Face to face: Santanu Das, Bentley


Building information modelling (BIM) represents one of the most noticeable aspects of a strong and dynamic change that has been rapidly transforming the global construction industry. Although its penetration in the GCC is still moderate, globally BIM is changing the way construction is carried out.

A report by Mordor Intelligence estimates the global BIM market was worth $2.8bn in 2014, and is likely to grow to $7.56bn by 2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18% over the period from 2014 to 2020.

The penetration of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the construction of smart cities, offices, and factories – and the adoption of Big Data analytics – are likely to provide further stimulus to the already growing BIM market. Such factors will help to create fresh growth opportunities, according to the report.

Countries like Singapore, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and the UK have made BIM Level 2 adoption mandatory across the construction sector, and are using the technology to predict mishaps and prevent any kind of irregularities on built assets.

In 2016, Timetric’s Construction Intelligence Center (CIC) conducted a survey throughout the GCC to determine the level to which firms are using BIM.

The survey found that BIM is currently being used, or piloted, by 49% of respondents. Despite being identified as the future of the industry, the CIC survey suggests that BIM is still in a developmental phase, with 9% of respondents stating that there is no demand for the technology in the region, and an additional 16% saying that demand is limited.

Santanu Das, senior vice president of design and modelling at Bentley, agrees that BIM penetration in the region is still relatively low compared to countries that are fully dependent on the technology.

“There are some countries that are way ahead of the rest, and then you have countries that are yet to understand what BIM is. And I think that the UAE is right in the middle,” he explains.

“There is a government mandate to submit BIM models, but it isn’t really enforced in any way; everybody has their own interpretation of what they think it is. And here in the UAE, its classification is not accurately defined, although the majority of the people are using some level of BIM. It’s one of the challenges we face in this region; there are not enough regulations, and everybody comes up with their own way of doing things and their own definition of BIM. Approximately one third to one half of the projects [in the UAE] use BIM Level 1 to some degree, which is advanced for this region.”

Das continues: “I think the next step for this region is to adopt more standardisation, and [to establish a] governing body to mandate exactly what [BIM] is. [This would ensure that] everybody is speaking the same language. [Nevertheless,] I have been very encouraged to see the level of implementation, and Bentley tools used in many of the high-profile projects here.

“Another thing here is that not many companies are convinced of the savings adopting BIM can generate,” he adds.

Das explains that he has noticed asset owners complaining about the cost, and about the challenges of adapting to the use of BIM. He continues: “We, at Bentley, with our project analytics platform, can really tell operators how much money they can save by implementing BIM. The price factor has been one of the biggest barriers we’ve had in this region. If we can educate these companies more about [the related] savings, I think they will be more open to the idea of adopting BIM.”

For Das, who has been in the business for the more than 25 years, BIM is a process, not just a set to tools to enable better design and construction. Commenting on the maturity level of BIM, Das says: “On a global scale, BIM is gauged across five levels, from zero to four. BIM Level 0 consists of unsupervised computer-aided design drawings, and text with paper-based or electronic exchange of information but without common standards and processes.

“BIM Level 4, meanwhile, includes engaging construction, time sequence, cost management, and facilities management (FM). Not many companies are actively using BIM Level 4.”

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