Explainers

Not so stupid: BIM for Dummies reviewed

10 December 2015 | By Robert Klaschka

BIM for Dummies is successful in giving a clear picture of what BIM is today, and is a good starting place to learn about the subject, says Robert Klaschka, director of digital built environment at SUMO Services.

Given the number of conversations I have had at networking events and after presentations with individuals who seem broadly ignorant of what BIM is, I imagine there is a huge target audience for this book. It should be a “must read” for anyone wanting to gain a basic understanding of BIM.

So if the question is: “Does BIM for Dummies meet my expectations?”. In short, the answer is “yes”. As a general text covering some of the flavours of BIM, including that outlined in the UK’s Government Construction Strategy, it gives a good broad overview.

Or, for someone considering implementing BIM in their company, especially if their head is spinning from the claims and counterclaims that are flying around the hotly-contested software vendor and reseller market, the book gives a grounded overview.

It reads like a “state of the nation” manifesto for BIM as we know it now in the lead up to April 2016, when the government mandate for all centrally-funded projects should come into force. This does give it the feel of a collection of anecdotes that many of the seasoned BIM crowd will have heard again and again, and for this reason it may date quickly.

The other disadvantage of this is that it is not clear whether the ideas are technically achievable, and in some cases they aren’t at present.

The choice to discuss a mix of the UK government mandated standards and the American Institute of Architects’ equivalent for the US makes for a sometimes confusing mix, which to some extent reflects just how different the approach to procuring buildings is in the two countries.

The choice to focus on these two standards is curious when they are at odds with each other and there are other examples of standards in smaller countries, such as Finland or Singapore, where one could argue standard practice is more advanced.

The more technical parts of the book do reveal the authors’ lack of experience with software other than Autodesk and RIBA Enterprises’, the latter having so obviously pinned its colours to the former’s mast, but then that is to be expected when you look at the authors.

The language is frequently vendor-specific, and this obscures the meaning of some sections unless you have been indoctrinated in that particular sect of BIM. Nevertheless, mention of the proprietary brands has been avoided, and this is to be commended because the vendors’ ongoing “feature-wars” does so much damage to a newcomer’s ability to ask “what can BIM do for my company?”

The chapter entitled “Ten types of BIM tools” is to be applauded. It’s the antidote to the vendor’s platform wars and their compelling arguments that locking your information in their proprietary format is the best thing to do. With Level 2 BIM we are still very much in the world of the federated model, and despite the discussion of Level 3 and beyond in the 30 or so pages of future-gazing, what it means and technically how it will be delivered is still unclear.

Nevertheless, the book is successful in giving a clear picture of what BIM is today. It manages to remain platform neutral which is essential for a book of this type. Is it the only book you should read about BIM? No. However, if you know very little, it is a good choice as the first book you could read.

BIM for Dummies, published by Wiley, and co-authored by David Philp (@ThePhilpster), Stefan Mordue (@stefanmordue) and Paul Swaddle (@paul_swaddle), is available now via RIBA Bookshop.

For someone considering implementing BIM in their company, especially if their head is spinning from the claims and counterclaims that are flying around the hotly-contested software vendor and reseller market, the book gives a grounded overview. – Robert Klaschka, SUMO Services