Building information modelling (BIM) is seen as vital for the architecture, engineering and construction industries as it looks to digital transformation to tackle inherent challenges such as budget overspend, project delays, and quality control issues.
Governments have been mandating the use of BIM on infrastructure projects throughout Europe and beyond, to streamline major development projects and, in turn, increase productivity in the industry.
Job titles such as BIM manager, BIM co-ordinator, and BIM specialist are even starting to become more common, as the industry embraces the methodology.
Despite all of this attention, however, there are still the common misconceptions that BIM is simply 3D modelling, only for experts, and only used by a fraction of the teams on a development project. But why do these misunderstandings persist?
Undervalued and under-utilised
One of the challenges for BIM is that it is surrounded by myths that deter certain teams that are involved in a development from adopting it.
While some still see BIM as simply a 3D modelling tool that is used primarily by design and construction teams, modern BIM is so much more than that. It forms a key part of a common data environment – capturing, storing, and sharing key information across an asset. And a connected BIM solution can also be used to link data and documentation, enabling an audit-like trail for objects within a model.
Even the long form of the acronym is confusing, with some uncertain whether the ‘M’ stands for modelling or management. The confusion likely results from the way in which the methodology has evolved and is now being used much more widely across a development.
BIM is also challenged by issues common to other software solutions, such as the reduced productivity that arises while people are yet to be trained on its proper use, the additional costs it entails, and the belief that it is here now but could be obsolete by tomorrow.
These are reasonable concerns: people do need to get used to the software, and data may need to be ported across from other systems, and this can take time; and there will be a financial cost associated with any new software. But these things need to be considered over the longer term. The time and cost savings – and other benefits – that these solutions provide far outweigh the initial pain and price.
Here to stay
In the specific case of BIM, the data captured should provide a vital repository for information related to clash detection and asset handover, and also create a baseline of information to use when planning or preparing for future developments. Its obsolescence is negated by how BIM has evolved over time, as well as how it is being mandated as the solution of choice by governments, and increasingly by owners and clients globally – there is no doubt that BIM is here to stay.
Modern BIM is all about accessibility, extendibility, and collaboration. A connected BIM solution should help manage all the information about a development.
BIM must be able to be used by teams across the development, no matter how big or small. It needs to be able to work with multiple data sources, file formats, standards, and industry-recognised tools. It should also be accessible on numerous devices, whether the users are in the office or on site.
Overall, there needs to be better education about BIM and its many uses. This will be driven by the ongoing influx of digital skills into the industry, which will see a greater reliance on technology for a number of different functions. However, the onus is also on BIM solutions themselves to evolve and to keep pace with requirements.
Modern BIM solutions need to provide the security, certifications, and disaster recovery needed to instil confidence in users. They need to be fast, reliable, and able to integrate with other solutions in a company’s technology ecosystem, regardless of where they are being used. Perhaps most importantly, BIM needs to be easy to use, so you do not have to be an expert to get what you need from the solution. Taken together, these attributes can encourage wider use of BIM across the industry.
This was written by Rob Phillpot, co-founder Aconex for Construction Week.