Thursday, October 28, 2021

BIM for Clients: There is a need for independent BIM advocacy!

Building project clients come in all shapes and sizes.

From the very small, ‘let’s build a garage’ or ‘renovate the kitchen’ types, to gigantic institutional owners of city-size developments.

To create their projects, apart from the staunch DIYers, most draw on a plethora of advisors and consultants for assistance.

 BIM advocacy rarely makes their list.

Sure, ‘digital approaches’ do get thrown around by various participants of the servicing pool, most of the time packaged as ways of working smarter, while, a poor cover for an additional fee grab.

Some providers are BIM specialist with genuinely useful offerings of digital construction ware, others are barely fluent BIM consultants of the mainstream type, brandishing their occasional BIM achievements.

But I am yet to see them seeking out independent BIM advice.

 BIM has been around for a long time.

Even if I base it on my own, subjective experience, at least for the last 30 years, BIM has been a justifiable and doable approach to ‘communicate buildings’.

Yet, despite of several big waves of international BIM hypes rising, it has hardly made a visible impact on the industry.

 Many will argue against this statement, mostly those with vested interest in the digital part of the industry and its tools.

The development of AR, VR and other gadgets, drone scanning, robotic devices and the like are collectively considered to be proof of the success of the global BIM journey.

And in their own way, they are massive technical achievements. But they are also ‘just’ tools and equating the smartness of the industry to their sophistication is a bit of a stretch.

 I view BIM as a language and measure its effectiveness by the level of industry fluency.

At its core is the ‘model’, a representation of the building that is different from the traditional process of the ‘drawing’ as the depiction of the same.

While fully defining either of these opposing principles is a complex exercise and requires a lot of dedication from those wishing to understand the area, anyone participating in the building industry should at least know the difference.

 Or, that there IS a difference.

With the emergence of BIM, thirtysomething years ago, a new communication language had come into the industry. Yet, the presence of the new language is rarely acknowledged or accounted for.

We see the tools it brought, not the language.

We see the tools, we choose to use them or to ignore them, and are lulled in the pretense that our involvement with BIM is optional.

Shaping the communicating environment is treated purely based on commercial aspects and the risk of getting it wrong is underestimated.

 These days we operate in hybrid language environments where construction projects get ‘spoken’ simultaneously ‘drawing’ and ‘model’.

On the surface, this is not a bad thing. After all, we live in the transitional period where the communication ‘type drawing’ is growing into ‘type model’.

We are waiting for the contractual arm of the industry to mature to ‘type model’ and while this is happening, we make the best of both worlds.

Or do we?

No. We, the industry is struggling in the worst of both, no longer speaking either languages fluently or hardly at all.

The often ridiculed ‘traditional, drawing based’ communication before BIM had a supporting infrastructure that made it work very well. It enabled everyone in the industry communicate and participate. That infrastructure has largely disappeared by now and BIM has not replaced it.

BIM professionals often push the seamless model-to-drawing workflows as the goal and reality, yet it is neither working as such in practice nor should it really be the aim.

The fact that in BIM language speaking ‘model type’ communication also needs orthogonal projections, dimensioning and notations can cause further confusion.

 In the ‘olden days’ just about anyone could update a drawing, cloud a change, create a revision, enact a design decision and record it. In the new hybrid environment making even the smallest of changes to ‘a’ drawing can be cumbersome and tedious, not to mention time consuming.

There is the paradox of being able to flick over a full-length movie to the other side of the world in seconds yet being forced to wait for a drawing upgrade from a local consultant weeks at a time.

One can also spend hours at project PCG meetings where dozens of people discuss the project yet most of them can’t open a model let alone edit a drawing associated with it.

I’d be surprised if there were other industries in existence where such a large portion of its practitioners did not speak its language.

 We like to hide behind the contract and its illusion of protection through the negation of models.

Yet do we really know what is on our drawings?

 Realistically, in my remaining work-lifetime, BIM (or whatever fancier name it gets given in the future) is not likely to improve significantly.

The toolsets will further modernize and some of the ways we operate may change but the quality of the ‘language’ and its true uptake will likely not improve at speed.

 Still, in the bleakness of the last paragraph lies one aspect of the situation that is still worth fighting for.

That is for building clients’ right for true BIM advocacy.

 Any building client at the outset should be able to clearly define or at least understand the communication language of their building project.

Even before any digital tools get considered, the language must be defined.

Is it going to be drawing based or model based? Most likely hybrid? Proportionally definable? Not? Why not? True pros and cons for each? How cross - overs are happening?

No, BEPs aren’t adequate for answering those questions if they are not fully integrated with the project (contractually too).

How can we measure a company’s BIM literacy?

Can a servicing consultancy be called BIM fluent with only a token BIM manager amongst hundreds of illiterates? Even if the token manager constantly wears fancy AR/VR headsets.

 Building project clients come in all shapes and sizes. Some are smarter than others.

I’d love to see more of them pushing stronger the BIM buttons of their projects, asking the hard questions and demanding answers. Even be brave enough to say ‘no’ to half-baked BIM attempts if confident that pure ‘drawing’ will be spoken effectively.

 We live in a world ruled by supply/demand, their demand should create a supply of independent BIM advocates.

Will they come from the ranks of client-side PMs?


Pic from Predefine2020

(disclaimer: my husband’s company)


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