How Small Practices Can Adopt BIM Without Hiring an Expensive BIM Manager


The author of a new BIM handbook for smaller architects, David Shepherd, has some practical advice for those hesitating to take the plunge.

The government’s 2016 BIM mandate now looms larger than ever with every single pre-qualification questionnaire requiring that proposals include detailed evidence of BIM adoption. Meanwhile, a day doesn’t pass without tech-savvy practices touting their BIM success credentials in the industry press. So the self-same SMEs must be asking whether it’s only a matter of months before they will no longer be able to deflect the probing questions from their major clients about BIM. It is no longer possible for them to dismiss the technology as just a passing fad.

Yet, given the high entry costs, I have considerable sympathy for SMEs facing this technology dilemma. That’s why, in writing The BIM Management Handbook, I addressed these challenges by developing and expanding on four cost-effective approaches for implementing BIM without immediately hiring a BIM manager:

1.      In conjunction with a well-referenced external BIM consultant, develop a long-range (five-year) BIM strategy with measurable annual business objectives by which the success of the implementation will be measured.

2.      Develop existing staff to assume two key BIM roles:

:: BIM sponsor (an associate or principal) responsible for spearheading the business strategy for the technology and achieving business results from the practice’s investment in it; and

:: BIM champion (an associate or senior technician) with the leadership and social skills needed to spearhead the firm-wide adoption of the technology.

3.      As the basis for bespoke firm-wide training and BIM standardisation, require the external BIM consultant to document the development of a prototype 3D model and credible construction documentation using drawings and schedules from one of your previous projects.

4.      Leverage the prototype BIM model and the BIM champion’s relative expertise in order to develop practice-wide standards and bespoke BIM training modules for other staff.

The caveat to employing these measures is that they will only forestall the initial cost of BIM adoption. And, without adequate compensation, your erstwhile architectural technician may take off and become a dedicated BIM manager elsewhere.

So, at some point, SMEs need to consider a lot more than simply stemming the cost of keeping up with the competition. They will need to deploy the collaborative advantages of BIM in order to address, once and for all, the issues of wasteful duplicated effort and uncoordinated project information that continue to be endemic to our industry.

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