Defining 2023 in digital construction: the best-read BIM stories

Image of a chatbot at a computer - best read BIM stories 2023
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Standards, the golden thread, digital twins, a TV documentary and, yes, AI and ChatGPT dominated the headlines this year. The best-read BIMplus stories of 2023 touched on these topics and more.

Here are the top 10 most popular BIM stories of 2023, from tenth to first.

Dr Marzia Bolpagni, head of BIM international and associate director at Mace, delivered a TEDx lecture focused on BIM and data ethics in Brescia, her hometown.

In the 15-minute presentation to a lay audience, Dr Bolpagni highlighted the beneficial impact data can have not only for the industry, but also for end-users of the built environment. However, she reinforced the need for data to be used ethically.

She told BIMplus: “I believe this was one of the most important stages I have spoken at, because if we want to make a change in construction, we need a wider awareness of the role our sector has in fighting climate change, and how data is key to making timely, informed decisions if used in an ethical way.”

Paul Shillcock, managing director of Operam and the author of ISO 19650-2, questioned the structure of the ISO 19650 series and asked if we should have two standards for one information management process.

He wrote: “I am now concerned that having two standards for one information management process may have inadvertently shored up the silos we are so desperately trying to break down. Whereby designers and constructors only use [19650] part two, operators and maintainers only use [19650] part three.

“On reflection, I wonder what would have happened had we combined the two standards to create an end-to-end information management process that all parties could adopt.”

It’s Dr Marzia Bolpagni again, this time detailing the five trends that could impact digital construction in 2023.

AI and ethics; automation; environmental, social and governance; hybrid communication; and digital minimalism all featured on Dr Bolpagni’s list.

How did her five trends affect you and your operations?

Jack White is technical manager at Clarion Housing Association and he’s got quite the challenge on his hands with the golden thread. Clarion is the UK’s biggest social housing provider with 125,000 homes nationwide, with around 80 buildings of seven or more storeys.

He told BIMplus how he’s worked with Bentley Systems to develop a new asset management system that will help the organisation to manage the golden thread.

White said: “Asset managers currently have databases, documents and geometric information in floor plans and elevations. What we are doing just takes these things further; a more in-depth database, documents with metadata and a 3D model.”

Aircraft armed with laser scanners patrolling the skies to create a digital copy of one of the most densely populated islands in the world?

Twenty years ago, this would have sounded like science fiction. However, this is exactly what happened when the Singapore Land Authority went about making the world’s first digital twin of a country.

Bentley Systems’ Mark Coates, international director of public policy and advocacy, and Andrew Foster, regional director, energy, utilities and digital estates – Northern Europe, reflected on its genesis and its capabilities.

“The digital twin displays all of Singapore in a highly detailed 3D representation. It is exported and shared across various government agencies to help with asset management and decision-making, including detailed tree and green space management,” the authors said.

The BIMplus audience always enjoys an analysis from John Ford, head of digital delivery at Galliford Try, and 2023 was no different. His reflection on why the ‘why’ of ISO 19650 is being lost was the fifth best-read article of 2023.

He proposed several approaches to solve the conundrum, including this: “We have chosen a destination, but have not checked the compass to ensure we are still on course. I feel a rekindling of the idea behind the 2011 industry-driven approach where an industry working group outlined a path that led to the 2011 BIM mandate is vital once more to realign our trajectory, especially for the public sector. In doing so, we can address the unresolved ‘why’ challenge in various public sectors that is hindering the full adoption of an ISO 19650 approach.

“This call is aimed at industry leaders to work closer with government to spearhead a renewed review as we did in 2010/11. The endeavour is no small feat, but is undeniably in our collective best interest as well as the public purse’s.”

The most popular opinion expressed on BIMplus in 2023 certainly caught a lot of people’s attention and became part of a wider industry debate about digital adoption.

Morta chief executive and founder Mo Shana’a set out to question the sustainability of relying on Word and Excel and to promote no-code solutions. He noted: “The convergence of current and incoming legislation for building safety and sustainability, as well as the information mandate, means the need and requirement to connect data, track processes and have clear audit trails has never been greater.”

There’s nothing like being on TV to drive interest in a project. The construction of a five-storey basement under the famous Claridge’s Hotel in London was the subject of a three-part BBC documentary, The Mayfair Hotel Megabuild, screened in early 2023.

Claridge’s wanted to increase its capacity by 50%, adding a five-storey mega-basement underneath the hotel. The new 65,000 sq ft underground space would house two swimming pools, a spa, wine cellar, kitchen and laundry facilities.

Michelle Mackey, McGee project engineer, declared: “Every other company invited to tender wanted to do a traditional project, but the client was adamant that they didn’t want to close the hotel. But whenever someone says something can’t be done, we say challenge accepted!”

This piece revealed how McGee used Asta Powerproject to deal with the scheme’s complexity.

Parametric design can offer many benefits to engineers, helping to design the optimised, greener and beautiful structures of the future. And yet, widespread adoption still remains to be achieved within the construction and engineering industries.

In this explainer, Jamie Howarth, Trimble business development manager for engineering and construction, explored the issue.

He said: “Automation is perhaps the key benefit of adopting parametric design, providing huge productivity and efficiency improvements.”

Well, AI had to be on this list somewhere, didn’t it? And yes, it’s at number one by some distance.

At the start of the year, the world seemed enthralled by ChatGPT, the AI-driven natural language processor. Surfing the zeitgeist’s wave, BIM Academy digital consultant Murillo Piazzi described his experiments with ChatGPT and the outcomes.

He noted: “The recent popularisation of AI has the potential to completely change the way we interact with information once again.”

He highlighted not only the opportunities, but also the caveats: “ChatGPT is a brilliant tool and can support us in many of our daily activities. It reminds me of the golem. The golem is a creature made from inanimate materials such as dirt or dust that is animated through specific incantations and letter combinations. It is created by a human and serves as an assistant, companion, or saviour.

“The golem is sometimes viewed as a devilish creature, which is why I am very polite when asking ChatGPT questions. You never know where things will end!”

This is the final post of 2023 on BIMplus. Here’s to a safe and prosperous 2024!

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