28 September 2012


There are many participants in BIM processes. Indeed the theory is that the more participants the greater the advantage. But what are their roles? Are we expecting too much from some (clients), and too little from others (cost planners)?

This is the third post of my comments on the Australian Institute of Architects and Consult Australia group of documents under the title "BIM in Practice". My first post was A REVIEW: BIM IN PRACTICE - Legal & Procurement, the second A REVIEW: BIM IN PRACTICE - BIM Management Plans

All documents are available from  BIM/IPD[AUS] (http://www.bim.architecture.com.au/).

The documents are really discussion papers, and pretty much represent current thinking about BIM by BIM experts in Australia.  These posts are not so much about what is in these documents, as what is wrong (in my opinion) and what is missing. But please keep in mind that I agree with the vast majority of what they contain, and that my aim is not to denigrate this outstanding effort.


This set of documents consists of sections on the participants in BIM.  It includes documents on:

  • Clients
  • Architects and Building Designers
  • Engineers
  • Contractors / Builders
  • Quantity Surveyors and Cost Planners
  • Facility Managers
  • Manufacturers and Suppliers

  • Its stated aim is to "not to sell BIM . . but to provide practical advice".  A worthy aim and mostly achieved.

    O1 - EDUCATING CLIENTS - What to ask for when requesting BIM

    The title of this section says it all.  There is a tacit assumption, without explanation, that clients will request BIM, and that they need educating about what that is.

    But clients are paying for a built facility, not a process. Remember, they have their own jobs to do, why would they waste their time getting involved in the internal processes of someone they are paying to do the job? Does your accountant insist you understand how the tax office on-line submission system works? Does a doctor ask you to not only arrange your own blood tests, but expect you to tell him which ones should be done?
    To tell clients they will get a better service with BIM is a moot point - they already expect a competent service. For example, why would they pay extra, or put their effort to, having less clashes on site? Their view is those they are employing are already responsible for avoiding clashes. Why would they care what method is used?

    The assumption you can make the client responsible for instituting BIM on a project is unrealistic. They are not interested, nor have the experience or competency to do it.
    The exception may be large organisations like government departments (e.g. US Veteran Affairs, GSA, Defence), sophisticated developers, Private Public Partnerships (PPP) and clients who are also contractors.
    But these organisations are large, projects have big budgets, and are (usually) done by large AEC firms. They will look after themselves. They have their own legal agreements, deliverables and processes. They don't need the help of professional organisations like the RAIA and CA.

    The list of considerations in this document (basically the heading list of the BMP, refer to my previous post A REVIEW: BIM IN PRACTICE - BIM Management Plans) includes issues that the client should never get involved with:
    - software selection
    - hardware and network resources
    - training and support
    - data exchange methods

    This document is misguided. If the point is to advise clients how to ensure BIM is used on their project, the strategy should be to ask for deliverables only possible through using BIM. Like 3D views of main rooms, walk-throughs, equipment schedules as databases, etc. And deliverables that provide evidence BIM processes are being utilised. Like submission of the BMP at milestones, submission from each firm on how they will resource the project, results of clash detection reports, etc.
    Clients should NOT be expected, let alone encouraged, to get involved in the internal processes of AEC teams.

    That said, I agree with the statement "Perhaps the most important decision the client can make will be the appointment of the most appropriate design and construction team."  But I would leave out "Perhaps".


    I liked this document. As an architect I thought it gave a good overall description of current BIM practice. If you are in an architectural firm give this document to your boss.

    Technology, Process & Workflow,  Deliverables & Data Quality descriptions are very good.

    Model Manager is a new role not appreciated in most AEC offices.  They are absolutely critical to not only achieving BIM benefits, but also ensuring the BIM file doesn't become an unwieldy mess. There needs to be more discussion and dissemination of the role, responsibilities and required skills of Model Managers.

    The other new role is the project BIM Manager. But assuming the project BIM Manager will work for the client is not necessarily true nor desirable.
    Clients should NOT be encouraged to get involved in internal work flows. The exception might be in novation where the contractor (who becomes the client) takes on the role. Otherwise it MUST be some-one within the AEC team, who is familiar with the actual project and not just the BIM processes of the project.
    An alternative model not discussed is the "BIM committee". Made up of Model Managers from each of the project team, with a chairperson. This has the potential to enhance collaboration and best of breed practice. If there are concerns about lack of decisiveness (a common complaint of committees), power and responsibility of the chair can be increased.

    Disappointingly this section didn't talk about establishing office BIM protocols. Something that was broached in the Legal & Procurement documents (see my first post: A REVIEW: BIM IN PRACTICE - Legal & Procurement). Unless you want every BIM project to be done to different protocols (for free) you need your own robust protocols that you can use as a basis for establishing services beyond your normal fee.


    This section was a little disheartening. Its emphasis seems to be on how to avoid BIM.

    It makes points like: "is anyone likely to gain value",  "will the information or data you author ever be maintained?", and "The use of BIM does not automatically result in the production of better drawings in less time, but rather contributes to . . . a higher quality, coordinated design and deliverables".

    These are actually good points that should be considered. But the prominence of these points in the document is telling. I have witnessed many complaints from engineers about using BIM, as they say it increases the effort required to create drawings, their traditional delivery. They don't seem interested in the opportunity to improve the quality of their service. Their usual reason is their "fees don't cover it."

    For architects BIM does improve drawing production, probably because they have to produce so many drawings. But architects look for more than just efficient drawing, they want better accuracy leading to better decision making and coordination. Even if they don't get more fees.

    When I first started getting excited about BIM, one of the potential advantages was speeding up feedback from engineers. Architects always seem to have to wait until the design is complete - and completely drawn -  then wait another 2 weeks while the engineers extract the data they need and do the analysis. By then it is too late to make any significant changes to the design. The idea of being able to bounce alternative ideas back and forth had immense appeal. Twelve years on and not much has changed. Few engineers use their BIM model to do analysis, so there is still a delay while they transfer information from the BIM model into their analysis software.  The original authors of Revit MEP and Structure always conceived them as primarily a platform for analysis rather than just drawing production.  But perhaps AutoDesk has also given up. They are now marketing their cloud analysis services to architects, even though architects have no expertise in the engineering involved.


    I found this section a bit light on. There are enormous potential gains to contractors from utilizing BIM, so I expect uptake will be very quick once the business case is shown to work.

    It makes the point that "design intent models and trade models will continue to co-exist whilst contractual boundaries remain in place".  I believe this is a little misguided, and falls under the single unified BIM database fallacy and the IPD will solve everything fallacy (see my first post: A REVIEW: BIM IN PRACTICE - Legal & Procurement).  There will always be projects where this will happen. I think a more useful discussion would have been of what a trade model (called by some a "Contructable model") actually is and why it is useful.  And that a trade model can be done without design intent models and still bring benefits to the contractor.

    The role of BIM shop drawings could have been fleshed out more. If shop drawings aren't all BIM the advantages of BIM won't be possible. Both structure and duct work has to be BIM to clash detect between them. If one isn't, it's not going to happen.

    Unfortunately I found a little BIMwash - "Accurate As-built drawings can be made available at handover with the use of BIM and a 3D model". BIM doesn't by definition mean accurate! The same issues with turning 2D design intent drawings into accurate as-builts apply to turning design intent BIM into accurate BIM as-built.

    Viewing in 3D so trades get an idea of what they are building is incredibly useful, but not mentioned. Trades work in 3D, but traditional documentation is 2D (even out of BIM software). Architects and Engineers often don't appreciate this and consider 2D drawings the only "real" information required.

    It should have been pointed out that 4D BIM (time sequencing) is ONLY a visualisation tool. Seeing construction sequencing visually may help comprehension, but won't reduce the effort required to plan the sequencing. (unlike 5D - costing - where automatic measuring does actually reduce effort).


    A bit disappointing, like the Engineers document, but perhaps not as surprising. Few of these professionals use BIM yet.  This document suggests BIM requirements for costing not be done by the expert - the cost consultant - but by others. Who have no expertise, professional responsibility, and more than likely no PI cover for this work.

    There is a mistake in table of stages; a misunderstanding of LOD definitions. LOD 300 is for construction, LOD 200 is closer to tender. As there is no real discussion or explanation of LOD elsewhere this mistake is not obvious.

    There is acknowledgement that BIM only helps measure quantities of the final product - not necessarily everything that may be required, an important point.

    But it also says "it is imperative that the BIM is configured to construction methodology". And "preparation of the ACCM elemental breakdown requirements is added to the BIM".  By who? The assumption seems to be by others, not the cost consultant.
    Further, the summary suggests the "design teams" assign cost parameters, and that cost consultants provide advice on how to model correctly. Good luck with that!
    Assuming your work has to be done by others for BIM to work is just setting BIM up for failure.

    I believe the underlying problem is that the discussion is around current views of 5D BIM, which is essentially adding cost data to a BIM model, either to the mythical "single unified database", or to some-one else's BIM.
    So the issues around this are construed as to how to get others to make this BIM suitable for costing.  A more viable alternative is linking or synchronising cost data with a BIM by the cost consultant. Which brings its own issues and challenges, but a path I would suggest is more viable and realistically achievable.


    This section should have started with a discussion about the necessity for a clear commitment and capacity to use BIM for FM.
    Although BIM provides a "great opportunity for facility management", it is only true if facility management have the capacity to make use of it. If facility management don't have processes and technology in place, or funds to introduce them, involving them in BIM processes is a waste of everyone's time.

    Again the discussion is centred around the single unified BIM database fallacy and the IPD will solve everything fallacy. The assumption is "the BIM model" will have FM data placed in it by the project team.
    This may be possible if FM have specific, known requirements, if the client is willing to move money from the FM budget to the construction budget, if the project team has FM expertise.
    This may happen on some projects, but mostly it won't. The reality is many facilities will never have the budget required to implement full FM BIM, and most projects won't have the budget to include FM functionality.

    But that doesn't mean they can't be helped. There are other possible work methods and deliverables more suited to the lesser capabilities of typical Facilities Management processes. It is a pity they weren't explored.

    It is more likely any FM BIM will be based on the contractor's model, or as-built model, than the design intent model. So I don't see why it is necessary "to ensure the BIM is utilised effectively, facility managers must be involved in the beginning of the project". There may be other reasons why this is good practice, but BIM is not one of them.

    I would go as far to say that, unless those responsible for FM have clear BIM requirements, FM not be considered by a project team.   There is no point providing for COBIE or other standardised outputs "just in case they might use it".  The only offer that should be made it to make the BIM(s) available "as is" for them to use in creating their own FM solution.

    A small mistake, these seems to be an image missing that is referred to in the text.


    Good to see this document has been included.
    It makes some obvious, but often forgotten points:
    - different users have different BIM requirements.
    - Graphical or data quality is not as important as relevance.

    Saying parameters need to be the same and interoperable between software packages is not helpful. Clearly this will never happen. But adhering to some standard, any standard, makes data more useful as its structure and purpose is discoverable. (e.g. in Revit the value in a suppliers parameter can placed in a user's parameter using a simple formula.)

    Section on file size and graphic complexity is spot on. We only ever use manufacturer's components as a temporary measure until we create a proper, usable component. They never end up in completed documents.

    As a side point quite a number of the images of Revit families provided as examples I would consider over modelled. Look at the HSL-Holder-patient Chart-3D.rfa. Might be OK for a doctors surgery with a few beds, but in a 1000 bed hospital?

    It might have been worth mentioning that if manufacturers really want their products used in a project the data in parameters is more important than the 3D graphic representation. It is the data that ends up in schedules, which is where purchasing lists come from.


    Clearly some players in the BIM world have a way to go yet.  They need to start thinking about the benefits of BIM to their own processes. BIM is a two way street. Some things require more effort, other things are done for you. It is about picking a path that has overall benefits, not just treating it as way to get others to do your work for you.  From expecting clients to lead the BIM process to cost consultants expecting their data to be put in by others.

    If you have a view please add your comments to my blog, or go to BIM/IPD[AEC] (http://www.bim.architecture.com.au/) and put your comments there.

    My next post will be on BIM IN PRACTICE -EDUCATION


    1. Antony, is it possible to add RSS feed to your blog?

      1. Marek, RSS feed now added. Let me know if it doesn't work.

    2. On the trades side while the 3d viewing of the model is useful there is more trades can use the model for and a lot of software providers and almost the entire AEC industry are failing the tradesmen in that regaurd

      1. John, The BIM in Practice documents don't go into much about building trades beyond shop drawings. But they have said they recognise there are other Stakeholders they missed and intend to include in future updates. It is certainly an area with growing interest. For example Revit has an add-in that measures wall, floor, ceiling areas for quantity take-off. Perhaps we'll see pressure to use BIM through cheaper trade prices when a BIM model is available .