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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