Tuesday, October 1, 2013

‘Is Hong Kong what the UK would have been like without the government BIM strategy?’


Interesting article, in many ways. Let me indulge in a bit of an analysis
(highly subjective of course…)

First a disclaimer – most of what I know about the UK BIM ‘thing’ is second hand – i.e. through highly processed publications originating from the team that drives the initiative and by having worked alongside many ‘UK BIM expert- exports’ as well as companies that have at least one foot in the UK AEC market.

In this article Mr Barker reports back from a trip to Hong Kong and describes his fascination by the noticeable difference in approach to BIM compared with the UK.
He claims that, ‘For the last two years in the UK, we have been part of a government-led initiative to promote BIM as one of the significant drivers to reduce cost and carbon at both CapEx and OpEx stage and this has led to a positive shift in the industry’s comprehension of the benefits at a strategic level.’
Personally, I’d love to know how this ‘positive shift…and especially at a strategic level’ is being measured in the UK.
My associates, working in the UK AEC, that are not themselves hands-on BIMmers  already,  look at this initiative as something that ‘we will do tomorrow, or the day after…definitely before the deadline, when was that… 2016?’ and even then’ isn’t this just the same thing as when we moved from the drawing board to CAD?, it happened, what’s the fuss about, roll in the CAD guys’
And the higher they are of the AEC food-chain, the less interested they are in the BIM-thing.
Unless they are of course the Evangelists of it, in what case they make a nice little career of pushing BIM, especially at this ‘all education – little measurable impact on the real life’ stage.

‘Hong Kong is different’. Mr Barker continues ‘There is no central government mandate and little sign of this changing in the near future.’
I accept this claim to some extent – apart from the fact that the MTR (76% owned by the HK Government) is currently running a major BIM undertaking that I can say at least on its contractual expectation will rival any BIM initiative in the world.

Could Mr Barker really have visited HK and mixed with the BIM-cream of it and not be made aware of this little experiment going on?
Hard to imagine, since he sings praises to Laing O’Rourke’s  BIM work on the MTR’s Admiralty Station interchange. 

He could have dug into the ‘large client mandated BIM’ project that is the Shatin Central Link MTR line a bit deeper, and  enquired how all the impacted contractors were going about it. He may have recognised that the problems in this type of BIM requirement are often due to the lack of capability to enforce it, let alone meaningfully feedback the results. There are complex  processes of claims, arbitrations and other ways of construction dispute resolutions. This includes making deals over a few beers, which still happens much more often on mega projects than the parties involved would like to admit.

Even in the title Mr Barker has given his article:
‘Is Hong Kong what the UK would have been like without the government BIM strategy?’
I sense a bit of ex-colonial superiority, which is odd, considering that a very large number of highly paid UK expats still rule within the HK AEC;

While writing this comment I must disclose that I overstayed my welcome in Hong Kong by a week or two and am looking at new greener pastures.  (there are still some questions of integrity to resolve)

Mr Barker claims the UK to be the ‘rarefied bubble of advanced best practice’ ;
Should I claim the same vantage point?
Rest assured, I will not be holding my breath much in the hope of getting support from the mainstream BIM practitioners in UK as I look for clients for MMA (if and only if) as I’ve poked too much fun at too many of them already.

There, ‘you’ve cooked your goose in Hong Kong’ said an acquaintance of mine – and how right he is – and this may yet prove to be true for much larger geographical areas than HK – but who knows, one day, one day…actions will speak louder than words.