Market Research

Building Construction Projects May Fail in 2016


The first quarter of year 2016 is about to get over, and people in the building industry are already worried. Many of them have sensed that their building projects might go unexpectedly wrong, causing further delays, costly revisions, or may get into unwarranted legal issues. Let’s understand and accept the fact that building contractors, architects and other across the AEC fraternity are late, timelines are not met and people are spending time arguing why things should be different.

Similarities, differences, beliefs and attitudes towards BIM have started surfacing, big time. What has surfaced is a very complex picture, with several stages of BIM development in various countries. The effects and impact of governmental policies such as the BIM mandate in UK are emerging and are hard to be overlooked at.

Architectural design firms are collaborating with both their partners and experts across UK, USA, Europe, Australia and Middle-East, and have started facing methodological challenges. Apart from the difference in language (associated challenges of reliability and grace in wording); there are national differences in understanding what BIM is? These differences are deep rooted with various construction practices and regulatory frameworks.

The one single reason, which at least I can think of, is - they don’t have data competency. 21st century you can say is the dawn of data driven activities. Several industries including financial services, healthcare, large scale farming and many more have learned how to succeed while relying on data for enhanced transparency, optimized processes, finding mistakes and improved planning and strategies.

You, my readers, would have experienced this, when you drove your car to a repair shop and they connected a data reader to the mechanism of your car, analyzed the data and likely found the issue instantly. In several instances, some of the challenges are fixed with simple software updates to change the way your car behaves.

But this is not the case with buildings. 3D modeling, task management, simulation software, cost and project planning and what not, but they all have failed to lead to data driven building. Dashboards, Scorecards, risk systems and all seem to come short. This is so because each project is different, employs new teams, represents billions of objects and consistently evolves. But the biggest challenge here is that the building construction industry does not have data competency.

Building construction industry is ill-equipped to create, analyze and utilize data

As a land surveyor, MEP contractor, General contractor, Sub-contractor, architectural design firm, I am using Building Information Modeling, am I fine? The answer to this is a big “NO”. BIM is just a method to store data in a model. BIM on its own does not define which data to store when and how and what happens to the data afterwards. While analyzing BIM data for thousands of BIM projects, I encountered that the data was really chaotic and most of the time incomplete, making it all the more difficult for analysis, generate reliable forecasts, optimizations, benchmarking and a lot more. We as building construction industry are ill-equipped to create, analyze and utilize data to the extent we can and we should.

Data, does it really save you from making mistakes?

“Yes” it does, but only if you are good at generating the right kind of data at the right phases of construction project, and are also good at managing the quality of your data.  Build twice, once digitally, where you simulate and learn, then physically with all the learning being employed. You can succeed, or I should say your building project can succeed through:

  • Identifying and resolving MEP clashes between various disciplines
  • Proactive cost estimations - Calculate, manage and optimize costs in your projects
  • Reliable and detailed planning
  • Monitor your building progress, BIM LOD is at your rescue
  • Predict what parts of the buildings need servicing, and when
  • Simulate and optimize
  • Identify and track issues and their resolution time
  • Manage risks
  • Monitor the team’s performance and reliability
  • Be effective during renovations and for retrofitting… and much more.

At times while speaking to Architectural professionals, I realize that they strongly feel that the AEC industry is too complex and has its own kind of challenges. But I would want you all to think again on these grounds - again.

If you look at healthcare, each tumor is different, and so are the bodies that house it. Patients’ visit different doctors, some of the might be your first time too. However; modern medicine has learnt how to gather data from countless case studies, measures, patterns, reads, medical journals, analysis, for predictions and monitoring. Or for that matter of fact, self-driven cars, how do you think these cars drive more safely than human drivers? Several industries have assigned budgets for data scientists for such predictive analytics. They even go to the extent of engaging in education and standards, and in defining data quality, because they know how important qualitative data is to their fields. Then why should architecture be different?

Data Driven BIM for Buildings - The Future

Increasing number of industries have become data driven already. They are all the more associated with specialists, build data-centric cultures, and developed tools – gadgets - applications and much more to leverage data, optimize their new as well as ongoing projects, and avoid any pitfalls. There are no second thoughts that the building construction industry will certainly follow.

Moving towards BIM is the stepping stone from which the industry can start leveraging data – effectively and efficiently. Static economy and the need to build more, faster and with enhanced effectiveness will certainly drive the data revolution in our industry. The tools are ready, easily available analytics frameworks, predictive analytics tools and algorithms and machine intelligence is on the rise.

You need to start building data competencies – today, it’s not too late. And nowhere is it said that you need to resolve or address all your data challenges at once.  Finding out that right data needs for the right kind of analysis is the key to your success. Start with the simplest benefits first and keep on building towards larger and more effective and efficient analytical tools. Collection of data, facts and figures should be with the end result in mind, and then go ahead to expand upon reaping initial benefits.

It is not necessary that you do everything on your own. For larger projects you can certainly go ahead to invest in data scientists to assist you in leveraging your data, and it will be well worth it – believe me. BIM experts can help you define your data requirements for obtaining good quality information and use it to your advantage.

Though the data needs are complex and will only become more so, there are no doubts that the future belongs to data-driven building. Especially with larger Infrastructure designs for Road, Rail, Bridges, Ports, and Tunnels etc. architects, land surveyors, MEP contractors, general contractors, sub-contractors, architectural design firms, and many more, are likely to be overburdened by the tasks of creating and managing data.

Integration of participants and Building Bots

The owner’s definition of data drives what design and construction actually create and document. This definition potentially diverts the argument from quality control (after the fact) to quality assurance (proactive) so that the data is collected when it is created, not when the construction gets over. This is the integration of the participants.

Designers provide intent and have a little bit of information to define. The rest is created and entered by the builder and commissioning agent over the life of the construction process. Involving building owners to engage in defining their needs is mandatory. Collecting information for equipment maintenance is different from wall coverings, though the process remains similar.

Owners when create a template for their organization, designers and builders will have a clear direction about what to create, when and how to deliver the information directly into a database for owner’s use. When the owner is included in the population of the database, they will become familiar with the importance of the information and the effort it takes to be complete, current, and accurate, they will be motivated to continue the process through their own use of the facility.

You can self-optimize your buildings. The Building Information Modeling, fondly called as BIM, is headed to the future of building bots, small software and hardware robots that help you create, manage and optimize your data. Innovative BIM service providers will assist you to get the most from your data. Those days are really closer than you think.

Start building on your building data competencies today to have great 2016 and coming years as well.

About Author: Hiral Patel is a news editor and has been contributing to the AEC industry since last 7 years. She mainly writes about the application of BIM across Architecture, MEP and Structural sectors. Her focus is towards encouraging construction companies, sub-contractors and architects to adopt right technologies to improve efficiency and profitability.

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