What good BIM Looks Like - The ThinkBIM Spring Conference

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With a packed room of enthusiastic BIM practitioners three guest speakers and an expert panel it's no surprise that enlightening engaging debates that could last all week (never mind all afternoon) were guaranteed for all.

No stranger to prestigious event provision ThinkBIM (the Yorkshire & Humberside BIM:Regions contingent) excelled by ensuring that the event ran smoothly throughout. Indeed with the WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff building sensibly chosen as the host venue it was left to the event chair Duncan Reed (Trimble) to hand over to Stephen Hamil (RIBA) to do a sterling job of hosting the day.

The theme of the meetup this time was “What Good BIM Looks Like” and David Philp (UK BIM Task Group & AECOM) kicked off the proceedings with an update of the benefits of Level 2 adoption so far.

David commented on the importance of the recent budget announcement, with a commitment to further cement the UK’s adoption of BIM wholesale (here). He also noted that above all else the UK had firmly delivered on it’s promise of a mandated “disruptive wave of innovation” by the given date (4th April 2016). What’s also important however is that the UK has done this in the eyes of the world. This was an important (and overlooked) fact that David elaborated upon. Detailing that the UK really has positioned itself as a global leader in this regard.

This is some going which was “helped no less by the success of regional meetups like these”. Indeed few countries in the world have dedicated groups devoted to nurturing BIM adoption and sharing lessons learned to the extent, and the intricacy, of those in the UK.

David delivered his update to a rapt room via a videolink from Perth airport too, which saw the proceedings take on a rather hurried format. Although he was being called to the boarding Gate by the end if truth be told. (And yes it was the Perth in Australia, just to clarify).

A video of David’s full presentation will be uploaded soon.

With James Austin (Autodesk) up next an interesting and engaging look at the ever changing landscape of BIM policy implementation over the years was provided. A candid and detailed trip down memory lane within which he quoted poignant viewpoints that he’d encountered along the way, including Paul Morell’s entertaining “one day, looking back at BIM and thinking that it was a choice will be funny”. Indeed a look at the 1400 to 14 day journey from conception to the actual mandate being in place was rather telling and showed newcomers just how much flotsam and jetsam there had been along the way.

James was in the perfect place to deliver this and as a founding member of the ThinkBIM network he’s achieved a great deal since. Not least in ensuring that the positive aspects of BIM are promoted wholesale and that elitism or “BIM snobbery” was important to stamp out too. A viewpoint that’s in complete synergy with the open learning ethos here. Whatsmore, James was also heavily involved with the BIM Show Live events too – another important event that we’ll be warmly advocating.

The final speaker of the day before the roundtable discussions was Adam Matthews (EU BIM Task group). Adam explained that in Europe the BIM mandate had positioned the UK in a very particular and very favourable way. An important fact as “there are lots of government initiatives operating across the entire single market”. Adam then detailed the importance of the UK mandate by virtue of a borrowed analogy. The USA did interesting things with BIM that carved many tracks in the snow, each criss crossing one another but generally heading in the right direction. Norway and Finland came along and created a recognisable and readable path for others to follow and then the UK came along with a snow plough and turned it into a highway. And nowadays the priority of the sixteen country EU BIM Task group is to further align themselves and to discuss best practice in order to move forward together as a whole.

Another emerging standard was volunteered (CEN/TC 442) but why limit this just to the EU? With countries adopting the UK standards in their entirety then why not progress with a Global BIM Task Group instead? With a view toward the formation of an ISO? Perhaps the EU Task Group can be seen as a springboard to an even wider Task Group at large somewhere down the line? Perhaps not. But food for thought and forthcoming interviews at The BIM Hub will explore these avenues even further.

Adam presented the advangates and the shortfalls in much greater detail in the roundtable discussion that followed. A popular vehicle where the day’s delegates make their way to seperate briefing rooms to learn even more. The Roundtable speakers this time (delegates can attend any two) were:

These are the sessions that make the ThinkBIM events so compelling and so useful outright. A chance to chat, ask questions and engage with the issues of the day in a friendly, welcoming and open manner. There is no obligation to speak and many interested parties take notes although within moment the rooms soon turn into a hubbub of lively debate.

Concluding the day was an opportunity to put questions to the panel and given that today’s event had such a historic theme it was time to volunteer: What issues two years ago still need to be addressed and what will we be discussing in two years time? This was condensed into two easy and distinct themes. Lack of client understanding is still the biggest problem by far, with shortfalls in education and training in second place too. Panel member Jason Richards (WSP) was particulary experienced and vocal here and he detailed other approaches and concerns going forward too.

When asked to conclude their roundtable discussions each chair offered the following:

Matt (Leica) captured that Survey provision needs to be captured in the EIR’s and that the survey strategy is then subsequently captured in the BEP. Also that surveying firms need to take their blinkers off and integrate more (and read the International Product Measurement Standards as well).

Adrian (RIBA) discussed the progress made (and still needed) in the development of digital object identifiers (DOI) for differing products on behalf of Innovate UK.

Mark (BIM Yorkshire) was comitted to the need to make digital information more user friendly to the “non-Revit crowd” (often meaning installers and servicing personel). The consideration of augmented reality and virtual headsets was further explored at the time. Also the discussion “should all info should go to all parties at all stages” was volunteered too. With Tom Oulton (Turner & Townshend) quick to point out the CIC enabled contractual stance in this regard.

Trevor (DPW) cited that the low number of Quantity Surveyors at the event was a telling concern and that more practitioners needed to be engaged in the process. He did elaborate in other areas however and pointed out that QS’s need less info than designers tend to think (at first) and that increasingly, other roles that could potentially fall under the QS’s juristiction could be those of validating models and checking tagging/discriptions too. Plus QS’s could look to provide carbon estimates as well as cash estimates also. All a part of the service. (If enough Quentity Surveyors read this and would like to discuss their profession even further then consider setting up a user Group).

Shaun (Bosch) spoke about information standards and levels of geometry and information that a model should contain. Revealing the many positive and negative encounters he’d had when discussing BIM with others along the way.  Also noting that there was a growing need for a product standard that helped end users to compare products like for like too (not entirely dissimilar to food labelling).

Adam (EU BIM Task group) reinforced that the UK’s BIM value is one that needs to be further leveraged to attract investment from abroad. Also reflecting that the UK Task Group can do more to nurture public client interest and further awareness too, which was vital. Adam's presentation can be viewed here.

Perhaps contractors are missing a trick here when it comes to courting clients and helping them to see long term added value in BIM overall?

Good food and fine beer was included amid a buzz of how well the event had been received. Indeed an increasing number of FM personnel attended the event which was great to see. All it needs now is a few more Quantity Surveyors to come along!

Congratulations again to the event organisers Centre for Knowledge Exchange (at Leeds Beckett University) on the day.

If you would like to share your event write ups from your own BIM events then please feel free to submit your write up accordingly. This can be done as an individual or via a genuine user Group too: simply register your community group as an “Association” in the company types and you’ll get dedicated Silver membership on the house plus a suite of exellent Group tools too. We look forward to reading your news and seeing your events in the online calendar.

Main photo: http://ckegroup.org/thinkbimblog/

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