As more companies consider BIM certification, we asked John Eynon FCIOB, director of Open Water Consulting; Andrew Carpenter, the chairman of BIM4Housing; and Rob Garvey, senior lecturer at the University of Westminster, why so few companies are gaining BIM accreditation.
What’s your general view on BIM certification – how meaningful and desirable is it?
John Eynon For the moment it is essential as we are living in a period of very mixed messages, abilities, understandings and competencies regarding BIM implementation on the ground. Independent benchmarking is necessary to objectify standards and compliance so that clients and teams can know a certain level of performance and service is being offered and achieved. In time as practice and process becomes standardised it will perhaps be less relevant.
Andrew Carpenter In my opinion it is both meaningful and desirable as it sets a standard and gives an indication to onlookers of one’s credentials.
Rob Garvey The purpose of certification is to validate an organisation’s (or an individual) capability to undertake, in this instance, BIM at a certain point in time. It should provide the buyer of the organisation’s services with confidence that the organisation has achieved a particular standard of competence and this should be desirable.
It is meaningful if it is clear what capabilities the certification covers; however, the challenge with BIM certification is that BIM continues to mean different things to different people and potentially encompasses a wide range of possible capabilities. Do we actually need certification, or is it a case that a company needs to demonstrate they have updated their QA procedures to incorporate reference to appropriate standards and can demonstrate compliance in effective information management?
So far, we’ve seen relatively few companies gain certification. Why do you think that is?
JE The market doesn’t lie – clearly they don’t see the need. To achieve certification, it takes time and investment, including the necessary organisational changes. Companies won’t do this unless they can see the value return on the commitment. Perhaps they don’t at the moment. That part of the equation clearly isn’t there for them… yet! But as adoption and demand increase that will change.
AC I think that this is due to the fact that relatively few companies are actually fully immersed in BIM. This is particularly the case with the housing sector.
RG The answer is dependent on whether companies have applied to be certified and failed, in which case it says these companies have not achieved the desired competence. Or whether there are few companies applying for certification, in which case it would suggest a lack of interest in certification. It may be due to a lack of client demand or the fact that many organisations are probably still grappling with the basics of BIM. The subject of BIM is moving so fast that companies are developing their capabilities all the time, so maybe it’s really too early for a certification scheme to be effective.
Client demand so far seems to be low. Do you think clients will start to demand BIM certification after April 2016?
JE The 2016 target will help in the long term as a requirement, but as lifecycle benefits and value from BIM become clearer and industry peer pressure develops, then more clients will demand BIM certification.
AC The clients adopting BIM appear to be reaping the rewards and seeing the business benefits. It is only when these are communicated to the clients more widely that there will be more uptake. Many clients just see BIM as a “cost” at this stage because of the initial set up costs for them and their supply chain.
RG If clients demand certification, then it is likely that more organisations will be look to gain accreditation, but as with other accreditations the issue is to avoid just another tick-box assessment; this becomes more about marketing.
What does the low level of certified companies say about the uptake of BIM in the industry?
JE That perhaps it isn’t as rosy out there as we’re lead to believe. The change to digital isn’t as deeply embedded as we might want to think, and maybe we’re not at the critical mass for pivotal change yet. It is only a matter of time however, and we’re not far off. For some the point of no return has been passed some time ago on this, and for them there is no going back from the BIM way of working.
AC Like many improvement agenda items the UK construction industry is woefully slow in adopting anything “new”. The uptake is limited and the 2016 Level 2 government target will not be met in my opinion.
RG I don’t think a low level of certification necessarily indicates a low uptake in BIM. Interest and uptake in BIM is certainly growing, but most companies are focusing on what it means to them and developing their capability before worrying about certification. I sense that those companies that “get” BIM understand they are on a journey to undertake their work and complete projects right first time. Companies with this different mindset are able to demonstrate their capability to current and prospective clients via alternative approaches to certification.
If BIM certification is to take hold more widely in the future, what do you think needs to change?
JE Basically the mind set and culture of the industry, openness to change and the realisation of the need for change. There is not as yet the overwhelming collective will to change and improve. However again it is only time. It will come!
AC The main change required is one of culture. We need to move away from an adversarial and fragmented sector to one of being collaborative and integrated. Procurement methods need to change to adopt more collaborative contracts to enable early involvement of the supply chain. I’ve now chaired twelve BIM4Housing Conferences and without fail all the speakers talk about the collaborative culture requirement and that it is this and not the technological stuff that is holding us back.
RG For certification to be more meaningful and to take hold, we need to be able to trust that companies are truly competent and not dependent on a few individuals. As I’ve said above, maybe it’s too early for certification to be effective and what is needed more than anything is time, time for the industry to increase its BIM capabilities.