BIM: The Challenge of Modeling Existing Conditions

by John M. Russo, AIA

The first thing an architect or engineer will request when contracting with an owner to create design drawings for renovation work are record drawings, commonly referred to as “as-builts.” However, it’s not uncommon to find that drawings don’t exist, or that the drawings that are available have not been kept up to date or validated and can’t be relied upon. It is at this juncture that an existing conditions as-built must be performed. Many times this is done in 2D, but it is becoming ever more common for designers to request this information in 3D.

When complex building geometry such as curved, non-planar surfaces is involved, it can be much more difficult to document with the required degree of dimensional accuracy. This is never more evident than when it comes to creating a three-dimensional existing conditions model or an existing conditions building information model (BIM). Fortunately, today’s technologies are making it much easier to document and represent these complex building systems in 3D and, as a result, are improving the process of design and construction for renovation projects.

Frequently, people are turning to 3D laser scanning to capture complex existing conditions. Laser scanning can capture the most complicated geometries easily and quickly. However, processing a point cloud into an accurate three-dimensional model can sometimes seem like a daunting task. Even seemingly simple geometries can be a challenge to model given the limitations of the BIM authoring software. What should take a matter of minutes can often take hours to create. And when there are dozens of such conditions on a project, it can leave the modeler, the project manager and the client frustrated with the time required to complete the model.

The length of time needed to create the model usually depends on the required level of detail and accuracy. For example, is there a need for an exact profile of a piece of molding, or can it be represented with a basic shape? If the profile is needed, it must first be extracted in 2D from the scan data and brought into the modeling program to be turned into a profile sweep. Will it suffice to use a generic family to represent an object, or will a custom family be required to show an adequate level of detail? When the software isn’t cooperating to show things as they really are, what methods can be used to finesse the software? These are questions commonly faced by modelers when trying to build a model and meet a deadline.

It is very important that the client understand that there is no “easy button” when it comes to modeling existing conditions in 3D. While the tools now exist to capture and create accurate representations of real-world conditions, there are still many challenges to overcome. Adequate time must be factored into the modeling process. However, having an accurate representation of the existing conditions will help all parties relying on the data make better decisions. This, in turn, will result in fewer change orders, fewer delays and lower risk for all stakeholders.

Categories: 3D Laser Scanning, BIM | 3 comments

BIM and Life-cycle Facility Management

by Peter Cholakis

The rapidly changing global economic and environmental landscapes demand efficient life-cycle building management processes. While proactive, knowledge-based capital reinvestment processes have been successfully applied, such as Capital Planning and Management Systems; these depend upon quantitative physical and functional facility information and enable multi-year “what-if” analyses to optimize capital reinvestment in concert with an organization’s mission and goals. Integrated and adaptive construction project management has proven elusive. Clear benefits and risks are associated with facility capital reinvestment decisions, including life-safety, “downtime”, financial impacts, as well as the overall ability to perform an organization’s stated mission. On a broader scale, buildings directly impact global climate change and the world economy.

The convergence of BIM and Cloud technologies provides the catalyst, tools, and collaborative environment to drive sorely needed cultural changes within the AEC sector, and enable major productivity improvements relative to facility management practices.

A colleague recently commented that the convergence of BIM and Cloud Technology allows for the creation of “FaceBook for buildings”. I couldn’t agree more. Imagine FaceBook with enhanced features such as: tracking changes, enabling reversal of changes by authorized individuals, instantaneous communication among owner, contractor, sub-contractor, trades, etc.

The integration of life-cycle facility management, BIM and Cloud Technology will catalyze change throughout the AEC sector. The convergence will enable the following:

  • Owners, Contractors, Subs, AEs, and Oversight Groups will be able to successfully leverage technology to maximize construction project performance and project ROI.
  • Consistent processes embedded in technology will increase operational efficiency.
  • Transparency – A single system of record makes it easier to identify projects that are deviating from process. Consistent documentation supports claims avoidance and wins.
  • Better access to project information results in faster decisions and shorter cycle times relative to procurement, award, construction, and post-construction processes.
  • Enhanced communication and collaboration among owners, service providers, contractors and AEs.
  • Contractors/subs/trades will be able to leverage technology to better differentiate themselves from the competition, win more work, and maximize performance and profitability on jobs.
  • Consistent processes provide a competitive advantage to win more jobs and increase operational efficiency.
  • Better access to project information results in faster decisions and shorter cycle times.
  • Contractors engaged in longer term relationships with Owners.

Categories: BIM, Collaboration | Leave a comment

The BIM Top Ten Truths

  1. BIM, in conjunction with Cloud Technology enables efficient building life-cycle management.

  2. BIM embeds robust life-cycle managment PROCESSES within technology to enable rapid implemenation, scalability, transparency, collaboaration and assure consistency.

  3. The ‘I’ within BIM, INFORMATION, in terms of standardized definifitions, data architectures, taxonomies, metrics, etc. is a core component of BIM.

  4. BIM and CLOUD processes/technologies are disruptive and will alter the AEC sector significantly. Everyone’s role changes, as well as how we work and communicate with each other.

  5. Owners must take the lead, they pay the bills… period.

  6. Efficient, collaborative, and integrated construction delivery methods are central to BIM – Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), Job Order Contracting (JOC)- the latter is IPD for renovation, repair and sustainabilty projects.

  7. BIM is NOT 3-D visualization, however 3-D visualization is a valuable component of BIM. BIM is a combination processes from mulitple domains, technology, and product solutions.

  8. BIM is the integration of CPMS, CMMS, CAFM, ACD (Adapative Construction Delivery), GIS, BAS, and BPM (bulding product manufactures) methods and data.

  9. Software interoperability is a requirement.

  10. BIM will make the world of planning, architecture, design, engineering, construction, operations, and maintenance of the built environment FLAT.

Categories: BIM | 2 comments

Barriers to Successful BIM

by Finith Jernigan

Today, the issues have shifted and some aspects of the implementation of BIM and integrated delivery are rapidly becoming defacto standards in the design and construction segments of the construction industry. There are however a number of thought patterns that are hampering or retarding implementation.

  1. Not understanding the difference between cooperation and collaboration.

    • Focus on wrong social and organizational structures.
  2. Not understanding that many of the problems that the industry faces, are wicked problems that cannot be resolved with linear solutions.

    • Lack of system thinking.
    • Lack of strategic vision.
  3. Approaching BIM and integrated processes as technology.

    • Focus on 3D not on Integrated Decision Making
    • Reliance on and fear of changing legacy systems and processes.
    • Not understanding of the power of Open Standards and interoperability.
    • Requiring systems that are more complex, more finished and more difficult than necessary.
  4. Focus on ‘What’s in it for Me?’

    • Focusing on one’s niche to the exclusion of others.
    • Traditional specialization is no longer the ideal approach. Mastery coupled with broad interests and curiosity rule today.
  5. Focus on Integrated Project Delivery as an end-product.

    • Focus on Projects
    • Lack of a long view

Categories: BIM, Interoperability, Open Standards | Leave a comment

4 Take-aways from Chicago’s BIM Forum

by Federico Negro

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting our work on the construction of the Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame by Trahan Architects at the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) BIM Forum in Chicago. The event is meant to “facilitate and accelerate the adoption of building information modeling (BIM) in the AEC industry and lead by example and synchronize with counterparts in all sectors of the industry to jointly develop best practice for virtual design and construction (VDC).” I also got a copy of Chuck Eastman’s new edition of his BIM Handbook which served as entertainment during the trip and which I’ll refer to later in this post.

It was my first time at the forum. Here is what I learned about the adoption of BIM by the industry and how it is understood.

1. There are still three types of people when it comes to BIM: those who do it, those who talk about doing it, and those who willingly remain unaware while hoping it will just pass by.

Like most transformational processes, BIM has its share of opponents. It also has its share of cheerleaders. Many design technology conferences these days have a healthy dose of BIM cheerleader presentations, or so-called BIM marketing. What I liked about the AGC’s BIM Forum was the fact that it was topical in nature, which forced presenters to get specific and address real issues, improving the signal-to-noise ratio. It also does a great job of ‘reaching across the aisle’ by including all members of the building process. James Timberlake, a founding partner of Kieran Timberlake and an architect, gave the keynote address.

The conference, which is held three times per year in different cities across the US, directly addresses issues associated with the shift toward BIM-based management and delivery. This year’s topic was “Where does design end and construction begin?” The topic alone sets this conference apart as it strives to go beyond the question still being asked at other conferences: Why should we use BIM?

To that end, one of the more interesting presentations at the forum was a skit performed by Phil Bernstein (who keeps a great blog, by the way) and Jan Reinhardt. The skit, aptly named “BIM among enemies”, played out the process of model sharing under a traditional project delivery contract structure.

The narrative walked the audience through the different stages of design and construction, starting with pre-construction. The most successful part of the skit was the actors’ ability to place equal blame on the three major parties for missteps during construction coordination. The owner was blamed for not clearly outlining deliverable requirements for both parties. Just ‘requiring BIM’ was not enough. The architect protected his position stating that he was only required to use BIM and not to deliver BIM. He saw holding the model as leverage, but did not want to take on risk associated with its use. The builder told his subs that a BIM model would be provided, but didn’t have access to it. Once he did get it, he either couldn’t use it or realized the model didn’t quite meet the standards he required for use in construction (see point #2 below). This in turn caused many problems with his subs in coordination and cost overruns. Needless to say, both parties quickly fell into a confrontational stance, a common outcome in such a situation.

The level of collaboration and communication required amongst the architect and builder, a relationship that lacks a contractual agreement in traditional models, is the main subject of the skit. How we address this is a different conversation, but having a venue to discuss these issues is critical. I encourage BIM Forum to promote more of this type of material.

2. People still misunderstand the concept of ‘purpose built models’.

Too much emphasis has been given to the belief that to do BIM one must keep a single model in a single environment that fulfills all tasks required by a design. This concept is misleading. Each stakeholder has a purpose – a deliverable – in mind when building models. There are different preferred tools and workflows in each of the disciplines. There are also incredibly detailed standards for internal quality assurance inside many firms. Aggregating disparate models into a whole is quite a different concept to that of multiple parties concurrently reading and writing onto a single file.

That said, it is in the best interest of the project to identify someone whose job it is to aggregate all parties’ models into a coherent whole, with its own data structure, attribute sets, etc. Who, then, is responsible for this must be clarified in all projects, though it usually falls on the construction manager (CM) or a neutral BIM coordinator. Mainly, parties need to understand that what they produce will be shared, and it will become part of a larger assembly.

The single-model misconception is probably a by-product of the perceived marriage of BIM and IPD (Integrated Project Delivery). Though IPD is a very interesting and promising collaboration structure, it still represents a minority of projects in the building industry. Design-Bid-Build (DBB), Design-Build and CM at Risk are by far still the most common models in the U.S. (DBB accounted for 90% of public projects and 40% of private projects in 2002#). The success of any IPD project probably lies in the inclusive collaboration structure where all parties work together from the onset of design, with the technology playing the role of enabler. Many of the projects I’ve worked on could have greatly benefited from the expertise of builders and fabricators during the design process, but the benefits of BIM do not necessarily require these new contract structures.

That said, I’d like to share how we see this issue as it relates to more traditional delivery methods. We have identified two specific types of model exchange:

Among design parties – The model exchange occurs for the purpose of furthering the definition of the building design as a whole. (i.e. between an architect and his consulting engineers). Between the ‘design’ side and the ‘construction’ side – The design team delivers a model to be used as a reference or in addition to paper documents by those executing the construction. (i.e. model use for quantity surveying, coordination, scheduling, etc.)

Both of these are common on any project that uses a BIM-based project delivery process. The key, however, is understanding that each of these models (architecture, HVAC, FP, structures, plumbing, electrical, and others) was built for a particular purpose. That purpose is typically defined by that party’s deliverable for the project, which today is still mostly a set of 2D drawings (construction documents or shop drawings). The architect, for example, spends months and years carefully constructing a model that will clearly communicate design intent, but will not include information needed to properly phase the project, or at least do so in as detailed a manner as is needed for construction. Why not? Because it is not their job to do so. The CM or GC must take this on.

Construction and job site logistics, and sub-contractor means and methods expertise will add a whole other layer of complexity and specificity to an architect’s model. This is the real value added of a good builder and cannot be underestimated. Sometimes a CM will completely rebuild a model from scratch, other times he/she will use the design model as a reference. Either way it is the distinction between ‘what’ will be built, and ‘how’ it will be built that makes this stage of the process so critical.

This system may not be the ideal method for integrated design and construction of the future, but it is the most common method used today. It’s intention is to protect the owner with a structure of checks and balances. (Whether it works or not is not the topic of this post, but feel free to comment below). We should take the time to bring to light all the benefits BIM-based project management methods can bring to these traditional contract structures as they have the most to gain from it.

3. Most leaders of companies in design and construction today are still too risk-averse to take the lead in moving our industry forward. (The few that aren’t will lead this wave and will come out on top on the other side.)

This is too long a topic for me to address on this post… I will do a follow up on this, but the gist of it is this:

The best architects, engineers and builders we’ve seen are all over these technologies. They’re using the technology to improve their position, improve their designs, improve their deliverables and become more competitive in an already highly competitive market. Some use it as a way to attract talent, while others use it as a risk management tool, a quality control mechanism, or in support of business intelligence processes…

In any case, I think education needs to play a role here in demystifying notions of expanded liability. These processes are being used every day by many who understand their value, and have taken the time to carefully discuss these issues with their clients, their lawyers, their consultants and their staff as they move forward with implementation. The language of communication in model-based collaboration is different. Make sure you take the time to understand your comfort zone and align your project deliverables and expectations to it.

4. ‘BIM’ as a term is still misused or misrepresented.

As a public service I will quote a reputable source for the definition. Chuck Eastman’s BIM Handbook defines BIM as “…a modeling technology and associated set of processes to produce, communicate, and analyze building models.”

He goes on to define building models: Geometric definitions and associated data and rules (can be physical data such as areas, volumes, dimensions.. or meta-data such as manufacturer name, phase of construction, assembly tag, etc.) Geometry is integrated non-redundantly, and allows for no inconsistencies. When an object is shown in 3D, the shape cannot be represented internally redundantly, for example, as multiple 2D views. A plan and elevation of a given object must always be consistent. Dimensions cannot be ‘fudged’. Components that include data that describe how they behave, as needed for analyses and work processes, for example, takeoff, specification and energy analysis. Objects have the ability to link to or receive, broadcast, or export sets of attributes…

In other words, the aggregate of geometric and attribute data is a description of a model (an object), whereas the construction of these models is a description of Building Information Modeling (a process).

I recommend the book.

I leave you with a very telling paragraph from the book:

“BIM moves the industry forward from current task automation of project and paper-centric processes (3D CAD, animation, linked databases, spreadsheets, and 2D CAD drawings) toward an integrated and interoperable work-flow where these tasks are collapsed into a coordinated and collaborative process that maximizes computing capabilities. Web communication, and data aggregation into information and knowledge capture. All of this is used to simulate and manipulate reality-based models to manage the built environment within a fact-based, repeatable and verifiable decision process that reduces risk and enhances the quality of actions and product industry-wide.”

By Federico Negro of CASE. Practice 2.0 is CASE’s column for ArchDaily focusing on technology and innovation in the building industry.

Practice 2.0: 4 Take-aways from Chicago’s BIM Forum originally appeared on ArchDaily, the most visited architecture website on Aug 3, 2011.

Categories: BIM | Leave a comment

BIM and Interoperability

by Kimon Onuma

So what is the deal with sharing data between the various BIM applications? Why can’t we open a Revit file in ArchiCAD, or Bentley, or SketchUp or Autocad, or Illustrator? Wait a sec – is Illustrator BIM? The reality is that each of these very powerful BIM (and non BIM) applications have unique capabilities that do not always translate easily form one application to the next. Interoperability as defined by buildingSMART is ultimately the solution but… the reality is many of these applications are NOT even compatible with their previous versions of the same tool.

As new features get added to BIM applications they can do amazing things. So it is not surprising that they may not be interoperable with their previous versions. So how will they be compatible with their competitors? It is not an easy task, but open standards is the beginning of making them share data. It may not be perfect, and a moving target, but… get over it. As professionals working with BIM, we have to deal with it and help to make things smoother. Support open standards, understand the capabilities of each software and work around it instead of waiting for things to be perfect.

The way to make it work is to keep it simple and look for common threads. Don’t expect that amazing roof tool in ArchiCAD to be 100% compatible with that amazing roof tool in Revit or Bentley.

The biggest mistake you can make is to “standardize” on one software. In this day and age, it is a dead end. Look for opportunities to make it work and move ahead.

Categories: BIM, Interoperability | 1 comment

Integrated BIM

by James L. Salmon, Esq.

The current best efforts at BIM result in something called a Federated BIM Model, which is an amalgamation of models created on disparate software platforms by a series of disparate entities bound together, at best, by an integrated agreement related to a single project. Few of the entities involved – be they owners, contractors, designers or software providers – are prepared to work together cooperatively and collaboratively. The software tools are not interoperable and cannot, generally, share BIM data on a cross disciplinary basis. Once cobbled together the Federated BIM Model is most often leveraged by constructors, both general contractors and trade contractors, to increase the efficiency and productivity with which they deliver their services. The occasional windfall is pocketed by the entity it falls to and others are simply frustrated by a series of strange new business processes.

Integrated teams of BIM enabled stakeholders formed in advance, trained together and deployed in an integrated, cooperative and collaborative environment is the key. That process is neither simple nor cheap, but it is necessary if the AEC/O industry wishes to leverage BIM effectively. The “business purpose” of a single family home, a convenience store, a storage facility, a commercial warehouse, a hospital, a server farm and a regional hospital are all very different. The owner of each facility has one level of interest in the digital assets associated with each such facility and its supporting infrastructure, while the community at large, the owner’s employees, emergency personnel and others who interact with the facility have other interests that merge, diverge and even clash with the owner’s interests. Real digital assets – i.e. Integrated BIM – that can be recorded, analyzed and accessed intelligently over time by relevant stakeholders will enable better decisions about how best to utilize such facilities.

Today, more than ever, we need to leverage information intelligently, effectively and efficiently. Integrated teams that learn to do so, throughout the life cycle of a facility, will increase the efficiency with which they deliver planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance services, gaining a market advantage over competitors.

Categories: BIM, IPD | Leave a comment

Organizational Change – Part I : The Catalyst

by Paolo Hilario

One of the greatest challenges when instituting any form of technology or process changes within an organization is gaining the impetus necessary to fully realize the change. I have had the fortune of meeting many amazingly brilliant people within the AEC industry engaged in all phases, levels, and roles on complex construction projects. Though the specific changes happening within these companies vary widely, there is a single common thread; we are all faced with the same economic and technological changes that are forcing us to adapt to a marketplace that has begun to evolve at a more rapid pace than it ever has before. Owners are demanding more of their project stakeholders, technologies and delivery methodologies like BIM, VDC, IPD, LEAN, LEED, and Sustainability are finding their way into the requirements on many projects. This has forced many companies to place greater importance on finding that “competitive edge” by adopting these technologies/processes, sometimes to the detriment of their organization when implemented without the proper research, planning, and diligence.

For any company to be successful at implementing this type of organizational change, they must have well established foundational values rooted within their company culture. They must already operate as a company that understands the importance of relationships, integrity, and commitment in providing the best possible service to their clients. Otherwise, bleeding edge technology and new project delivery methodologies are really just gimmicks in a sales presentation. I see a common quality in the people from the industry leading companies I meet, they all come from companies that hold a higher sense of purpose than simply turning profit. The executive leadership in those companies invest the time it takes to cultivate this type of environment; innovation, collaboration, integrity, and a sense of ownership permeates these organizations at all levels. This higher purpose is crucial to achieving the momentum necessary for meaningful organizational change.

Setting the proper expectations is another important aspect of achieving your organizations’ goals, most of these technologies/processes require buy-in and sustained effort from various levels. As with everything else, there will be successes and failures along the way, managing the expectations of the various stakeholders and constant communication is of utmost importance. It is important to identify what everyone expects at all levels of the organization from these change programs, it is imperative that you provide visibility and engage all the stakeholders affected.

So your organization has achieved critical mass and is ready for change; where do you go from here? This series will focus on the practical aspects of developing, implementing and maintaining organizational change programs regardless of the type. As organizational needs are different, this will not focus on specific technologies or project delivery methodologies (there are abundant resources on those subjects) but rather the approach.

Categories: BIM, IPD, LEED | 1 comment

Mind the BIM Gap

by Sean D. Burke

Sometimes it takes going very fast to be able to slow down and appreciate what is happening around you. About two years ago, rolling back and forth along one of my many weekly train rides down to Seattle prior to moving here, it suddenly dawned on me all at once: What is it about BIM that is so inaccessible to many firms? Below is a version of what I captured on that bumpy ride. It somehow seemed appropriate now that we are finding our way, hopefully out of this deep recession. Either that, or I finally watched Unstoppable. Strongly recommended, especially if you are a train nut, and have a decent home theater sound system. Anyway… about BIM – this is applicable to new firms thinking about BIM, but also a reminder of why we decided to do this in the first place. Let’s not lose site of the reasons to embrace process change.

Resistance to Change

I hear this all the time: “BIM can be too rigid, forcing you to commit to design decisions.” Didn’t people say the same things about CAD? Wasn’t it that we discovered it was more flexible at making changes. We made those changes, and changes, and changes… That could be why, even though it was a superior tool to the drafting table and layers of canary tracing paper, we never saw any real productivity gains.

Architects using CAD went too far, too fast. Why? Because of the perceptions of easy changes. Well, certain changes are easy, right. But what about the changes that never get coordinated. Did we forget to follow through the change? Usually. Was it more efficient? Only during design. Did we stop charging additional services for changes that used to be very time-consuming? Yes, although the time it takes is lessened, it still causes late nights and over-consumption of caffeine.

Let’s not repeat those same mistakes in BIM. Building is of course a messy process. It is by it’s nature, laborious, fraught with errors and intentionally slow. If you build too fast, things fall down and people and property are damaged. Why should virtual building be any different?

One could certainly see the benefit of putting all the detail in real-time, but at what cost to the schedule, the ability to iterate, and respond to change? It’s time we slow down, and think about strategic design. Go outside, take a walk and get some fresh air – if you can find any.

Change is Medium

It can be less than easy, but so many are doing it and succeeding, so one must ask themselves: “How hard can it really be?” There are several obstacles, however the most critical might be knowledge gap. They need a “perceived reality re-alignment”. The fact is, change is happening.

There’s always someone out there that thinks they really “know” what BIM is. They might even tell you they’ve been doing it for several years, or there entire career has been using “3D” modeling. Well, then you ask them what it was like to exchange data with consultants, the general contractor and client, and they either look blankly or state that they exported to DWG. So where is that “I” in BIM?

The knowledge gap of not just what the existing tools can do, but what process change is necessary to succeed in the new face of architecture needs to close quickly, or as participants in the creation of the built form we will all fall deeply into the abyss.

Remembering: Why BIM?

Did we simply want a better chariot? Isn’t CAD simply the same old truck and grooved-road concept which ultimately became the 19th century train? Don’t get me wrong, trains have their place for moving cargo, and short haul commuter lines. Now Maglev, that’s traveling. Removing friction, and floating above it all allows moving at far greater speeds, and a safer, smoother ride.

It is then hard to understand why Amtrak has decided to base their long-term strategy on existing old technologies (CAD), when they could leap forward (BIM) like some other places in the world (see image below).

We really want to do something greater with BIM, not just the same old deliverables, same old pay-schedule, and want to spend more time designing and less time creating coordinated construction docs. We wish to be more collaborative, assume less risk, and share in more rewards when projects succeed. We also now see our competitors getting there ahead of us, and want to be more efficient, and capable. Remember your passion for design during this time of transition. If we lose sight of that, it is possible that we will not be able to compete.

Choosing Efficiency or Flexibility?

Do you really have to choose? Model to anticipate change. These two ideas seem on the surface to be polar opposites, but in fact:

Flexibility = Long-term Efficiency

If you build for efficiency of the moment, you’re just doing CAD. We know that nothing is static, as change is our constant companion. Embrace it and you will learn the true power of BIM. Do go ahead, and dive in. You can’t stop, unless you start. BIM really can be like a train. You may be going incredibly fast, OK not as fast as you want to, or as fast as a the new Shanghai Maglev, but to an observer standing off in the distance, you are going very slowly.

How do people make the transition to something new? Instant gratification is not the right expectation. We all tend to think things are not moving fast enough. Try this sometime: stare at a train, or an airplane in the sky for a while and if you look quickly enough, it sometimes appears that the object is standing nearly still. It’s just a matter of perspective.

The opposite is a phenomenon that occurs when you are moving slowly being passed by some other moving object traveling in the opposite direction. You almost feel like you are traveling backward. A slight vertigo feeling can form in your belly. That is the anticipation of change. But once you really get going, you must always remember that you are moving fast, and must be ready for the consequences when you must again slow down and stop. Buckle up, this journey is a little bumpy.

All are welcome aboard the BIM train, but be sure to mind the gap.

This post occurs courtesy of Sean Burke and Paradigm Shift.

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BIM for the Construction Business Owner

by Marc Goldman

The word “building” is a funny word. By reading this article, I can practically guarantee your initial understanding of it will be the physical assembly of parts that you work on 200+ days a year. Your definition is the noun form of the word. As it happens, the word “building” is also a verb, which is a term meaning the act of assembling. Two related but different definitions that we use on a daily basis in our work and we don’t stumble over which definition we are referring. Another word (or at least an acronym) that has both a noun and verb definition is BIM – yes, it has the word “building” inside. But unlike the word “building”, the term/acronym BIM is a dynamic term.

Like the word “building”, the term “BIM” has multiple meanings; and both “building” and “BIM” initially imply the noun. Sure, BIM has been a passion for a considerable number of us involved in the building industry for several years; but we continue to educate many on the process of BIM vs. the BIM file. Perhaps it is the software vendors who win the product battle when the industry adopts their file type as a standard. Or, maybe it’s the fault of the early adopters whose initial forays into BIM were presented as 3D renderings of 3D BIM Files. This made for some great marketing and probably led to some better design. But it also failed to tell the story of BIM as a verb. It is my opinion that we have over-emphasized the noun definition of BIM – we dwell on the creation of a BIM model, file, rendering or other output, without focusing on the process, or journey of the BIM workflow.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all geeked-out on the idea of a set of digital files that allow us to view a highly detailed and complex building from any visual or data-oriented perspective. A single (perhaps distributed) model which can be used for visualization, documentation, analysis, simulation, construction management and operations is the final goal which industry and academia have been pointing us to for decades.

However, the models have been built and they continue to be built at a growing pace, and we have our clients, the Owners asking themselves, and us: “What do we do with the BIM model now that we have it?” They are asking what verb we apply to the noun.

The approach is backwards. It should begin by looking for problems to solve as opposed to justifying the creation of using a BIM model. Instead, we should be start by identifying problems and improving current process by employing BIM-centric workflows. Of course, our efforts should result in enriching (or at least not deterring any other uses) of the BIM dataset. We should still work toward creating a BIM model that is useful to the owner at project handover. But we must work towards BIM deliverables with the goal of improving our processes. Without understanding the many benefits of implementing BIM workflows (the verb), the adoption of BIM will be unnecessarily delayed and you, your team, company, project and client will fail to realize the personal and professional benefits.

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