How we implemented BIM: Orms architects

BIM+ spoke to Anna Fiejtek, BIM manager at architect Orms, to discover how this medium-sized practice has adopted and implemented BIM.

When did Orms make the decision to start using BIM?

It was a gradual process, we got interested in BIM at the beginning of 2011. At the time we heard a lot about it through practice involvement at RIBA so we started exploring BIM technologies and their potential benefits to the practice.

The Government Construction Strategy was a clear signal that we should be investing in the technology, and testing and gradual implementation followed later that year. We were determined to be BIM enabled long before the government deadline of 2016.

However, it took much longer than anticipated, which was partially due to BIM standards not being developed enough at the time and partially due to the software solutions we were using.

In 2014, as more clients started to ask for BIM on their projects, we reviewed our BIM strategy and decided to invest more into the right software, staff training and document control systems. As a result, since early 2016 all new projects at Orms have been using BIM.

How has BIM been implemented?

It happened in stages. BIM implementation started modestly in 2011 when 10 people were sent to BIM design software training. We hired a consultancy to help us set up the software and key systems and then we tried to slowly implement BIM on a few live jobs.

Initially we picked two test projects, including a masterplan in Cornwall. We used 3D models to work through many massing options for the development. Models were used to get visual feedback for various strategies and automatic area schedules for each option.

Use of intelligent 3D models allowed us to easily track areas against client requirements. It also helped us to test key views at the same time.

Following that we tried BIM on other projects, mainly for 3D coordination. A BIM focus group was formed to learn more about the processes and to start developing our own way of using BIM technologies. At that stage the use of BIM was not driven by the clients. 

For Orms the real change and a whole new implementation challenge occurred in 2014 when clients and some of our consultants started to ask for BIM models. We soon realised we could be achieving much better outcomes if we changed the software we used for modelling. In mid-2014 Orms started the switch to a new BIM platform.

Initially we trained one project team member with the intention to split that team once the project was finished. Following this we then placed them on different jobs so they could spread their knowledge and help less experienced users – gradually we trained most of our staff.

As more BIM standards started to be published and clients Employer’s Information Requirements became more onerous we understood that consultancy services were not enough. Since then we have a dedicated in-house BIM manager who is responsible for staff training, daily support, audit of BIM models, keeping up to date with the latest standards and best industry practice. This allowed us to use BIM software and procedures on all new projects.

What resistance has there been to implementing BIM? 

Introducing BIM requires substantial investment. At Orms we were initially concerned about the cost of implementing new technologies, the amount of time it would take to train staff and put adequate systems in place, as well as understanding insurance and legal implications of sharing models with consultants and clients.

Not only this, internal standards that we had developed and became used to, proved to be a slight resistance – they worked well for us so changing them to match new BIM national standards was a slow process and required a lot of persuasion.

What has been the biggest issue to overcome in implementation?

The biggest issue was a change in culture. BIM implementation is not limited to change of drafting software. It is a much more substantial change in terms of workflow, managing and accessing data compared to what people are used to in 2D. Making people comfortable with new ways of doing things is challenging, especially when projects are under time pressure.

Occasionally some are tempted to revert to the old ways of doing things, for example to switch to another software or hand sketching if that is what they feel more comfortable with, to save time in the short term. This temptation needs to be managed and the long-term benefits of using BIM need to be taken into account.

Educating designers about benefits of producing data rich, accurate models and following standards is key to realising benefits of BIM.

How many clients are requesting BIM?

It is still rare to be asked by the client to deliver projects in BIM, probably due to the fact that Orms has few public sector projects. At the moment we have four projects where clients have specifically asked for BIM Level 2 to be delivered. Two of those are for the same developer who recognised the advantages of BIM for their business.

One of the other projects is for a contractor who asked Orms to provide BIM models at tender/construction stage. It seems like there is still a lot to be done to educate more private sector clients about the benefits of BIM.

Is the practice seeing any financial benefits on the BIM projects?

We can certainly see the benefits in using BIM processes. Among other things, they allow us to do many things in a clever way, produce more consistent information and deliver better coordinated projects that are better value for our clients.

However, at this stage we don’t see the full financial benefits. This is partially due to a substantial initial investment in BIM software and training. We recognise that it takes time to master and get used to new ways of working, to really realise the full financial benefits of BIM.

Image: Folgate Court in London is an office conversion by Orms using BIM

In 2014, as more clients started to ask for BIM on their projects, we decided to invest more into the right software, staff training and document control systems. As a result, since early 2016 all new projects at Orms have been using BIM.– Anna Fiejtek, Orms

Story for BIM+? Get in touch via email: [email protected]

Latest articles in Projects