BIM: From Confusion to Comfortable – key points

John Adams, director of BIM Strategy, reveals what happened when BIM Strategy teamed up with the CIOB Northern Region and Constructing Excellence in the North East last week to go back to basics with the event BIM: From Confusion to Comfortable.

Driving change and making a difference is why institutions like CIOB and Constructing Excellence exist; such broad remit requires them to work closely with their members to provide focus on specialist areas. 

After over a year of planning, BIM: From Confused to Comfortable rolled into Newcastle’s Centre for Life with a mission to deliver a programme of learning for all of those who don’t feel up to speed with BIM.   

The event featured a broad range of speakers, from architects and engineers to clients, contractors and lawyers. What we all agreed was that the BIM mandate had not yet reached as deeply into the supply chain as it needed to create real and lasting change, and no amount of finger pointing will change that.  

Here are my five takeaways from the event.

1. Don’t panic. Organise

This was the main theme of the day. Building information modelling really does provide a significant benefit if you take a structured approach to adopting new processes and tools. 

We know that the scary BIM question in new tenders often panics people into signing up to BIM events, or buying new software, but this panic won’t lead to effective change.

Niraj Mistry, head of BIM at Stroma Certification, showed some stats that point to BIM requirements in new tenders really starting to spike in the second half of 2017, which drew a noticeable intake of breath from the crowd.

But whatever your BIM adoption path looks like, you really need to organise your thoughts into a business plan – you can’t buy your way into BIM.

Understand what your client needs, what you project needs, and what your own business needs from the BIM process and really focus on that. Bringing clarity to the idea that you don’t need to know everything was the big takeaway from the day.

2. Why do we exist?

Northumbria University’s pro vice-chancellor (business and enterprise), Professor Steven Kyffin, provided an inspirational voice from outside of our industry, and challenged our very existence as an industry.

If we aren’t designing and preparing for a preferential future where our projects support the lives the future generations will want, maybe we are creating a technological nightmare which will last 30, 50, even hundreds of years.

What does a smart city add to the lives of those who live there? Do we need smart cities? Have we even thought about the social impact of our work when we are specifying our next building? This keynote presentation raised questions on a much greater scale than the adoption of BIM, and was the talk of the lunch break. 

3. What’s happening with the mandate?

“Will the mandate ever be enforced fully?” was probably the juiciest question put to the panel. My perspective of “probably not because the government has moved on to the Digital Built Britain agenda” was perhaps deliberately provocative, but I did clarify that I’m not sure it matters because the chasm has been crossed and BIM is going to happen now whether it is forced or not.  Although, this opinion was challenged and led to good debate among the panel. 

The truth is we don’t really know how hard the mandate will be enforced and much like the insightful discussion on cyber security, events and circumstances are likely to arise which change the course of these themes, so future gazing, whilst enjoyable, is likely to be eventually flawed in hindsight.

4. Don’t try to read client’s minds

Anna Thompson, director and head of BIM at Turner & Townsend, gave a great presentation on how to work with clients to deliver their aspirations. The advice was clear: add more focus and structure to the discovery phase, listen, and don’t try to read the client’s mind.

Although they may seem similar to another business you’ve worked with, they are most likely very different. Don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole. 

5. The UK BIM Alliance is coming together

We had two formal representatives from the UK BIM Alliance, Niraj Mistry and Phil Simpson, technical coordinator at NBS. And they both did a great job of telling the audience the Alliance is open for business, looking for people to get involved and is taking a studious and organised approach to delivering BIM Level 2 to the state of business as usual by 2020. 

This is a big task, but the work, tools and data on show at #BIMCoCo shows this is much more than a talking shop and the Alliance is really starting to gel and build a solid plan to get us all doing BIM for the good of the industry and beyond.

BIM: From Confused to Comfortable did exactly what it said it would and the only question left to answer is: when are we going to do it all again?

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  1. Great work John, we have had some laughs along the way, and one too may drinks, but we need discussions like this along with guidance. The mandate isn’t being driven well enough and also there is far too much crossed opinions between the so-called experts. If nobody can agree what BIM Level 2 is then we are doomed!!

  2. Thanks John and team for what sounds a great event. To most people I think it’s pretty clear what is required for L2 in terms of activities and outputs. Thanks too for the plug for the UK BIM Alliance. Two years old now. We are demonstrating that we can enable collaboration across industry silos and boundaries, and producing great work in the process. Our profile and influence is growing, and we are leading on L2 and digital transformation.

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