Continuing the BIM and Specification discussion

The debate regarding the use and potential of BIM rages on. The article written in November’s Building Magazine by Tony Bingham attracted a very diverse and vocal response, but Tony was quite right to raise questions about BIM’s use from a legal and risk shift perspective. It demonstrates that BIM remains misunderstood by many and that those advocating its use need to address wider issues.

I am a great fan of BIM but we need to demystify it and focus on the practical benefits in a way that everyone understands. All the talk of revolutionising the way we work need to be demonstrated by clear business benefits, such that BIM is not seen as a threat, but is embraced enthusiastically and willingly.

Government and institutions need to make it absolutely clear how the revolution will help businesses improve service delivery, assist with growth, improve profit margins and reduce risk. If BIM really is about improving our industry then to be successful it has to improve all the businesses working within it.

The approach from government to date feels more threatening than encouraging, all at a time when many businesses have been battling for survival, so investment in BIM and as yet the undefined significant change to working practices, was simply not possible. This resulted in fear and resistance. Businesses have to implement BIM because they want to not because they are told they have to. Confidence is now returning and there is a great opportunity to focus on benefits to encourage investment.

From a specification perspective, specifying and BIM go together very well and very easily, but the way software is being provided does not always reflect that fact. The key is to retain flexibility and not be sucked into believing that there is only one solution which some are currently advocating. If you are not careful your office specification models could become redundant very quickly. Don’t let BIM lead you, but use it to lead.

The BIM revolution is being led by those whose business driver is not to improve the construction industry, but to sell as many licenses as possible and maximise market share. Nothing wrong with that, it is sound business practice and very profitable. These firms have invested heavily and quite rightly expect a return on that investment. Their business drivers are however different, so it is important that architects do not allow the tools they use, or the new ways of working to diminish their role in the project team. There is a possibility that technology will erode design quality and the role of designers in the rush to build faster and cheaper, so it is critical that architects understand, adopt and lead the brave new BIM world.

BIM (and sons of BIM) should be a consequence of our desire to do better for our clients, such that there is less risk for all, more certainty at key gateways and the delivery of better, more sustainable buildings. In a BIM world we will still need good clients, designers, consultants, manufacturers, contractors and facilities management professionals, who meet, discuss and make decisions. They will need to operate in a properly controlled business and legal environment that will have to be changed if BIM is to deliver what some people advocate. Is that possible and what is being done to make this a reality?

How will we know if BIM has achieved its goals? Perhaps when it becomes a single project model containing absolutely everything needed to plan, design, contract, instruct, build, record and maintain a complete project. To achieve that the model will need to become the contract and therein lies a real minefield. If it does, then truly it will have revolutionised our industry.

Nick Schumann

Nick Schumann

Founder and Director at Schumann Consult Ltd
Having built the world’s largest specification consultancy and developed innovative methods for the implementation of new design management techniques Nick is considered to be one of the world’s leading authorities in his field writing, lecturing and providing advice to many industry leaders.
Nick Schumann

Posted on February 6, 2014 in BIM, Specifications

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