Interview: Ridge’s Brent Rees – Getting ‘KnowledgeSmart’ on BIM

Many still don’t test the BIM literacy, or capability of suppliers or supply chains during the tender process. We try to take some responsibility and help them understand what they can get out of the BIM process.– Brent Rees, Ridge & Partners

Brent Rees, BIM manager at multidisciplinary construction consultancy Ridge & Partners, on gaps in supply chain knowledge, testing the claims of potential BIM employees, and experiments with online collaboration using Citrix.

Which is your most advanced recent BIM project?

We are doing advanced work for University College London Hospitals, probably our most BIM-literate client, that really pushes the key elements of PAS 1192. UCLH has put together detailed Employers Information Requirements and has asked consultants to appoint a standalone information manager on certain projects, as recommended in the CIC BIM Protocol.

In addition, we are doing innovative work for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Services (FCOS), and have delivered some large BIM-enabled projects for Jaguar Land Rover. We have run a variety of BIM projects across a variety of project values, sectors and countries.

As a medium-sized multidisciplinary consultancy, what are the key BIM challenges you face?

Clients often have aspirations for projects to use BIM as a workflow to deliver projects, but their understanding of how to procure consultants and main contractors using BIM, in accordance with PAS 1192, is often just not there. They are often unable to produce some of the key client documents, for example the EIR needed when starting to tender for consultants on a project.

Many still don’t test the BIM literacy, or capability of suppliers or supply chains during the tender process. As consultants, we try to take some responsibility and help them understand what they can get out of the BIM process, then set it in place.

Do you have problems finding BIM-capable staff?

Not really, the number of BIM-capable people on the job market is on the rise. However, we are looking at new products that are able to test the ability of job candidates, such as KnowledgeSmart, which runs online tests designed to benchmark knowledge and skills within a certain tool or application. Our software reseller is a leading Autodesk partner, and also provides regular training courses on the premises, and internally we host BIM process training for staff.

You work with an even spilt of public and private sector clients. Which are the most BIM savvy?

Neither one is ahead of the other, and there are different drivers for each. Currently, public bodies are being affected by the “stick” of legislation and private firms see the “carrot” of the value BIM can bring to projects, and have an appetite to achieve high standards.

Is BIM Level 2 implementation going to be a success when it launches next year?

The mandate is just six months away, various standards and guidance documents have been in circulation for years, yet the level of industry knowledge is not up to scratch. That’s true of consultants, main contractors, supply chains and clients.

Are lower levels of the supply chain sometimes struggling to produce models or related information?

Absolutely. We have seen limitations when the main contractor’s supply chain hasn’t been tested for BIM literacy or capability and has therefore been unable to feed into the process later on. The SME end of the market is a major barrier to strong BIM uptake and adoption, as it makes up such a large proportion of the industry and feed so much into the construction process. Tier 1 contractors are screening suppliers on more advanced projects, but not other main contractors.

Is BIM Level 3 still a distant dream for the industry?

It’s some way off. We’re getting closer in terms of the maturity of the technology, but there are all manner of complications, such as managing intellectual property rights in a single cloud-hosted project environment and defining who owns what piece of geometry in a model. These are contentious issues still requiring advancements.

What cutting-edge technology has impressed you recently?

Ridge has been looking at new ways of collaborating using virtualised environments in Citrix, a method of delivering a PC desktop via a web browser. Using a browser interface removes the need for powerful computer processors and would allow our project teams to be more flexible. We have been running tests to roll out a BIM authoring tool in that environment enabling designers to collaborate in the same server space. We have had mixed results to date, but it is an area we will continue to work on over the coming year.

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