John Adams, director of BIM at BIM Strategy, recently realised that BIM’s impact can be just as big post-completion if we get our models into the hands of those using and operating buildings.
One thing I love about BIM is that everyday is a school day. The subject is expanding faster than anything I’ve been involved in, as the built realm and the digital realm are colliding before our eyes.
If you don’t find the current rate of digitisation in the construction industry exciting you may want to check whether you still have a pulse. Whether you are in the industry or not, a world of robots, lasers, drones, 3D models and smart buildings is cool.
This is not to say that making BIM business as usual is a simple task for the UK BIM Alliance, that’s a massive mountain to climb, but the bleeding edge of construction and property tech is booming.
A great article in BIM+ a few days ago confirms we haven’t had our Big Bang yet despite being a year on from the mandate. However, when it all comes together over the course of the next five or so years our industry will be unrecognisable and I personally can’t wait.
As things are changing so fast at the front end of the digitisation of construction, opinions must change too. Even the BIM troubadours who have been banging the drum on stages and writing countless column inches on the subject must be open to changing their view.
One of my opinions that I’ve held as a truism for a couple of years took an unexpected turn. It’s something many of you have seen me say, or heard over a pint with me at great events like ThinkBIM and BIM Show Live:
“Most clients don’t have much use for the 3D model; they need the project team to use models to create the data they need to operate their asset.”
In hindsight, maybe I’ve been thinking a bit too linearly about how a model might be used post-completion. This is probably down to my own personal and professional fixation with the real value of COBie data, and the best ways to collect, produce, collaborate around and exchange this step change in the data deliverable we offer to our clients.
It took a North East Chamber of Commerce event at the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters to make me think outside the design-build-operate cycle. I was there as a local business leader to hear about what the Bank of England thought was going to happen in the region over the course of a pretty unique 2017.
This was fascinating in itself, but following on from this we had a tour of the building and were introduced to a new fire safety business called Impeller. A few minutes into the introduction to hearing about Impeller, there it was, a 3D model of a building; but it was on fire. It wasn’t Hollywood style realism, but it was a surprising sight. There was small farm building, possibly created in SketchUp, burning away. It’s fair to say they had my interest, the portion of my brain which has been almost entirely devoted to BIM for nearly a decade started to whir.
The presenter went on to explain how this was a real building where there had been a tragic loss of life for a firefighter, which they’d had modelled by an artist. The scenario could be replayed to enable training with a very tangible basis in reality.
Add in multiple views from different rooms complete with real Fire Service kit including radios and even actors, and then there is so much rich training potential to increase the odds of a better outcome next time for the Fire and Rescue Service.
Impeller is now offering this as a proactive and preventative commercial service for fire planning or even business continuity exercises in the event of technical failures for offices, stadiums superstores and even passenger ferries. It’s exciting and important work.
Using the model for planning for all eventualities is clearly something that the client can use their building information model for, with the added bonus of embedded data about the fire rating of materials and an overall higher level of detail and accuracy than that created by an artist and included as a deliverable of the project.
At that point a realisation dawned on me that this type of BIM use might actually have more benefit in reality than the day-to-day savings of running a building efficiently through BIM for FM. Of course, the financial waste of creating a building with a disjoint to the FM processes through poor application of data modelling and information exchanges is incredible, and Level 2 is right to target this, but when stacked against the value of human life, operational savings pale in significance.
What are the other critical secondary uses of our project information modelling outputs we might be overlooking as we focus on BIM from our own professional standpoint? Just how many new businesses can be created from the emergence of buildings with data-rich geometric as-constructed models?
The proptech boom has so far mainly focused on digitising processes carried out by property and construction professionals like Kykloud’s excellent asset management toolset which has been a huge hit with surveyors. But surely this is just the tip of the iceberg.
However, first things first, we need to get our models into the hands of those using and operating buildings, and the better we match our models to what is created on site, the more of these tangential benefits we can unlock.
The knowledge that we have artists, game designers and the film industry all creating 3D models of buildings, does set off alarm bells that we are maybe failing to capitalise on the potential for diversifying the architectural skill set. But when a model does eventually become part of the standard handover of a building, maybe we can regain this emerging, and frankly very cool, secondary market?
As for the next time someone asks me whether the client can use a model I will offer a different answer to the one I’ve believed to be good advice previously:
“Yes, the model can be used to run safer and more resilient businesses, as well as many futures uses that we haven’t yet delivered. But, on a day-to-day basis it’s good quality structured data that will continue hold the most benefit post-completion.”
Image: Danil Chepko/Dreamstime.com