The Danger of BIM Theory

I was recently at a BIM conference and found myself listening to a presentation on a project I worked on at a past firm. This was a P3 project (Private-Public-Partnership) located in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Listening to the presentation was a bit surreal; their focus was how they had used BIM to manage  data. Once the Architect finished discussing data management and how information was used, my replacement started talking about how BIM was a key. His presentation focused on the theory of BIM and how it can be used on a P3, but included nothing about how BIM was used on the P3 project that we won.

Listening to the presentation helped me realize there is a serious problem with the implementation of BIM. I believe the issue starts with those in charge of BIM Implementation in a firm. I have met many professionals that lead BIM inside their firm.  Some have no experience with the tools; others have come up through the ranks using the tools but have no experience with setting up the process. These two types of BIM leaders have different types of BIM Implementation strategies. Those with experience in the tools tend to lean towards a CAD Management approach. Those without hands-on use and an educational background tend to come to the table with theories of BIM process and an unrealistic idea of its function on projects.

In order for BIM to succeed there needs to be a shift in BIM Leadership across the board. The BIM process should be implemented in a way that helps your firm succeed, not make projects less profitable. BIM tools need to be taught in a way that is easy for users and is not locked down to enforce standards.  BIM Leaders also should be included at the beginning of all projects and invited to attend meetings that discuss:

  • Project resourcing
  • Project/owner requirements
  • Project goals such as sustainability and life cycle management.

The BIM tools should never get in the way of BIM implementation but with the current trend of some BIM leaders around the globe, BIM has become dysfunctional and possible even a money pit.

I am currently working with the office Partner in charge to implement a working BIM process that will prove to the other 5 offices in my firm that when BIM is implemented correctly it is successful and profitable.

A quote from Albert Einstein sums up the role of all BIM Leaders: Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.

7 Replies to “The Danger of BIM Theory”

  1. Hey,

    Nice article and I know how it feels to be in talks like those. They might as well be standing up saying nothing and just patting eachother on the back.

    I agree that the leaders on a bim project doesnt really have a clue. Those with the cad background come out thinking they are superstars because they have engaged with visual programming workflows and they understand basic concepts through that. Which is great, but these people have learned workflows belong to platforms that are questionable in the eyes of a tech innovator that has immersed himself with technology that isnt ~30 years old. I am talking about a developer with experience in web technologies and most of all a JavaScript ecosystem and other open movements that has gathered momentum that the industry can only aspire to. The reality is that autodesk, rhino, bentley all have business goals to meet and the reality is that it is far too high of a bar for learning for a normal tech guy that may lead a project as you have described. Thus, falling at the mercy to vendors setting a ceiling for how fast our tech guys progress.

    As for the guys who have come from the other side as you have described, the ones that have are process managers, the nature of the the progression of all technologies that we are seeing imerging in our industry means that more and more technologies are being applied to construction from primarily tech companies with perhaps not the same game plan as the vendors we deal with. These guys are lowering barrier to entry to develop on their platforms and are moving towards a more integrated technology approach. Best of all, it is all being automated.

    Where this leaves us is that process managers traditional roles will be become obsolete as we move to systems to do their jobs. Model checking, merging, execution strategies, people management – all stuff that I would trust a machine to do instead of a management guy (and more stuff too).

    Nice article though. If I can be of any help in helping this shift in your company please let me know. I have a private cloud platform for BIM projects where users can run construction process related apps from one place. It is in Beta testing but I am looking for comoanies to partner with to grpw solutions for their purposes. Check it out and if you would like to learn more, please drop me a line even if you feel like telling me that you hate everything I have just said:-)


    Note: all apps are lightweight, on demand and generally can be categorised as either apps that connect BIM related platforms or BIM servers.

  2. BIM like any new technology was a theory at one time. I believe it is past that. it is now a tool that needs to be implemented ASAP. For BIM to work everyone down the line in an office need to respect it, understand it, apply it in the design stage, apply it in the presentation stage and all other levels. The 5 LODs should all incorporate BIM.

  3. The more I implement BIM the more I understand that it’s an all encompassing change of the approach to our business from the very top all the way down. It’s challenging to fully take advantage of BIM because of the need to change our traditional approach. It’s more than just a change in process, it’s a fundamental change of mindset, trying to combine both traditional process and BIM is really handicapping progress.

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