the limelight. You could very broadly refer to two typical projects:

“Typical Project A” - A 3D model is available, but not used for any practical purpose. The focus is on visuals only. The “machine that goes ‘ping’” was a parody of the same, a flashy toy meant to impress but of no real value. It is perhaps a waste of time, but harmless.

“Typical Project B” - The focus is almost entirely on process, with “Document Management” dishonestly lumped together with BIM.

The project models and databases are not used to deliver value and efficiency, but to transfer risk to the individual specialist subcontractors.

The logic goes that by providing every subcontractor with every drawing and specification available, there is no need for a main contractor or consultant to coordinate them. BIM tendering appears to be a prime example (NCE 8 October). It is reflected in the often proposed terms and conditions which say things like:

“It remains at all times the responsibility of the subcontractor to ensure that they are working to the current up to date information which has been uploaded onto the system.”


“Users will be given access to the system and will be responsible for checking for new revisions of drawings from the point of placing the order.”

This lack of coordination and communication is the tragedy waiting to happen - it will not be long before errors with only economic costs become errors with costs to lives.

What the tendering process needs is more meaningful communication between the various involved contractors, not a piece of technology that further obstructs it.

Surely as professional engineers, we can fight for better than this?

Handing over to the machines

I have been following the discussion on driverless cars with interest.

Although I share some concerns about security with your correspondent (NCE 8 October), I suspect that future generations will look back at our era with horror that we 
ever allowed individuals the freedom to drive cars along relatively narrow strips of tarmac at legal speeds up to 70mph.

I envisage a future situation where the whole transport network is centrally controlled with electronically linked platoons of driverless vehicles speeding here and there and delivering a massive capacity boost over what we have now.

Given the potentially huge demand for travel - with no-one effectively prohibited by age or ability - I also suspect that access controls will be required to prevent the system locking up.

No one would be allowed to start a journey unless the capacity was there to allow it to be completed.

Of course, this could potentially bring in the need for charges to use the system, with higher charges applying at times of greatest demand, and possibly the need to book peak time slots weeks or months in advance.

Personal transport may be restricted in the end to the richest in society.

On that basis, maybe future generations will view our age as some sort of motoring utopia after all?

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