26 April 2013

BIM for free

l thought BIM meant others could make use of the BIM data each of us created for our own purposes. Now it seems to mean others telling us what BIM we have to do to suit their purposes. When did this happen?
When I first starting pushing BIM one of the arguments was that besides the productivity and QA benefits others could make use of the data we put in as part of our normal processes. A benefit at no cost I argued.
But now I have trouble convincing people to take up BIM because they fear clients will start asking for extra services, expecting it for free. 
This attitude is not surprising when looking through current BIM guides and example contracts. The owner is expected to make BIM demands & deliverables.

Why not have a system where BIM data that will be produced is made explicit by each participant and everyone, not just the owner, offered it 'as is' for their own purposes?
If this is done as part of the selection process those with the best BIM capabilities will float to the top. They may even get better fees.

A by-product of this approach would reduce the importance of single Project BIM Execution Plans and "BIM Managers". Each participant does their own BIM plan setting out what they do and don't do. They refer to each other's BIM plan to see what they will get and therefore what they have available to work with. Then each can negotiate with others to change what is being provided to come to mutually beneficial arrangements. 

Surely this is a better approach to encouraging BIM take up than dictatorial demands that creates resentment rather than enthusiasm. 


But for this to happen authors (typically Architects and engineers) need to be clear about what BIM they will produce, and just as importantly what BIM they will not be producing.
And consumers of BIM (typically contractors and facility managers) need to be clear what they require to use BIM in their processes. They need an idea of the minimum they require, and the cost/benefits of "nice to have" extras.

I am constantly surprised at how rarely this happens. Design consultants marketing the benefits of BIM without specifying what they will actually provide, owners asking for BIM without even knowing what FM system the BIM data will be used for. And then there are the contractors who say we're not using BIM at all if it costs any extra, no matter what the overall project cost saving might be.

On the face of it the contractors appear to be the only honest ones. But they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You can get BIM for no cost.
If the design team use proper BIM software, the way it was designed to be used, useful BIM deliverables can be extracted.

There are some limitations. Information is limited to that required by the author to inform how their part of the building is to be built; design intent by the consultant team, fabrication by sub-contractors.
The other limitation is it may not be delivered in the BIM format required for down stream use.

Even with these limitation there are quantifiable benefits in using this BIM data. There may be extra costs collating this data into a usable form, and converting it into the required format. But like every other part of the construction process I would expect a cost / benefit analysis to inform what is worth doing and what is not worth doing. 

So why aren't we concentrating on how available BIM data can be used, rather than fantasizing about the missing BIM data and how it could be used?


  1. Hi Antony -

    Great idea - If the design team use proper BIM software, the way it was designed to be used, useful BIM deliverables can be extracted. -
    DO you have an example or two from your experiences in IT and BIM?

    Also John Grady's COBie database and information exchange Blog might be explored in a white paper for the bSa PC next week. Do you have time for a conference call next Tuesday the 14th?



    Bob Smith
    Vice Chair - NBIMS 3.0 Terminology Subcommittee
    Tall Tree Labs, Huntington Beach, CA

  2. For those who can read French, here is a nice article which complements the aforementioned purpose : http://rhino4you.com/1/bim_ifc_maquette_3d_383350.html
    Hope this can help. Anyway BIM is under the spotlight in France as everywhere else in the world.

  3. We are in same situation in Finland, client is not telling to designers what they want... they expect to have "all".

    Fortunately, Finnish Common BIM Requirements (CoBIM), http://www.en.buildingsmart.kotisivukone.com/3
    help a little bit of that problem.