Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is it me, or is this total nonsense: The trouble with the BIM ‘triangle’? (my reading of the Bew-Richards BIM graph)

Ever since the UK Government had announced its ambitious plan to become fully ‘Level 2 – BIM’ by 2016 I’ve been uneasy about the idea and voiced my opinion on it, here-and-there.
My main concern was not with the audacity of their proposal, nothing wrong with putting the bar high enough to induce a bit of an industry struggle, but could not easily stomach the way they had defined BIM Maturity levels and especially unhelpful I found the Bew-Richards BIM graph to be.

Before jumping into public criticism, I had made an attempt to understand their system of classification, frame of reference and organization into a graph that could be considered a standard Cartesian coordinate system.
The horizontal axis I read as the ‘tools’ the vertical measures BIM ‘maturity level’.
The resulting graph is a steadily rising line between, ‘below 0 maturity’ and ‘level 3’, also expanding beyond, related to the addition (and I guess replacing of) various tools of data-capture and management.
BIM maturity level starts at 1 and anything CAD is considered below…apart from when one CADs in 2D using some sort of a process, then one can be called 0.5 or thereabout.
It really bothers me, that there is variation to the line – i.e. it climbs before reaching 0 – can one be negatively mature in BIM, measurably a little or more, depending on how one CADs?

Come to think of it, there are many industry participants that I’d classify as ‘immaturely BIM’ but probably not in this context.

Maybe, the illustration is not meant to be a simple 2D graph but has 2 horizontal axes one on the top of one another.
Or it is not a graph at all; just a loose visual representation by someone trying to make sense of something terribly complex.
If the latter is the case, I genuinely empathise with the authors.
The complexity of the issue of BIM is huge and very hard to illustrate, being so multi-dimensional, and I’m not referring here to the standard 3+ D’s of BIM, but the historical, political, financial, economic, cultural, technical and other factors that play major roles in the shaping and potential improving of the field.

Still, in an industry overwhelmed by engineer-like-thinkers, should we not be a bit more careful on how we represent our ideas?
Making something look clearly measurable when in reality it is not?
Especially when the results can be such far reaching or damaging as forming the baseline for a government mandated process?

But others may still say…
‘it is YOU that the problem is with, the image makes total sense to everyone else. ’

I welcome further explanations on the topic.


  1. Some great thoughts on this page. An unbiased view of the real life BIM and its difficulties.
    A real refreshment compared to all the BIM eulogies out there. Please keep posting. I among many am aware that BIM is the future, but BIM being used today doesn't nearly reflect the BIM in theory. Most valuable are day to day experiences from people actually working with BIM, which are rare on the internet compared to all the academic papers and software developers' propaganda.

  2. Nothing wrong with the graphic, just the approach. The core to BIM is a combination collaborative business processes, integration of various knowledge domains, transparency (shared lexicon, glossary, ontology, cost data architecture...), and support technology.

    Further, there are already metrics/benchmarks for life-cycle management of the built environment...which is BIM.

  3. Thank you for your insightful views I suppose others could see it the same way. I managed to get TWO different ideas from it when I 1st saw it.

    The first assumption about this graphic is that it is for those who want to get more mature in BIM, & this is a picture that is intended to help. Any other approach is simply wrong!

    My take was that it described a progression, horizontally, from left to right, though similar to a timeline axis, it is not intended to be. Vertically, seems to be mostly about progressing amounts of data. While shown straight, there is no linear correlation between these progressions.

    It suggests that it is possible to produce Level 1 using 2D CAD, with BIM processes. It also introduces 3D CAD, & more importantly, removes paper & has file sharing collaboration. (Quite how folk install stuff without paper is not clear from this).

    It also suggests that if you upload your 2D PDF files to a project website, you are doing BIM to level 1 maturity, even if you didn't know it. Plotting & folding sets of drawings is unusual these days, meaning that most people looking at this chart will be starting their BIM journey at a level 1.

    The regions shown as Level 1, 2 & 3 shares a box headed "Processes" with common information - BS 1192 &c. The red line of level 3 doesn't break this into two boxes, but allows the positioning of text that pertains to Level 3 only. My 1st impression was that processes do not increase/ decrease, but DATA increases sharply - represented by the sloping line.

    So as you get more BIM mature, the amount of information / data grows into infinity.

    When you project back to zero, it seems that CAD data has been increasing, & there was very little collaborative or other processes, & I would take issue with that, but as it is only a picture, & because by looking at the chart it is implied that you want to progress BIM, & also because almost everyone is already past level 0, it's a moot point.

    I saw that 3D CAD is more BIM Mature than 2D CAD, which is not necessarily the case, but in general, hmmm okay.

    The principle distinction between Level 1 & 2, is described as File Based Collaboration & Library Management. This is the goal is for some, & a problem for others (e.g. USA terror perception), but it's what the UK Government demands. Their idea is that by eradicating duplicate tasks everything will be more efficient & saves money.

    But this is tricky because it is a commercially confusing new workflow, so this portion of the chart is subdivided - but lines don't reach the slope because they are not stages. The chart implies level 2 is small when it ought to be the biggest region.

    Level 3 is the most futuristic, sci-fi level. It is probably not very cost effective presently, a nice-to-have rather than essential.

    That was my initial interpretation, & - like you - I didn't necessarily agree with everything. I took it as a starting point for discussion & left it at that.

    Than I was told that each project may be described by this chart - the left side being design, architects sketching, consultants doing heat losses & structural analyses - standard old fashioned design development using not interactive software, cad, & so forth.

    The contractor comes on board for level 1, there is some interaction & file sharing with design team, approval getting, RFIs & TQs etc. Then the stuff is modelled in 3D for manufacture etc.

    The chart can be seen in terms of (a) business as usual for design team (b) FM getting an information rich model - & (c) the contractor being the one doing all the BIM work entirely!

  4. So what is the history of the Bew/Richards wedge?

    In the UK we have a poorly preforming construction industry costing some 20% more than our western European counterparts for like for like buildings. 7% or UK GDP is tied up in construction (£110 billion per year of which 40% government spending). Report after report (Latham, Egan, Wolstenholme) has recommended integrated design and delivery solutions and collaborative process but nothing had happened.

    In response to these failings a UK construction strategy was developed, led by Paul Morrell, to try to move things forward. BIM is one of nine key areas addressed but is actually integral to most other areas. To get the ideas adopted by government they needed to be conveyed not to engineers but to “simple” non-construction folk (the government and civil servants). The origin of the wedge is here. It’s not a graph but a diagram to convey some of these ideas in simple terms to that audience ie. not to construction professionals. The diagram is as much about conveying the need to take the whole industry to a very conservative “level 2” target as a necessary step towards the nirvana of structured standard interoperable data as anything else. It has been hugely successful and the construction strategy has been adopted with BIM at its core.

    So successful has the diagram been at representing that change that at UCL’s Pedagogy BIM and Big Data conference one speaker showed and Alberti Drawing on one side of a slide and the Bew / Richards wedge on the other, each representing the revolutionary change of its age.

    As someone who has evangelised BIM for decades I can finally see real movement here in the UK. I’m not inclined to knock those who have been more successful than I was in making a difference.

    DCD does a good job at interpreting the graphic so I’ll leave it at that.

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  6. It's funny how some feel the need to interpret the meaning of the diagram. Of course we all understand what it's all about, I'm pretty sure Zolna does as well; it's just that it's far from reality starting with what BIM really is and how far it is from what is being described in books and theory. The fact is BIM as it is today is nothing but mere 3D CAD with bunch of libraries far from fully integrated software platform providing all the information about each component part of the design. The truth is it has been around for 20 and more years (ArchiCAD) and it hasn't developed since. BIM in its current form is still heavily reliant on the existent CAD reprographic platform, albeit fully 3D, it continually mimics the time-honoured drafting principle now invigorated by additional specification information and more libraries. BIM as is known, falling short of declared intentions, indeed grows from the outdated CAD, thereby inheriting all its deficiencies and bringing no real improvement to increasingly debased architectural practice. What we need is a paradigm change and change in comprehension of architecture otherwise we will soon be redundant and architecture will fall into domain of engineering driving the supply side of construction towards composition from off-the-shelf type products. Read chapter one of "BIM handbook" 1.0 Executive summary... None of that is happening yet.

  7. dear (some) commentator, if your approach to collaboration is to tell everyone that they've got it wrong and then re-explain the same topics in jargon. You're not welcome here.