Focus on BIM

Editorial Type: Interview Date: 2019-09-01 Views: 1,396 Tags: Q and A, CAD, BIM, Collaboration, Building Design, Excitech, BIM
David Chadwick speaks to Daryn Fitz at Excitech about the real issues that emerge when a company decides to invest in building information modeling

David Chadwick: What benefits should a company expect to see from the introduction of BIM?
Daryn Fitz: It would be very easy to simply reply with the standard responses such as: 'it helps to win more work, increases productivity, reduces costs, ensures compliance, makes a business more profitable' etc. However, there is a much more important and often ignored benefit of BIM; it is providing a foundation for today's challenging business environment and a future that will become increasingly more agile, faster paced, and digitally led. The importance of data and making informed business decisions cannot be underestimated and this applies for organisations of any size.

The construction sector transitioned from pens, ink and drawing boards to CAD in the 1980's, and BIM is the next evolution. This time however, it is not just having an impact on the drawing production process. BIM is providing data that can be used by the entire project team as well as challenging existing processes.

If you consider what has happened to the retail sector because of global consumerism, e.g. the rapid emergence of online retailers such as Amazon and online digital commerce, the impact can be readily seen on many of our local high streets. Similarly, construction is going through its own transformation, and BIM is a significant catalyst for disruptive change.

DC: So how does a business move to BIM in today's market?
DF: Having a strategy is key to success. However, many organisations invest in software and technologies as a part of their strategy without fully evaluating the main objectives, processes and procedures that need to be adopted, and the skills and competencies required of employees. All these areas are important and should be evaluated before any investment in technology solutions.

When supporting customers on their BIM journey, Excitech will work with the customer to ensure that a strategy is in place, that the implementation is well planned, and the expected outcomes and benefits are achievable. Without good planning, implementation can be ad-hoc, uncoordinated and the expected benefits may take longer to achieve. Change can be concerning for some employees and this also needs to be carefully managed. The move from CAD to BIM workflows is very different and developing confidence within individuals is also a key element for a successful transition to BIM working.

DC: What is the best way to run a training programme for staff for BIM?
DF: Involve your HR department or function from the start. They should have processes in place for interviewing and the selection of new employees, training plans, competency matrixes, and systems for performance and annual reviews. Very simply put, BIM should be integrated into existing business systems and should not be a standalone process.

Excitech's recommended approach is to first start with a company-wide education of the fundamentals. Our preferred method is a full day CPD Certified BIM Workshop with an objective to make sure everyone understands the reasons why BIM is being adopted, the new standards and workflows and also allow for healthy debate; we want and welcome sceptics in these sessions so everyone can voice concerns or ask questions. We find this a much more effective approach when compared to online video presentations followed by questions to check learning objectives have been met. These methods are great systems once the fundamentals have been understood and debated.

The next step is focused training aligned to job roles, which can be diverse in nature. We provide courses which focus on management principles, developing skills in software such as Revit, and industry leading BIM solutions. These training processes can be combined with configurable online training portals such as Eagle Point's e-learning system Pinnacle series, to provide a blended approach.

In addition, our Software Application Experts can visit customers' offices on a regular basis, to either floor walk, conduct desktop reviews, or provide drop-in surgery type sessions to help embed knowledge, and provide support in order to flatten the learning curve and rapidly increase productivity.

DC: How would you structure a management team?
DF: Typically a single point of contact is assigned within an organisation, with a job title of BIM Manager or similar. This remains common practice, but having a group of individuals as BIM Leads is recommended because it provides in-house peer support, distributes knowledge, and considers succession planning in the event of a BIM Manager leaving an organisation. Other roles can exist within an organisation such as BIM Coordinator or Information Manager, but these are often assigned on a project by project basis. DC: When should we expect to see the first returns from BIM?
DF: That is a very difficult question to answer and equally difficult to measure. BIM often results in faster and more informed decision making on projects through improved communications of design intent, There is research in this area mainly focused on 2D compared to 3D workflows, and I have personally observed project meetings being reduced by a third in time and more confident decisions being made because 3D Digital Models were used instead of CAD drawings.

Some people measure BIM effectiveness by applying cost models such as a predefined cost per clash identified in clash reports, to ensure coordination issues do not arise on-site and a right first time install is achieved. This approach often provides impressive financial numbers. Others measure BIM effectiveness on the number of reduced Requests for Information (RFI's).

Designers can now generate automated sections, elevations, fully coordinated drawing outputs, doors and windows, steelwork schedules and provide visualisations directly in authoring systems such as Revit or via plugins such as Enscape, and link this to Virtual Reality (VR) systems. My advice is: do not base your initial decision to invest in BIM only on financial predictions, for example the UK Government's target of BIM saving 20% on overall Capital Cost, because many of the benefits will be unqualified and difficult to measure.

There is one very important consideration though for those who will be transitioning from CAD to BIM authoring software, and that is it typically takes between three to six months for individuals to feel confident in the new systems, so flattening that learning curve is often a focus during initial adoption so early projects are delivered on time and to budget.

DC. Is it better to run a couple of trial projects before jumping into BIM wholesale?
DF: Yes, a stepped approach is recommended and selecting the right type of project is also very important. Working on a project where BIM is not a client requirement eliminates the expectation levels on the client side, which will allow the designers to initially focus on their own delivery rather than external pressures. For contractors the focus will be more aligned to the management of the BIM process.

Often though, BIM is being introduced because it is a client's project requirement and in these situations, ensuring training and support is in place is key to help with what is often a very steep learning curve, and helps derisk the project.

DC: Do we need to upgrade our systems or software before we embark on BIM?
DF: A review of existing hardware and IT infrastructure is highly recommended. The processing power required and actual file sizes will be much larger for a BIM system when compared to CAD. Excitech can provide an existing system review as well as minimum system specifications to ensure informed decisions are made, but investment in new hardware and software should be considered within budget planning.

Excitech will continue to explore the issues arising from the introduction of BIM within a company in future issues of the magazine.