Interview: ISG’s Phil Brown – Passing BIM expertise down the chain

Client expectation has changed over the past year as it’s apparent that there is a significant increase in knowledge of what BIM is, and what it brings to a project and beyond into the operation of the building.– Phil Brown, managing director, ISG

Phil Brown, managing director at ISG, on BIM’s spin-off benefits in bringing different firms round the table into closer collaboration, and its efforts to upskill and mentor supply chain companies in BIM.

What are ISG’s key BIM objectives over the next five years?

We are fully committed to implementing BIM across our business, and further extending the use of BIM over an increasing number of projects. Our supply chain partners play a pivotal role in our ability to deliver positive BIM outcomes so we play an active role in training and upskilling supply chain partners.

We hold regular training sessions for our supply chain at our in-house training facility, The Academy, and encourage a collaborative environment to stimulate the sharing of knowledge and expertise.

Where BIM isn’t a defined deliverable, we review every opportunity to introduce a BIM methodology to new project opportunities. This approach often highlights areas where we can add real value to a project. 

The BIM approach for every project is bespoke, which creates an environment to pioneer new processes, techniques or outputs, or fosters the use of new technology or software solutions. BIM projects now account for more than a third of our annual turnover (over £500m in value), which is why we invest significantly in our own ongoing training and that of our supply chain partners.

On BIM projects you have completed, are you seeing an increase in efficiency?

In the pre-construction design phase we’ve seen tangible efficiency savings. When we run our interactive virtual design workshop sessions, these often highlight issues that may have been missed traditionally, or help to find better ways of executing the project design or installation.

These workshops often involve the whole delivery team, so decisions and resolutions can be driven through with greater speed and clarity of purpose when the bigger picture can be clearly seen.

We’ve also used scanning technology for both existing and new build projects. Understanding exactly what we are inheriting allows us to validate the proposed design and affect relevant changes before the trade packages are procured.

Tendering using the model also removes a major element of ambiguity that provides assurance that the scope is interpreted and priced correctly. 

Is BIM reducing the project cost or are these benefits still to come?

BIM does play a role generating time and cost efficiencies, which then create other opportunities to make savings within the project. It’s certainly true that more informed decisions can be made earlier and at all stages of the project.

An area of marked benefit is client or design change. With BIM, we can be more responsive and more accurate thanks to the range of digital tools available. On a recent, confidential, project we were able to save 20% on material costs as well as a significant reduction in associated waste.

Is BIM changing your relationship with architects?

The implementation of BIM is helping to bring architects closer to the design manager, contractor, specialist subcontractors and other members of the design team as well.

As the development of the construction stage models and drawings often involve the interaction of the specialist’s subcontractor models and proposals with the architect’s live model, we are seeing more engagement, discussion and collaboration between the parties.

This is highly beneficial and promotes better integration of specialist sub-contractor design into the scheme.

A knowledgeable and experienced BIM coordinator or manager at the heart of the process is absolutely essential to forge strong relationships with the project stakeholders.

Which firms are the weak links to deliver BIM on projects at the moment?

Some supply chain partners are fully conversant and advanced in their BIM knowledge and capabilities, while others are not quite at this level yet.

It’s fair to say that many underestimated the amount of detailed data required for our BIM projects. The industry has evolved quickly from 3D models to a requirement for rich data, its collection and collation. This is why ISG is focusing so hard on upskilling its supply chain, assisting them forward on the BIM journey.

How is ISG encouraging others in the supply chain to implement BIM?

The first stage of the process is establishing the BIM competency of each and every supply chain partner. We have found that face-to-face sessions have yielded the best results at charting relevant levels of understanding, discussing areas of improvement and how we can assist in eliminating any skills gaps.

In terms of training, we regularly host in-house BIM courses for our supply chain, staff and customers, and have also developed a supply chain-specific awareness day course.

Here we underline many of the benefits the use of BIM technology can bring to their own workflows, what the expected deliverables of each trade can be and how to respond to a tender bid for a project where BIM is a deliverable. 

This course has received great feedback and is always oversubscribed, so we are now developing a second more in-depth session to provide more advanced training on skills and tools for organisations.

At project commencement we also run a number of in-house workshops with both the site team and the supply chain to ensure that they are fully engaged with the BIM process, understand and manage their deliverables correctly and we provide assistance and support where needed.

Supply chain feedback sessions are an essential tool that provides us with invaluable feedback throughout the duration of a project, enabling us to refine our support and approach so that we can maximise engagement.

What is your experience of client requirements? When clients do request BIM do they follow it through?

Client expectation has changed over the past year as it’s apparent that there is a significant increase in knowledge of what BIM is, and what it brings to a project and beyond into the operation of the building.

Where our customers embrace a BIM approach, there is already significant buy-in across their business, so we almost always see this followed through to the end of the project.

Many schemes we’ve worked on are certainly viewed by our customers as a trial or test bed to explore the capabilities and wider potential for BIM and to help develop and refine their own requirements.

We certainly have a role to play in helping our customers to maximise the value of BIM. The delivery of a large dataset at the end of a project is now becoming more commonplace and exploiting this rich data should enable our customers to see a significant return on investment.

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

Latest articles in Analysis