Is BIM merely papering over deep-seated cracks?

We need fundamental change right across the industry if the full impact of BIM is to be felt, says Emma Hooper, BIM technologist at Metz Architects.

The construction industry is often talked about as being fragmented, unproductive and adversarial.

This is nothing new, in fact, it’s been described in this manner for decades, yet we still seem to be no further forward with regards to changing it.

The Latham and Egan reports put forward recommendations that we enact lean thinking and alliance partnering back in the 1990s, to combat the negative issues the industry faced.

It is now up to all of us involved in construction to start acting rather than leaving it for future generations to actually change the industry.

Over the past five years BIM has been the great catalyst that has started to get us to change our ways. However, in all the enthusiasm and turmoil of it all, have we forgotten the basic principles of what we were trying to achieve in the first place?

BIM is certainly helping to make us more productive, especially in light of all the increased project demands, but it can only go so far. Without fundamentally changing the way projects are structured, how they operate and the way people in them behave, BIM is merely papering over deep-seated cracks.

The procurement models we use are out of date for the new digital age. BIM promotes collaborative and efficient working, yet the way we procure our projects promotes siloed working with individual agendas riddled with inefficiency and a culture of blame.

Integrated project insurance (IPI) was one of the new methods of procurement put forward in the 2011 Construction Strategy. Described as an industry disruptor it will change the way we all work from client to subcontractor. One project bank account, one insurance, one team, removing the issues associated with liability and blame which suffocates the industry.

The fact is BIM cannot change the industry alone. IPI complements BIM methodology, and is an example of what is needed to change the industry – Dudley College Advance2, the world’s first IPI project, demonstrates how this can work.

Emma Hooper will be expanding on these themes during her presentation at BIM Show Live 2017, which takes place on 1 and 2 February in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Main image: Dmitri Zakovorotny/

BIM has been the great catalyst that has started to get us to change our ways. However, in all the enthusiasm and turmoil of it all, have we forgotten the basic principles of what we were trying to achieve in the first place?– Emma Hooper, Metz Architects

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  1. Its all about process and relevance and project control.

    The oil and gas industry understands this because if you don’t construct it well then the facility blows up!!!
    BIM is a computer system that could help with information flow and PM but really should deliver the means to control the building i.e. the main point through sustainable design, clear construction procurement and method leading to a clear set of documents and control systems for any client tenant/ maintenance FM activity that follows.

    The UK fragmented stop start industry is struggling to do this in every case. It just a case of ownership??

  2. Emma I couldn’t agree more.

    New procurement models will influence the behaviour of all stakeholders. We have yet to experience alliance contracting or IPI within our organisation..

    This is that last piece in the jigsaw to truly work collaboratively but should have been the first.

  3. Well put Emma. If our industry used a structured management approach to project procurement (as used in all our companies and throughout all other major industries), everyone would benefit. This is so fundamental, until it is tackled, it will certainly diminish the benefits available through innovations such as BIM.

  4. Emma,

    Yes you have clearly highlighted the issues, silo working, transactional behaviour as also previously highlighted by Egan & Latham with their issued reports on our industry. The nature of our work is project related once an assignment is completed you move on or juggle various commissions together responding in order of priority.

    The concept of BIM is very good to mitigate against on site clashes during construction with technical specialists disciplines, communicating, engaging together regularly and working in a real live model. The upfront effort at design stage should have cost beneficial effects at construction/installation stage right through to facility maintenance for end user clients.

    The ideal scenario is to have all design discipline specialists working together in a same project task group location with a team building session at commencement creating the right culture where people have passion and a fun atmosphere to deliver a project deliverables to a high standard of inter discipline co-ordination. Contractors and product suppliers need also to embrace BIM technology. If by the application and integration of BIM into our project commissions this new facility can produce a schedule of quantities with a high degree of accuracy then then this would be more efficient and time saving than for example a manual effort of using a scale rule to do a MTO take off of quantities.

    Yes we need to embrace BIM for its positive attributes to our project work and increase clients satisfaction and our industry reputation to deliver better in a relationship based approach rather than a transactional/litigious fragmented way.

    Finding the time during busy project activity and training funding which can not be off set against earned income may be difficult for some, however some of us who worked on drawing boards never got the opportunity to learn and gain experience of the then new emerging technology of AutoCAD some years ago because our down time learning was not billable to a client. Perhaps it will take another generation of younger professionals coming out of colleges and universities learning the BIM skill sets provided by these educational facilities will embrace BIM fully to realise its full potential as an integral part of their daily project working activity.

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