Q&A: Portview’s Scott McCandless on BIM and fit-out

Fit-out specialist Portview’s digital design manager Scott McCandless talks to BIMplus about the challenges of using BIM for interiors work – and the benefits

You’ve been in BIM for a while now, as a main contractor and at the architectural end: is there a difference between your experiences there and now at Portview doing fit-out?

Our experience from both a main contractor and architectural perspective, has given us a deep and more holistic understanding of the development of the model information throughout the entire lifecycle. Ultimately, the main difference when applying BIM to fit-out is the proximity to fabrication and suppliers. This allows the detail and data to be driven into the model, which provides much more confidence and site predictability to the process.

How important is it for Portview that you have experience of BIM in other parts of the supply chain? What learnings did you bring to Portview?

BIM has brought a lot of new design language and acronyms to the construction process, as well as a large amount of model information. At times this can be overly complicated and overwhelming to the majority project team, when it really doesn’t need to be. At Portview we have simplified the process to create clear pathways for the wider project team and supply chain – they can all feed, understand and view the model information remotely and in real time. Alongside the pandemic and the movement to digital meetings, this approach has enabled wide use of the model in most meetings, improving understanding and range of benefits for clients and projects.

The key to positive engagement is ensuring the information is relative, up-to-date and accessible to all parties.– Scott McCandless, Portview

As a fit-out contractor, how often do you get to drive the BIM process? 

Generally when we arrive there is a well-defined Employers Requirements established for all works packages. However, like other parts of our business, we aim to thoroughly assess the project to ascertain and address elements that may have been overlooked or understated.

What’s the difference between driving the process and being part of a BIM process driven by another party?

Ultimately BIM is mostly driven by the project employers requirements with all teams attempting to meet those stated deliverables. However, with BIM being a collaborative process, all members have a certain responsibility for leadership and direction.

As a fit-out specialist the importance of being part of collaborative effort is crucial to the overall success of our package. We feel the onus is for us to drive as much coordination regardless of our position within the contract.

What are the challenges you need to overcome to use and deliver BIM in fit-out?

The pace of the fit-out industry in project delivery is the biggest challenge to the successful implementation of BIM. 
BIM is well known for front loading design decisions to achieve a coordinated approach. This is ultimately the desire for all elements, however this is impractical at times. At Portview, we have developed a strategy focused on analysing and identifying key element areas that will provide significant project value. This may at times challenge the employer to revaluate how certain elements should be delivered to ensure project success.

To work at pace in BIM we have also focused heavily on the training of our in-house design department in our core software packages. This skill progress ensures a methodical approach to our model development. We feel this model first approach has had a positive impact in the development of our team.

Where Portview is leading the BIM process, how do you ensure engagement from the client and the rest of your project team?

The key to positive engagement is ensuring the information is relative, up-to-date and accessible to all parties contributing to our supply chain. Portview has invested heavily in the latest cloud technology to connect its supply chain, allowing both technical and non-technical team members access to the latest model information. Accessibility is driving other opportunities: commercial, planning and site teams are now using the data to bring efficiencies to other project workflows not directly related to design.

What’s Portview’s exemplar project that you use to explain the benefits of BIM to clients and briefly what were the benefits?

Portview has used modelling for many years, giving clients an understanding of buildability and finished appearance in mostly small or specific project areas. Currently we’re working on the fit-out of University of the Arts London’s new London College of Fashion campus in Stratford. Here, we’re actively moving that experience and attention to detail to the BIM process on a much larger scale (watch this space).

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