Opinion

Improving the Construction Process with openBIM pt 1

 

From BIM Journal. Click Here to Read Issue 1

If you can call them constraints, then within the constraints of openBIM there is the momentum of advancement of the construction process by improving the transparency and monitoring of all stages of the process itself through more effective data management and communication[20]. Yet despite this being the case, there are worries as to how easily this transition can be made in the first instance[21].

In contrast to other similarly heavy industries, it is not news that construction has always been somewhat plagued by a bad reputation – both in its internal and external interactions with other parties. A simple but sad truth put forward is that the construction industry is one within which there has been a degree of intentional miscommunication, convenient delays, and sometimes outright corruption[22] the details of which are beyond the scope of this article – but a lot of positive progress has indeed been made since. However this very point has raised arguments for, and against, openBIM itself.

On the one hand, openBIM offers a procedure through which transparency and effective communication between different software packages can streamline communication and data management to a degree where the aforementioned issues should not slip by. On the other hand, transparency is not something which the construction industry as a whole has been seen to embrace too vigorously over the years, and so concerns are present as to exactly how accepting will pockets of organisations be to opening the doors to a completely transparent workflow. If at all. Indeed widespread adoption requires alignment from Tier 1’s all the way through the supply chain and on occasion far wider.

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Q: How do you see the adoption of openBIM these days, is it growing in acceptance?

A: I believe that as a methodology and philosophy openBIM is already being adopted. We certainly have, but sharing information is often an issue related to the current work processes however and real time collaboration also requires an ability to receive feedback from subcontractors in the field. So having a feedback loop is critical within any openBIM implementation.

KEVIN HOLMES, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, HXGN SMART BUILD

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With the increasing digitalisation of the industry and an increased pressure to progress through the BIM maturity levels (Level 2 alone is quite an achievement) a realisation of the importance of transparency is something that we see emerging in due course[24]. At the very least, resistance from the wider supply chain remains a seemingly short-term barrier to openBIM adoption, and more importantly we are able to move beyond this and onto the benefits which can be seen via improvements to the construction process itself.

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Q: Have attitudes changed regarding open standards and transparency?

A: Well we started in 2013 as a spin off from University and what we heard from the industry then was that nobody would ever want that kind of transparency. But now we are noticing that people are embracing it because - if everybody is transparent then everybody at least has the opportunity to win and to increase their margins.

Someone will always lose with no transparency in the team[25].

LUKAS OLBRICH, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, SABLONO

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As highlighted by Holmes, traditional BIM does little at the moment to bring about many of the original benefits behind its inception – looking specifically at improvements which can be made within the full process to minimise risk, reduce costs and improve overall efficiency across the lifecycle that is. That’s not to say that traditional BIM does not have the potential to do so, but that perhaps the lack of transparency which is inherent to closed BIM may very well be one of the limiting factors when it comes to achieving its full potential.

Arguably, it is the management and communication of the data itself which allows for effective management overall and, as a byproduct, the creation of those benefits in the actual building project. Whilst closed BIM does indeed present a finely tuned route for the management of data for an individual participant within the organisation, a figurative “wall” can be perceived in communication between differing participants who are often external. In short, as data can be communicated in much better ways than the days of old, it is still done in a way that individual participants are forced to continually translate and integrate this data.

A severe disconnect can be seen in the passing of information from one party to another in this way. Data is not so much “lost” but without a common and open standard underpinning the workflow mistakes can, and often are made -  which starts to challenge the very purpose of BIM itself. Communication is the key and it pays to get it right.

Continue reading part 2..

 

Read both parts (and more) in BIM Journal