BIM for Marketers

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From BIM Journal. Click Here to Read Issue 2

With industry standards, best practice, worst practice, opinion, myth and rumour abound it is no surprise that new marketing personnel can also be profoundly mislead when it comes to BIM too. So it felt about the right time to look at how we got to this point and the value of dedicated meaningful initiatives going forward. Let’s get back to basics.

All you need to know.

It has been said that BIM is both a noun and a verb, comprising the information rich 3D model itself and the modelling process too (the potentially agonising process of getting project participants to interact with the model collaboratively, when they should, in the agreed format, using the available standards, on time. Before handing it to the client's team to update the model if anything then changes). Real cards on the table cradle to grave type thinking that the industry is slowly trying to get to grips with.

Potentially all roles in all sectors are affected, especially when BIM is seen as a “movement” - or as I call it coastal erosion or a wildebeest migration. There are other terms.

As such, in the same way that there was never a deadline to migrate from a typewriter to a word processor, or a slide rule to a calculator, there was never a deadline to move to BIM. It is merely the natural migration when faced with an abundance of electronic devices powerful enough to get much more out of the data in a streamlined manner. You could say technology, or at least the cost of technology, has finally caught up and we can now all afford it.

In terms of process however, you would never list an item for sale on the Ebay mobile site, then list it again on the Ebay desktop site, it’s strength is clearly “one single source” that viewers on any device interact with. BIM captures this spirit and common sense and applies it to a building or other built asset. The difficulty in this analogy would be that you need many participants to contribute to the listing in the first place - description, cost, condition, delivery etc all inputted by different teams of differing personnel.

Until recent times, the spirit was to list the same ad in as many places as possible, separately, forgetting what was listed where and leave a few ads not updated when the item sold. You would still make money using this approach, but it was not exactly joined up thinking. It wastes so many hours and is prone to error. But enough with the analogies I know you get the picture. BIM uses technology in a sensible and coordinated way and getting participants to understand and use this new way is the hard bit.


No Deadline

As it is a “movement” there is no deadline. But you can be forgiven for thinking that there was one. There was a mandate in the UK that central Government projects required that project participants were to deliver these projects using the BIM process. This was a sensible and tactical move to kickstart industry to begin to move to BIM much sooner, even though some players were already on the right page long before.

To assist with the uptake however, freely accessible standards were created, the PAS1192 suite of standards being one of them. A BIM “maturity” idea was also introduced what sought to act as a barometer by which companies could benchmark themselves in terms of how much of the entire BIM process “available” they were actually using. “BIM Level 2” fast became the de facto position with BIM Level 3 still largely undefined but moving towards Smart Cities and the like (see Digital Built Britain and other initiatives for more information about that).

Ignoring government projects however, there is no BIM deadline so to speak. It is an open market. Savvy clients, forward looking practices and keen individuals see the potential of BIM and the sense behind it and have adopted it for their own gain. Either to streamline their processes internally and to be more productive, or their client demands it and they have to step up to the plate regardless.

Either way, the point with any “movement” is that you will always get companies at the very front of the pack and those who are disinterested or simply too busy to look ahead and remain happy at the back - with the majority in between. But even they will migrate from using a typewriter soon. It is a natural evolution pure and simple. It will simply become too expensive to carry on using dated and archaic methods when the time comes.

In fact, by this measure BIM in the UK and even globally is still relatively in its infancy in terms of doing it “properly” so to speak (which means to a BIM Level 2 standard). But any company’s position in the market at present is the correct one and the tide is carrying them along. Above all the key distinction here is that, as an industry, in a race whoever finishes first is important. But in a migration, it is simply about getting everybody over the line.

Applying this to Industry

From client discussions, surveying data and feasibility studies all the way through to design, costing, planning, construction, handover and sale or demolition a technologically enabled way of working has emerged. It has emerged with the sole purpose of minimising wasted hours and reducing error which has substantial gains for the client paying for it and all other parties in between. You would never buy a brand new car with parts missing and rips in the seats, but this is the shape of many buildings at completion and these defects need to be remedied at the end of the construction stage (these defects are noted on a “snagging list” in the UK aka a “punch list” in the USA).

The fact that somebody was allowed to fudge something on the day and then simply leave it for somebody else to correct later on is absurd and would not wash in any other industry. Oftentimes the reasons may be legitimate (parts missing on the day, lack of information from head office etc) but it is profoundly wasteful as a process yet real life simply gets in the way. Something had to change and this is just one example of waste in the industry, there are many more.

Sure there are new software tools, new standards and updated processes for professionals to get to grips with, but there are new avenues that can be leveraged from them when it comes to extracting data from the model in terms of analysis, coordination and management too. When it is done right, that is, and the reliance on other organisations to take it seriously and pull their weight is paramount.

Many companies have been stung by embarking on a BIM project with the wrong understanding and expectation, not realising it takes considered planning and skill. “BIM Level 2” alone takes some doing and for many companies it is not so much that they cannot operate at this level, they already have the knowledge, it is that they are unfamiliar with the processes and especially the culture changes that come along with it.

Marketing Assumptions

..part 2, the important bits (if you're a marketer), here.

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