BIM – Too Much Too Soon?

Building Information Modelling has been around in some form or another for over 20 years.  It’s only in the last 10 years that awareness of the technology and what it can do has started to catch on.  However, we are a long way from the “tipping point” when BIM appears to become adopted universally, almost overnight.

The Government’s Level 2 mandate has been with us for over 12 months but it hasn’t had the impact that was expected.  Despite the best efforts task force groups and other agencies, it seems that industry was just too far behind to catch up with the legislation.

So, has BIM been pushed too far too soon?  Are we trying to run before we’ve fully learned to walk?

There are many reasons why take up is still very low:

  • Lack of experienced staff
  • Lack of understanding of technology by clients/developers/contractors/etc
  • Lack of awareness and understanding of industry standards

The impact of a lack of experienced staff has already been seen, with companies reporting problems in recruiting skilled engineers and technicians.  The lack of understanding of the software and the lack of awareness of industry standards go hand-in-hand.  For BIM to become the norm, industry standards must be adhered to, and interpreted correctly.  Contractors, project teams, and especially clients must understand exactly what is needed, and what should be delivered.  Without this, BIM becomes a potential further cost – with no way to quantify the work carried out nor the return on investment.  Result: clients cease to specify BIM on new developments.

It was thought that Level 2 would lead to greater understanding and acceptance throughout the industry.   The results of two recent surveys show that Central Government is not fully on board with its own mandate.  Tier 1 contactors are reporting that some government departments are not making BIM a requirement for large scale projects.  If this does not happen, there will be no ‘trickle-down effect’, and BIM take up will become even slower.

Although the large contractors are gaining more experience with technology, smaller organisations are reluctant or unable to invest huge sums and periods of time in the software, staff and training, especially when many of their clients don’t specify it.  Some companies still think it’s more hype than anything else.

The answer to the problem seems obvious.  Just about every survey undertaken in the last year has indicated that client take up is key.  Currently, there is too little understanding, and too much variation in the interpretation of the data and delivery standards.   Level 2 focuses on collaboration between project teams, and aspects of the software such as clash detection, without specifying the amount of information required to produce the model.

3D laser scanning and point cloud modelling mean you can collect a vast amount of data very quickly.  But just because you can collect data on everything, doesn’t mean you have to do so.  At present, the amount of data collected is down to the individual BIM manager and their expertise, so clients can end up paying for an enormous amount of data, much of which may not be appropriate to their project.

Many groups and organisation are working hard to introduce guidelines and promote best working practices.  Unfortunately, we’re still a long way from achieving this level playing field.  Considering how long the industry has been reliant on traditional methods of design and construction, any change is going to be gradual.

Should we have waited before imposing Level 2, allowing BIM to continue to grow “organically”?

BIM may have been around for about 20 years but it still counts as new technology.  It’s a significant shift in thinking for everyone, and although the pace of change is increasing, there’s still a long road ahead.

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