Glimpses of BIM Utopia?

Earlier this month, a number of i2C people attended an evening talk that focused on delivering BIM through the construction phase. It was impressive, the presenters knowledgeable and the software had the cool factor turned up to 10.

The following day, I received an email from one of our team who attended and it was full of positivity. The presentation had ticked off its first task – impress. I often find myself wondering why I go to events that only remind me how many new things there were to learn and master. Luckily, for my own sanity, I met with two different colleagues shortly after the event. Both are well informed and experienced in design and construction. They reminded me of two of the most golden rules in BIM:

1. Most of what you see at BIM Leadership presentations didn’t happen that way.
2. Most of what you see at BIM Software presentations fail to address what the real benefits are.

The event was not BIM Fluff, but we are still a long way from a BIM Utopia. For many of us, we forget to put what we hear into a proper perspective. For us, when discussing BIM with our clients and partners, the conversation has to begin with questions and listening: who are we talking to and what are the benefits they are looking for?

There are a lot of complications with how to put all this BIM stuff together to realise the end benefits for the client. Let’s talk about design models. They’re the easy thing to work on – especially for us architects. Get good design consultants on board, everyone models, we coordinate and clash and ta-da! We have a close to clash free model.

But it’s only a design model. The head contractor comes on; they tender out to the trades, optimise and value engineer after the design consultants have completed their work. What was the use of the design model then? If the subcontractors can model for construction, will they take on board the design model? Not likely. The best case scenario is that they will continue along the same principles set by the design model, but that is as far as trust and lawyers will go. They will start their own model, or not. Some may want to charge more if the contractor doesn’t tell them to get… a fresh perspective. The contractor may not really care anyway. 2D shop drawings are fine, thanks.

Through joining the Ryder Alliance we now collaborate with BIM Academy and this is where we are currently focused, and where we at i2C can start a meaningful conversation with our clients. A realistic approach to BIM that takes into account D+C contracts and how we can engage past design.

As for technology solving all our problems, on site tools and mobile apps do look amazing. But the primary thing contractors still want are solutions that can fit well with their existing tasks, are not too difficult to implement and can bring realistic return on investment.

So what’s the conclusion? There’s no killer app, no easy and complete solution and everyone is at a different stage on the journey. Meanwhile, don’t forget to minimise costs, avoid additional work and don’t find yourself taking on someone else’s responsibilities. Easy!


Will Joske, i2C BIM Development Manager, BIM Academy Australia

BIM Academy is a centre of excellence for BIM based on the complimentary activities of research, education and consultancy.