Experts’ view: Subtle changes, shifting priorities

BIM+ spoke to a selection of BIM experts from across the industry to assess how use of the technology has changed in the past 12 months.

‘Technical and complex language can be off-putting – it’s our job to demystify BIM’

Malcolm Stagg, director of BIM and digital engineering, Skanska UK

Progress towards the adoption of BIM is a continuing journey, industrywide. The expectations are increasing year-on-year, so if you don’t keep pace you go backwards.

The ability of organisations to deliver is now being verified, such as through the BSI BIM kitemark. That’s good news – it helps to drive up standards and provides reassurance to customers.

We’re embedding BIM and digital ways of working across our business, including with our supply chain partners. That’s important in trying to make it our “business as usual” way of working.

One of the barriers to adoption is a lack of understanding. Technical and complex language can be off-putting. It’s our job to demystify BIM, speaking in a language where we sell the benefits, answering the “what’s in it for me?” question.

In construction, we don’t have rich data sets that are structured and validated – certainly not in the same way as some other industries. We need to find a way where we can invest in the right IT infrastructure that enables us to collect and interrogate data, improving how assets are built and maintained.

Key to the adoption of BIM is getting the benefits properly understood and linking them to an organisation’s business objectives. It will then be seen as a “must-have”, and be specified correctly in the contract. Then, it’s all about project set-up and making sure the expectations are fully understood by all parties. It’s then that the benefits of BIM will be truly realised.

‘Data can answer questions we didn’t even know we had’

Adam McCall, BIM consultancy lead, Arcadis

The biggest change I have seen over the last 12 months is the shift in people’s priority from compliance (BIM Level 2) to the importance of data.

However, what still eludes most projects is the question: what do we want the data for? It’s a question that doesn’t just have one answer.

Structuring the questions so projects can respond is difficult. There will be questions that need answering at every milestone and “sub-gate” for a project that all route back to business objective questions. This mapping is missing.

Too much data is as bad as not enough. Data that isn’t structured or validated is as bad as no data at all. It’s all waste and inefficiency.

What I find most exciting about data is that it can answer questions we didn’t even know we had. It can give insights into analysing project data – as simple as time, cost and scope, or weather, asset performance and renewal patterns.

A positive I have experienced on a few projects is BIM enabling GIS. The two together are a powerful toolset. The “where” and “what” are good partners and in combination they are more than the sum of their parts.

‘Poor information management is costing asset owners a lot of money’

Edonis Jesus, BIM leader, Lendlease

In the past 12 months, I have noticed that awareness of BIM and its adoption has continued to rise, however there is perhaps too great a focus on the technology and not enough on the data and information management.

BIM Level 2 is all about information management and how data is produced to improve the efficiency of both project delivery but, more importantly, asset operation. There is work to be done in educating the industry – particularly clients – about the benefits of BIM Level 2, not only during a project delivery phase but for the operational phase.

BIM Level 2 adoption can help asset owners reduce operational expenditure costs, which account for around 80% of costs through a building’s lifecycle.  

Poor information management is costing asset owners a lot of money. I often ask clients on refurbishment projects for past surveys or drawings and they don’t have them – they have been lost or were never recorded. Clients need to understand that data is an asset.

At Lendlease, we often run training sessions with clients and suppliers to raise awareness of BIM, but more needs to be done by the entire industry.

It would be great for all companies to share more about lessons learnt on their BIM implementation journeys, as Lendlease has done with its exemplar BIM projects, including Elephant Park, the International Quarter and Rathbone Square in London.

I would like for BIM Level 2 to become “business as usual”, to enable the industry to move ahead on its digital transformation journey and start focusing on the interface of BIM with other technologies, such as the internet of things, artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain and plenty more.

‘Some customers who had no BIM knowledge have had their eyes opened’

Garry Fannon, head of digital, Willmott Dixon Construction

If Wilmott Dixon were to describe the changes over the past 12 months, they would be described as subtle. But subtle in a positive way.

Knowledge and experience of digital construction from our customers is increasing. We are seeing improvements in the quality of models from our experienced design consortium members and internal knowledge of what a good model looks like has increased.

Inexperienced modellers now probably stand out more and need assistance and support on quality assurance from our digital teams. We continue to support our supply chain partners to understand the opportunities.

Some benefits are starting to be delivered. We are getting better at checking data, delivering data and explaining the future value of data.

Our most inspiring stories are of customers who initially had no BIM requirements but have had their eyes opened by our preconstruction teams.

Willmott Dixon is now an active member of the UK BIM Alliance. If we can get our customers to establish their asset requirements and digitally enable their FM teams, adoption will happen a lot more quickly.

‘More and more clients are inquisitive about BIM functionality’

Melanie Dawson, head of BIM and digital construction, Graham

Over the past 12 months, we’ve noticed an increase in demand from clients requesting BIM as part of the tender process and as a condition of contract. More and more of them are inquisitive about its functionality. Some require BIM Level 2 while others look to take parts from it that they believe will add value.

In response, we’ve kicked up a gear and continue to challenge ourselves, reflected in our dual BSI Kitemark certification – BIM Design and Construction (PAS 1192-2) and Asset Management (PAS 1192-3). The third-party accreditation gives our clients and the supply chain we work with confidence.

Our BIM portfolio continues to expand, with projects like the Baird & Anchor Hospitals on behalf of NHS Grampian, a 383-unit build-to-rent development on Liverpool’s waterfront, and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London.

There remains much to be done. Construction is often viewed as very traditional. Ultimately, I’d like to see that culture change, as embracing BIM and digital technology will only enhance the service offering to clients.

Top image: Lendlease’s Rathbone Square is an exemplar BIM project used to share lessons learnt

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