Dr Gregor Harvie on a new initiative to help BIM become mainstream.
In 2017 we analysed 6 million pieces of data about the relationship between 5,000 articles on Designing Buildings Wiki. Our main finding was that practitioners prefer to read about practical, project-based subjects, whereas authors tend to write about more traditional, academic subjects. Crucially, we also discovered that BIM is something of an isolated island, disconnected from wider industry knowledge.
To some people this simply confirmed what they had already suspected – BIM is a specialist subject, with procedures and terminology that are intimidating and excluding to the uninitiated. This view was reinforced by the recent NBS National BIM Report, which, whilst it found 69% of respondents were using BIM, also revealed the emergence of a “two-speed industry”, with 22% of those yet to use BIM saying they would rather not adopt it at all.
This reluctance to accept a new part of the industry was previously seen during the emergence of sustainability. For years it remained a specialist add on, with the term “green wash” used disparagingly to refer to projects for which sustainability was merely an optional extra.
The starkest example of this was petrol station forecourts with advertising powered by solar panels. It has taken a long time, a lot of determined effort and a certain amount of regulation to make sustainability the fundamental part of all organisations’ core activities that it is today.
BIM needs to get to reach that position more quickly. At its heart, BIM is about understanding the client’s requirements and knowing who will deliver those requirements, in what format, and when. This is fundamental to the organisation of a project, it is not an optional extra that the industry can choose to adopt or not adopt depending on the job, the client, or the other consultants. It is a better way of working, and businesses which are not adopting it as standard are putting themselves at risk.
We discussed this at length with PCSG’s chairman Mark Bew. He worked for the government to develop and implement the Level 2 BIM strategy and then led the development of the Level 3 BIM strategy, Digital Built Britain, so there are few people better placed to understand what BIM is really about and where it may be going astray.
The result of these conversations is BIM Wiki, launched in partnership with PCSG as part of the Designing Buildings Wiki platform.
BIM Wiki is free-to-use and open access. Anyone can read the 150 articles it already includes, and anyone can add new articles to enhance the site and make it more comprehensive.
Most importantly, because it is part of Designing Buildings Wiki, BIM Wiki is fully integrated with 8,500 articles about the wider industry. This means BIM is not treated as an isolated subject, it is just a normal part of the way things are done – it is business as usual.
BIM Wiki’s launch is just the beginning of the process. There is more to be written, much to be improved, and an ongoing process of keeping the site up to date. The more people become involved, the more views it will represent and the more comprehensive and useful it will be.
We are calling on practitioners from every part of the industry to contribute to BIM Wiki, to add their knowledge and to improve what is already there. Let’s debunk the myths, persuade the unpersuaded, ensure BIM is mainstream for everyone, and wipe away any hint of “BIM wash”.
Dr Gregor Harvie is a co-founder and director of Designing Buildings Wiki. He is an architect and project management consultant and has a PhD in Computational Fluid Dynamics. He has worked for multi-disciplinary practices Atkins, WYG and PSA
Image: Mathematical model of the popularity of, and relationship between, 5,000 articles on Designing Buildings Wiki in 2017