Analysis

Has BIM adoption changed the industry’s culture?

14 April 2016 | By James Kenny

Alex MacLaren of the BIM 2050 group, who is also a director of architecture practice at Wyatt MacLaren and a tutor at Heriot-Watt University; Casey Rutland, associate director and BIM specialist at Arup Associates, and Peter Jacobs PPCIOB, managing director of construction logistics and integrated solutions at Wilson James, give their views on the extent of the industry’s “culture change”.

Alex McLaren

For us, the biggest practical changes in switching to BIM were to do with everyday process protocol in the office: naming, classifications, filing etc. We had our own systems, grown up over many years, and it was a jump for us to switch to new rules, some of which felt nonsensical from our limited viewpoint.

This sort of gripe still seems to ring true for many people: the “lived experience” of a BIM project has been more about jumping through process hoops than about delivering effective outcomes. But universal protocol is key to good data transferability – we need to weather that storm!

Culture has changed. Generally, we have got more used to co-authoring documents and drawings, and using strategies to enable multiple authorship. We’re also making much more use of digital – using mobile devices and instant images to communicate between office and site. But of course that still sits outside any formal understanding of Level 2 BIM – the very effective, low-effort, free apps that we use don’t yet integrate into any Common Data Environment or enable model updates.

The students I work with at university are handy examples of this issue: the uni sets up these proprietary bespoke collaborative learning environments and they all get so annoyed by the clumsy interfaces that they just opt out and co-author their projects on Facebook. Industry is not so different!

So the software has some catching up to do. We need intuitive ways of enabling inter-professional sharing of information, including site progress, post-occupancy and in-use feedback from Internet of Things devices and intelligent sensors.

Casey Rutland

In my opinion what happened with the BIM deadline kicking in, is absolutely nothing. It was a passing date, a line in the sand for development to continue.

There are still massive groups of the industry that just don’t want to change. It might be micro SMEs close to retirement, who just want to carry on a few years before they finish, or they might not use technology whatsoever – there are still big chunks who aren’t changing and won’t change.

Time will tell whether they might eventually come on board. At the moment there are people actively and pro-actively working on the deadline days and those people will continue that work too.

Behavioural change is always a difficult one, most of us that are pushing and driving and working aren’t trained in change management, we’re trained in professional architecture, engineering etc.

As an outfit, we have a change management team and we work with them but it’s a gradual process and we’re bringing everyone the best we can. 

I think the overall message is positive, you can pick up a swathe of documents, go to the BIM Level 2 website and read everything you need to know to get started. It’s there now and it’s consistent and structured. It’s a lot easier now than a few years ago.

Peter Jacobs

It’s changing the culture around BIM that’s the hard part, not the technology.

It’s a question of how do we change it? On some of the projects I’m involved with, BIM is starting to create a culture where the team has been put together earlier.

If you don’t get the specialists involved early when using BIM properly then you waste time by creating the model twice. So it’s starting to force people towards forming the teams earlier.

If you create sufficient information to deliver proper competitive tender using a BIM model, then you’ve gone too far down the line with the BIM model.

So it’s starting to help, but the underlying culture of the industry, which is still around lowest cost and bottom line, is working against the proper engagement and timely use of BIM.

There’s got to be a culture of helping to educate clients that the business isn’t just about the lowest tender price. 

BIM is such a powerful tool, but at the moment it won’t be fully useful until it is top to bottom in supply chains and we can price jobs properly. When even the bottom of the supply chain understands and uses BIM fully.