We need to talk about BIM, or do we?

There is an article on Building magazine website by Tony Bingham, a leading construction industry barrister and arbitrator, giving a legal perspective on BIM, and you can see it here.

His contention that BIM is no more than a device for shifting risk on to subcontractors and will ultimately bomb leaves a lot to be desired in terms of real understanding of what BIM is and what it really means for our industry…

The problem with Mr Bingham’s article is that it is composed of fairly puerile statements and betrays his ignorance around what BIM really is and means for our industry.

I wonder whether he is being deliberately provocative or is this simply what he actually believes? Either way we should be told. Come clean Mr Bingham!

Ironically, I think lurking beneath his views is the old school tribalism which to be honest has had its day – wake up and smell the coffee! Dinosaurs like you aren’t going to survive! The legal profession has contributed to and reinforced over the years the tribalism, silos and adversarial conflict, which has eaten away at the industry culture like a cancer. It’s time for change, and BIM is just one of the catalysts.

I think Mr Bingham has poured out all the typical cliches that legal types use to say why something can’t work. I never hear these people putting forward positive solutions to make the industry work better other than adding a few clauses to the contract. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. And their self-interest has taken us down a road which we now recognise to be an evolutionary cul-de-sac. Our differing camps are now in effect a prison, from which we need to escape.

Mr Bingham and others use BIM as a technological smokescreen or scapegoat to hide the real issues as to why industry processes are broken. BIM just becomes another reason why things can’t change.

Dear people let’s understand, it’s just a tool.

BIM is driven by people and process, underpinned by collaboration. The basic problem is that we have been trained by the tribalists to fight our corners… the architect is the enemy… the QS is the enemy… the nasty contractor is the enemy. It’s been ingrained in our DNA and it’s time to change.
– John Eynon

BIM is driven by people and process, underpinned by collaboration. The basic problem is that we have been trained by the tribalists to fight our corners… the architect is the enemy… the QS is the enemy… the nasty contractor is the enemy and so on. It’s been ingrained in our DNA and again it’s time to change. The professions and disciplines are not trained to collaborate properly or play nicely in a team. It goes right back to education and training, how we create professionals.

Consequently the problem here isn’t really BIM, it is what’s going on in the industry and has been for decades. These are the real issues, the technology is just a distraction.

Under BIM, or more correctly a Common Data Environment (PAS 1192/2), the team and stakeholders can exchange information and data around the project lifecycle in a consistent structured way. This introduces efficiency into the project process, enabling the team to reduce process waste.

And so to risk. Here, the smoke screen is at its thickest. Risk transfer underpins most forms of procurement and again this is both endemic and historic. We all know “Design and Dump” and the real reasons why teams use it. It undermines the effective use of D&B procurement and gives no opportunity to the contractor and supply chain to add any value to the process. This has nothing to do with technology.

In the BIM digital environment we can do clever things with the data and geometry to run simulations, validation and compliance tests and so on.

This enables teams to actually quantify and reduce risk. This includes supply chain having more accurate information to work with so that their risk in involvement is reduced and quantified. Just imagine if the risk pots hiding in every tender submission were reduced…

As to fees my contention is that these should not increase but over time remain neutral or could even potentially decrease while enhancing profitability through more efficient working. (This is the “more with less” scenario.) The fee spend profile, however, does need to change as pre-construction teams will have to do more work up front. However, this should tail off dramatically once on site. This is one of the key shifts in our broken industry. Getting the design right before we start on site. We know it works, we know it’s the best way – so why don’t we do it? We blindly chase time and cost, but we still don’t understand value.

Returning to procurement, integrated delivery models will inevitably become the norm. Again we know early involvement works and adds value to the process and reduces waste. The challenge is to provide mechanisms that work for all parties in terms of formation of fair contracts, duties and remuneration. Perhaps Mr. Bingham would like to make a positive contribution on that one!

In conclusion, I restate my original comment. This has to be one of the most ignorant writings on BIM I think I’ve ever seen. By all means let’s have the debate. However, let’s have a more informed starting point. Or perhaps that was the intention just to stir up the mud.

Anyway. this is inevitable now. Within a few years BIM will be the way we work and we won’t talk about it anymore. The danger for Mr Bingham and his ilk is that teams might actually learn to collaborate and work together properly, delivering quality projects on time defect free and providing real value for customers over the lifecycle.

So sorry chaps, you’ll have to go find a different ambulance to chase.

John Eynon FCIOB is a design management consultant and a member of the CIOB BIM Group. He blogs at

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