We’ve got BIM – now what?

It’s surprising but many people would date the appearance of Building Information Modelling (BIM) as a technical direction and an organising industry force from the 1995 A/E/C Systems Conference.


At that event ARCHIBUS, AT&T,  Autodesk, Honeywell, and other firms demonstrated a technical prototype of information flowing through the building life cycle — from design through construction to ongoing maintenance and management. 


The idea was that if the information had a rich and shared format then each participant in the chain — from designer to engineer to procurement agent to contractor to real estate and facility manager — could add to the information pool rather than throw hard-won information away at each step. 


All practitioners could get more accurate data for less effort.  The benefits would include less friction in the design-build-manage cycle, better analyses, more predictable schedules, lower total cost of ownership, and more accurate space, maintenance, asset and capital planning. 


The main beneficiary was to be the building or portfolio owner, who would be willing to fund the fairly expensive technical transition due to the expected pay back in direct cost savings, business process improvement, and decision-support.





Now, over twenty years on, this prototype was the launching event of the International Alliance for Interoperability, a standards body which intended to classify building models so that they can be interchanged between different vendor's CAD systems, between different disciplines such as design analysis and estimating, and between different phases of the building life cycle. 


This set of standards is currently embodied in the Industry Foundation Class (IFC) model which seeks to normalise design information in a rich, common, centralised format that can nevertheless be used by multiple vendors and disciplines.


BIM as a natural extension of object-oriented techniques has seen its best benefits in purpose built design automation tools like Revit, which have added efficiencies to detailed design and construction documentation. 


If you want to draw walls and doors you can draw them much faster.  If you want to change the concrete line and have the change appear in plan and section simultaneously, the effect is instant.  For construction documentation, the ROI is compelling and rivals off-shoring in terms of competitive efficiency.  Firms that combine off-shoring and BIM techniques are firmly in the driver’s seat of their industry.


For enterprises, service levels are readily defined, measured, altered, outsourced, or changed and improved.  And more importantly, service-level agreements (SLAs) define responsibility not just for data but for actions that move projects and enterprises forward.  And SLAs also define the monetary value of data and actions, ensuring that the necessary services are adequately funded (if you are the customer) or paid for (if you are the contractor).


Till recently it was considered that BIM software is extremely capital intensive to develop and, consequently, enshrines the current divisions of labour.  Revit, for instance, is sold to architects, design-builders, and contractors.  Convincing these professionals to spend money to make the downstream estimator or facility manager’s job easier is a very difficult sale (but this is changing).  Convincing them to spend money to make their own construction documents is an easy sale.


There is indeed value in such BIM deployments, but from an enterprise perspective, BIM ends up being no more valuable than off-shoring to get the construction documents more quickly; and, at the end of the day, BIM does not produce anything more by way of competitive advantage.


When you pull back to look at the enterprise as a whole, or the portfolio as a whole, the dependencies and workflows get even more complex.  How does the BIM data connect to HR, IT, and ERP resources?  How do tasks, purchase orders, and cost information interact with the general ledger and cost accounting?  


And, this is where ARCHIBUS takes over and delivers the EIM (Enterprise Information Management) solution to exploit real value out of BIM and improve facilities and estate management.


Please call us at Mass on 0118 977 8560 or email us at: news@mass-plc.com to discuss the latest state of play in BIM and EIM and some new ways to save money, time and improve productivity.


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