Analysis

It’s just another decision

8 March 2011 | By Elaine Knutt

How does the middle ground of the industry get to grips with an issue with no fixed form or defintion, no agreed protocols or technical standards, and the perceived risk of buying BIM Betamax?– Elaine Knutt, editor, Construction Manager

Building Information Modelling has been a regular on the agenda at industry conferences and talking-shops for at least the past fifteen years. It needs little introduction, and less propaganda: everyone knows that it offers the potential for slicing away unnecessary costs in the design, construction and operational phase of most projects. 

But in 2011, BIM has quietly left the conference hall, and established a presence in several corners of our vast industry. BIM is being adopted by public and private sector clients (try Manchester City Council or Asda); by the leading edge of contractors and project managers (think Laing O’Rourke, Skanska and Mace); and, in descending order of enthusiasm, by structural, civil and services engineers, and architectural design teams.

The scope and complexity of what’s being achieved varies, and no one has run a project on an integrated project-wide BIM model from Day One to handover (or beyond). But what’s important is that BIM has definitely moved from being a talking point to an action point.  

But how does the middle ground of the industry get to grips with an issue with no fixed form or defintion, no agreed protocols or technical standards, and the perceived risk of buying BIM Betamax?

The message from the experts seems to be that the industry has to ‘get over’ BIM. It’s not going to change your life, so stop expecting it to. It’s not going to put a hole in the balance sheet, so stop worrying about it. The software can only be ‘wrong’ if it doesn’t achieve efficiencies or encourage new ways of working, the same rationale that always applies to new software, and any step towards BIM is going to be a step in the right direction.

BIM, in other words, is just another business decision, and to be viewed as such. And like many other business decisions, the risks don’t lie in taking the ‘wrong’ approach, as in not reacting at all.

More power to the industry’s SMes?That seems to sum up government thinking on public procurement, evidenced by recent comments from Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude. It’s hard not to agree: SMEs have undoubtedly had a tough time in the era of high-value, long-term framework deals. But those same deals have also delivered savings, training opportunities, and real collaboration.