Characteristics of Leadership in BIM and VDC

by Mark Sawyer

Characteristics that influence international leadership in Building Information Modeling and Virtual Construction (in no particular order):

  1. The degree to which the competition is truly open vs. the winners of the competition being predetermined or heavily favored. Open competition fosters innovation.
  2. Industry and Higher Education Partnerships
  3. The customary role of the Architect
  4. Societal litigiousness.
  5. Culturally Programmed Problem SolvingThere are many cultural differences in problem solving; for example, how planners vs. experimenters tend to approach something as new as BIM in construction differently.
  6. Ratio of Government-to-Private Sector SpendingIn most countries the government is the largest building owner. I’ll point to Singapore as an example – their government is the largest building owner. It’s a heavily regulated industry and they can mandate change overnight. If there is a very large private sector that pretty much defines the economy (as in, for example, U.S., U.K. and Western Europe) it’s harder for everyone to get together on the same page. The GSA has done a great job trying to drive initiatives in the U.S. and they are, as far as I know, still the largest building owner in the country. But they cannot mandate change overnight and they know it.

I hope the influence of each characteristic listed above is self-explanatory. You can probably guess what constitutes good and what constitutes bad on each scale, so I won’t take the time to discuss them further. I will however comment on two of my favorites…..

Litigiousness plays out much as you might guess. If the project team habitually relies on lawyers to solve their problems, there is not much incentive to drive new methodologies like Virtual Construction into the project. Highly litigious societies are held back, and less litigious societies have a better chance of leadership. This holds true up to a point. Taking the USA (definitely a litigious society) as an example, it appears that decades of legal fees and client dissatisfaction have driven the industry to a tipping point. The backlash is led by a super-involved generation of owners whose appetite for positive change is accelerating the adoption of BIM. So too much of a bad thing can eventually lead to a good thing!

One’s approach to problem solving has a big impact on Virtual Construction leadership. Whether we are talking about a region, a country, a culture, or a single construction firm there are norms associated with the way they routinely approach problem solving. On my scale, there are ‘planners’ at one end and ‘experimenters’ at the other. And when it comes to Virtual Construction, experimenters are leading. The reasons are entirely clear as construction projects are complex undertakings involving many disparate firms and interests. Combine that with the relative infancy of BIM in construction and you can appreciate that one can plan only so far ahead. Those implementers who cannot take the first step without a three-year roadmap immediately become non-implementers. The experimenters, however, are undeterred. They try things one step at a time and course correct as they go. The time for long-term planning based on codified experience and intellect will come, but right now international leaders are experimenting their way forward, and it is producing great results.

This article appears courtesy of Vico Software.

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