Ever since the UK published the Construction Strategy in 2011 to reduce the cost of developing public sector assets, there has been a tremendous rise in the awareness of the collaborative way of working with BIM (Building Information Modelling). Utilizing technologies that support BIM workflows, stakeholders got the ability to efficiently design, deliver and maintain building environments across the entire lifecycle.
Based on the Bew-Richards maturity model, the concept of BIM maturity levels starting from Level 1 to Level 3 is something most of us in the AEC industry are aware of today. The April 2016 BIM mandate required construction firms to remain compliant with the requirements of BIM Level 2 maturity, which essentially consists of a series of domain and collaborative federated models. Comprising of both 3D geometrical and non-geographical data prepared by stakeholders during the project lifecycle, these models concentrate on working in a common data environment (CDE).
However, an online survey from ECA has showed that even after the April 2016 deadline, only 16% firms were fully BIM-ready. More than half of the firms were not fully ready and 27% of the firms admitted that they were not ready at all. There are undoubtedly significant benefits associated with the adoption of BIM. That is the reason why PwC’s recent survey showed that governments could save could save £400m a year with the application of BIM Level 2.
The survey was conducted using a sophisticated methodology to understand the savings on two projects, for the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment. The results of which were extrapolated across the government’s capital spending programme. A complete breakdown of estimated benefits according to lifecycle stages was made.
Following are the benefits quantified from the survey:
- Potential future cost savings in asset maintenance (one of the largest benefits with over three fifths of total benefits estimated)
- Time savings in design (estimated as 5% of total design cost)
- Smaller time saving benefit estimates were also quantified in build and commission stages
- Cost savings in clash detection based on inputs obtained from stakeholders
Apart from the above estimates, the authors of the reports believe that more and easier quantification of project benefits with BIM is possible by setting up measurement processes across the project lifecycle.
The Common Perception of BIM
Despite the positive signs, the very basic factor that keeps the firms from adopting this efficient workflow is the understanding of the concept of BIM itself. There are many firms even today that consider BIM as a software tool rather than considering it as a collaborative process.
BIM is not about gaining a proficiency in tools like Revit or choosing the right common data environment. It is essentially about realizing the need to implement proper information management processes and procedures in order to ensure that right digital approaches are selected when starting the BIM project.
Additionally, CDE’s in itself are confusing to many as these were initially conceived as a single source document management system for collecting, managing and sharing information related to the construction project. However, the definition of CDEs further added the use of a project server or a file-based retrieval system leading to more confusion within the AEC community. The confusion however is mainly because of the conventional methods of sharing information which is being practiced by architects and engineers. In such cases, sharing information using a CDE mostly means sharing a file electronically that can bring no measurable benefits for the firms.
However, the reality is different. BIM is not about sharing documents digitally, but it is more about considering a data-centric approach. The emphasis with BIM is more on developing and maintaining a ‘digital twin’ of the built asset, rather than creating a 3D model. The benefits of BIM can only be realized if construction firms change their document-centric mindset to a data-centric.
This change although is not easy. A lot of work is needed to revamp the internal processes as well as the processes followed by the associated vendors. A construction firm needs to religiously adhere to the BS 1192:2007 principles right from the conceptual stages of any project and build a data-centric culture with all the stakeholders. There might be an initial cost associated with the implementation, but that too can be well managed by expert BIM consultants who provide BIM implementation as a service to firms. Such arrangements essentially eliminate the requirement of hiring special resources and enables firms to keep the transition process smooth.
Until now, construction firms often kept on asking the quantifiable benefits associated with the adoption of BIM. But, the report from PwC reveals all. The benefits are real and are being already appreciated by many of the early adopters of the BIM workflows and associated technologies. The real challenge however lies in understanding the actual concept of BIM, which is not about proving expertise in a design tool, but is about developing a single source of truth with real-time data and share the same across all the stakeholders involved in the construction project.
It might be a tough call for firms that are used to conventional processes to transition to a new workflow, but with a proven case of cost saving with BIM, it is high time to understand the need to bring about a change in the culture. Firms should realize the need to shift their approach from a document-centric to a data-centric one and follow the requirements of building metadata right from the very first step of the construction project.
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