Monday, July 27, 2020

There are two types of BIM in existence, but only one of them money can buy!

The digital, 3D+ based approach to creating and managing AEC information is usually called BIM.
It has numerous other names as well, the latest, favored by many is the ‘Digital Twin’, I, for the sake of consistency, like to stick to ‘BIM’.

Humor me a bit and don’t get bogged down on the name.
Entertain me just a little bit more, and accept that fundamentally, BIM approaches can be grouped under 2 headings.

The first is the Group of Self-Contained BIM exercises, the second are the Life-Style BIMs.
The biggest difference between the two is that any BIM that falls in the first category can potentially be ‘bought’ while the second needs to be ‘grown’.
The boundaries do get blurred, as many Self-Contained BIMs can be grown from seeds too and Life-Style BIM components can indeed be acquired as semi-functional and off-the-shelf products, but overall this line of categorization is a safe tool to assess if one should contemplate engaging in a BIM-type experience on offer.
Another differentiation will be in clarity of scope, Self-Contained BIM jobs have clearly defined scope of works, while Life-Style BIMs often rely on ‘described outcomes’ that may be ambiguous.

Examples for the first group would be design or documenting in 3D, task-based applications like construction sequencing and logistics, model-based quantity take offs, all flavors of AEC visualizing.

By nature, no BIM is bad BIM, and I encourage anyone to give it a go – by self-performing or by insourcing as a service from others more skilled in the area. Even if an attempt to do things in a BIM-ish way is deemed to be unsuccessful, either due to perceived high cost or low value, there will likely be intangible benefits to all involved, experience to shape careers and progress.
And while I’ve long passed my BIM-evangelizing prime, everything considered, I get enthusiastic just about any BIM attempt I see, performed by just about anyone, qualified or not. 

Yet, I get very cautious about Life-Style BIMs.

So, how to distinguish these from the relatively low-risk Self-Contained BIMs.
The first rule of thumb is, that if the BIM scope requires a Plan to describe it (like BIM Strategy Plan, a BEP – Design/Construction, BIM Workflow) it is likely that we have a Lifestyler to deal with.

Pay attention to the ‘BIM Goals’ – if there is lot of lawyer-like speech in it, mixed with lofty expectations, there is danger:
“The goal of BIM incorporation is to effectively utilize current and future proven digital technologies to ensure the streamlining of design and construction processes, encourage greater stakeholder engagement, increase cost and time certainty, and to capture the necessary data for facilities management.
To achieve these goals the application of BIM technologies is required across all phases of the project ensuring the development of a coordinated BIM Model generally to LOD 300/350 for design and a construction deliverable of a LOD 350 model for XYZ’s facilities team to utilize.”

In general, Client initiated, mandated and across-project BIMs fall into this category.
They attempt to do BIM on large (and very large) scale, often based on best intentions but also bad advice. A client gets lured into a ‘better way of doing things’ by a BIM advocate and buys into an idea of all-or-nothing BIM.
The all-or-nothing BIM burns through the project, eats up people and companies and at the end no one wants to hear the dreadful TLA ever again. Apart from the overall BIM consultant, that can move onto their next victim. And the occasional BIM service provider that made good living out of an essentially Self-Contained BIM within the project. For example a Building Services Modeller.

The all-or-nothing approach would not be as fatal if they really meant it, i.e. if it was a true, cold turkey BIM only and no ‘traditional’ processes involved.

It would likely still fail but would at least make for an exhilarating ride for all. Instead, these Life-Style approaches like to keep their options open, the following statements just some examples to those intentions:

“The Contractor shall utilize the design consultant 3D Revit models to further develop specific trade/discipline models as defined in the Construction BIM Execution Plan, to achieve a high level of coordination between trades. Note 2D installation layout shop drawings will still be required to be issued for review and are expected to be an output from the 3D model where appropriate.”

When you recognize a tender you are invited to bid on that is as a Life-Style Mandate BIM project, what should you do?
To save your time reading through all these docs, search for the ‘notwithstanding, foregoing and herein’ legalese within the BIM sections and prepare your strategy accordingly.
Cutting the BIM approach to a Self-Contained size through NTTs is one route to take, though it can backfire if the BIM Consultant’s role is threatened by it.
Truly pricing for the open-ended BIM spec but also providing an alternative submission is another.
Of course fixing a price for something open-ended is a bit of an oxymoron, nevertheless you can give it a go, by at least defining the range.

Alternatively, you can play along and propose to fully comply with the Project BIM Plan and hope that the make-believe game of ‘Doing large scale BIM’ will last the length of the project while the BIM-thing will fizzle out.
On most Lifestylers, it does.

That is a pity, because, Life-Style BIM is an exceptionally good concept and will happen one day.
But at present, one cannot buy one. Not because it would be impossible to do it in current times, but because it would be prohibitively expensive, a bit like solving Auckland’s traffic problems by proposing everyone commutes flying around on personal jetpacks.

Flippancy aside, I’ll close with my favorite parallel: BIM is a language that is very different form all other languages AEC uses. In case of Self-contained BIM jobs, the language needs to be spoken by a relatively small number of stakeholders for the BIM to be successful. A project-wide BIM forces that language on everyone within the job. In current times, this is neither practical nor affordable.