UBC Professor Takes a Deeper Look at BIM


Associate professor Sheryl Staub-French has spent more than 15 years studying the technological and organizational issues related to Building Information Modeling (BIM) adoption and implementation.

Her focus has been on developing tools and techniques to better support multi-disciplinary co-ordination, 3D and 4D visualization of construction processes, as well as information management throughout the project life cycle.

Staub-French, an associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, has conducted numerous case studies of BIM implementation on a variety of construction projects.

Along the way, the Goldcorp Professor for Women in Engineering has also studied the benefits and challenges of BIM adoption for different organizations in the construction supply chain.

She shared research findings in this field at the Canadian Design-Build Institute's (CDBI) recent 2015 design-build conference in Toronto.

The title of her presentation was BIM and Design-Build: Requirements, Expectations and Outcomes.

"We are really trying to understand how BIM is transforming the way people work and also how people are using BIM data as part of their work practices and how to design tools that better work for you guys," Staub-French said of research being undertaken at her BIM lab at the university.

A member of the education committee for BuildingSMART Canada, Staub-French said this research is being framed from the perspective that BIM is much more than technology or a software tool.

According to a definition published in a BIM handbook, BIM represents a new approach to design, construction and facility management that ultimately involves broad process changes in construction.

Staub-French said thinking of BIM as a process is a really important shift in thinking.

"It really is about the collaborative development and use and exchange of these information models," she said. "It is really through that process that things get changed in terms of how we work.

"Really, what we have learned over the years is that ... it is really the organizational and procedural parts of BIM that are really hard to do."

BIM can also be looked at in terms of building information management, said Staub-French, who is actively engaged with industry in efforts to promote BIM adoption.

"So it's not just about delivery of our projects but how can we use this building information throughout the life of an asset," she said. "And, so this life-cycle view is a very important view."

That said, there has been very little done to date in terms of getting BIM into facilities operations, Staub-French told CDBI members.

"It's not easy but that is kind of the next step, a kind of over-arching vision for BIM," she said.

Staub-French said another matter that is important to consider when it comes to BIM is the level of development of the model.

Not all BIMs are equal.

"I kind of think of these as design BIMs, construction or fabrication BIMs, and operations BIMs," she said.

Staub-French, who has contributed to development of guidelines and best practices for BIM adoption and implementation, said deep usage of BIM requires much stronger stakeholder and supply chain engagement.

In her presentation, Staub-French also examined deployment of BIM on the Royal Alberta Museum, a $260 million design-build project being constructed in downtown Edmonton.

"Our goal has been to study the implementation of BIM and how it is impacting project outcomes," she said.

"We wanted to have an owner-initiated BIM project to document."

The project is scheduled for completion next June.

Staub-French, who has a PhD from Stanford University, said there have been very few case studies of BIM adoption in Canada.  Most have been in the United States.

The theme of this year's CDBI conference was Design-Build: Evolving to Meet the Challenge.

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