January 5, 2012

Why BIM? . . . Again?

I was recently asked by one of my sales people to craft a quick overview of BIM trends that would make someone want to use it.  I had a couple of gut reactions and some realizations:

Gut Reaction 1:  I am over it.  Do we still have to have this discussion?  It's a five-year-old question.

Gut Reaction 2:  The industry is past it.  The talking heads are now arguing about what is after BIM and are coming up with ridiculous things like "BIM 2.0" and 7D, 8D, 9D and XD models.  (How many dimensions can there be?  This isn't quantum physics, people.  I'm going to create a String-BIM theory just for my own amusement.)

Realization 1:  The industry is NOT past it.  While we now have the talking heads dithering about "BIM 3.0" and 99D models, we still have parts of the country and world where BIM is VERY NEW.  We still have owners that have no idea why they should (or should not) be using it.  There is no NEXT BIM.  There is only refining it and building upon the idea to make it better.

Realization 2:  I am NOT over it.  I am over BIM, the singular, "solve anything" application.  But not over BIM as a team based, data rich set of processes that can help solve many relevant industry problems. While my frosted side wants to dance and splash in new discoveries and uses for BIM data, my crunchy, wheat-y side realizes that we still need to evangelize, but differently than we used to talk about it; with more understanding, foresight and relevance.

The following is my initial response to this request.  It needs some additional word-smithing, and doesn't go very deep at all, but I think this is the basis of what the next generation of BIM adopters needs to understand to get on board and quickly catch up or even innovate upon current understanding.  Based on what we have seen, each new wave of adoption is better than the last.  We shouldn't dismiss these later waves of BIM adopters, but realize that their new energy in learning applications that have had immense amounts of additional development could make them better than early adopters whose skills and BIM usage may have hit a plateau.  These later waves also have something that the early adopters didn't have - the backing and desire of a more educated client to do better:

"BIM isn't the trend anymore.  To be quite frank, we are past that.  The real drivers towards BIM adoption now are synergistic uses that go above and beyond simply having a 3D model of a building that we can collide.  The current BIM catchwords are really focused on modern operational and economic issues that are the true underlying issues that BIM can help to solve. 
  • Efficiency:  Let's be honest: The economy is still in the dumper.  There are some bright spots, but let's not get too excited because it will never be the same.  The construction industry loses a massive amount of money every year to wasted effort and time, not to mention materials.  Some estimates are as high as 40% of profits are lost to lack of efficiency.  This is unforgivable – even in the best of times.  BIM, due to the nature of being able to view, quantify, and share helps eliminate over-purchasing and rework in all phases of the building life cycle.  Additional ability to visualize construction sequencing helps ensure timely and safe construction of the building.
  • Sustainability / Energy Analysis:  Green design is about data – Calculations, weights, locations, volumes, etc.  BIM, with its ability to tie that information to 3D geometry (which is just now really being harnessed by design teams) can provide a powerful synergistic relationship for providing sustainable design and analysis.  This data can also be used further downstream by owners (See FM / O&M).
  • Partnering/Integrated Processes:  The ability to share project data and design concepts is not new to CAD software, but the ability to more clearly see design decisions, data and analyze their effects is compelling in many ways.  From the designers to fabricators to owners, the entire project team can be involved in ways that are heretofore unprecedented.
  • Facility Management / Operations & Maintenance:  If an owner has a clear understanding of Facility needs, the BIM can be the backbone of a strong FM / O&M initiative.  What better place to tie the data to than a virtual model of a building or campus?  Things such as manuals, maintenance schedules, real time energy monitoring, asset management, space allocation can all be tied to a BIM and vice versa.  The industry is just now beginning to really see the need for "portals" to tie all of this data together for greater operational efficiency and knowledge.  This is the stuff of science fiction that is happening now.  
  • Standardization:   BIM has the capability to standardize . . . . everything.  Several large companies from Starbucks to Target are standardizing on BIM.  Giving them an edge over competition with some of the FM uses above, but also the ability to visualize remodeling, signage, displays, etc.  The industry as a whole would benefit from manufacturers creating standardized BIM models of everything from tables to pumps to furniture that will contain all the data needed for purchasing, quantities, LEED and much more.
These things are synergistically tied to each other as well.  Solving one issue tends to solve the others. BIM is not THE THING, but a tool that helps foster greater understanding and solutions to the real problems listed above and more.  In our own experience we are training BIM tools at a 4:1 rate over traditional CAD applications.  The classes are getting more specific and targeted on a weekly basis.  Additionally, we are now working with owners in commercial, educational, and government spaces helping them craft their own BIM requirements and corporate BIM Execution Plans – which is possibly the real trend.  BIM isn't about marketing brochures or colliding 3D pieces anymore.  Owners are starting to understand how it can help them generate efficiency, design sustainably, foster partnering, standardize data, trim operational costs and reveal new understanding about how they use their spaces.  Now that I think about it, that's not a trend, that's finally getting it right." 

-Pete Zyskowski

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