Technology

How can we overcome BIMwash?

18 April 2017 | By Simon Graham

BIMwash is damaging our industry, says Simon Graham, BIM manager at architectural practice Maber.

I am unsure where the term “BIMwash” came from – the earliest reference I can find is a 2011 article from the excellent BIM ThinkSpace describing it as “…The inflated and sometimes deceptive claim of using or delivering BIM products or services.”  

BIMwash damages our industry. It wastes both time and money and those affected by it often come away with a negative perception of BIM.

Clients can be misled, their expectations inflated or manipulated and they are often sold a system that is not suitable for their BIM requirements. 

Consultants and designers can be affected too. I remember taking a phone call from a reseller who insisted that his software was the “only accredited BIM software for the UK”. He failed to mention that this “accreditation” is awarded by their own software developers and has no value.

It is not just over-zealous salesmen inflicting BIMwash either. A few industry professionals I have met are keen to sell fundamental components of BIM as an additional service. You want £30,000 extra on your fee because you’re providing an Industry Foundation Class (IFC)? That’s the cheerfully optimistic figure I heard from across the table at a recent BIM project meeting. 

Have you ever been in a meeting where a consultant has proudly proclaimed that they are “already doing BIM Level 3”. Are they confused or have they been misled?

The definition of BIMwash must be updated. As the deadline for UK BIM Level 2 drew nearer I noticed that many solution and service providers were invoking Level 2 standards as a way of drawing attention to their services. 

To me this appeared to be a new weapon in the BIMwasher’s arsenal: mentioning standards to add a veneer of legitimacy to their products.

To demonstrate this, here is a real example of BIMwash that I recently found on Linkedin, which highlights just one of the approaches that BIMwashers use to sell their “solutions”.

Below is a screenshot from one company blog explaining why their document management system should be considered for purchase above other competitor products.

You can see that a PAS standard has been given eye-catching prominence at the top of the article. As someone who is familiar with this standard I can assert that at no point does PAS 1192-2:2013 mandate any of these requirements for a common data environment. 

Point 2 is irrelevant because approval requires human input, it is not something a CDE is expected to do on its own. 

A CDE is a working method. It is not a specific type of software. It certainly does not require “secure email solution” or “collaborative viewing of IFC models” to be considered a CDE.

It is this example, and others like it, that has made me think the definition of BIMwash has to be brought up to date. In addition to overblown claims we must now be aware that BIM standards will be invoked and words like “compliance” will be flung around in order to sell things to us.

So how can we overcome BIMwash?

Between industry professionals we must work together, sharing knowledge and experiences through the excellent network of BIM groups and hubs that are already active throughout the UK. If you do not attend a regional BIM hub or similar I strongly suggest that you do, you will learn a lot and be pleasantly surprised at the amount of people emerging from their silos to share experiences and knowledge.

We also have an important responsibility to our clients, offers of BIM services should be closely scrutinised on their behalf and assessed for suitability. You may balk at the extra unpaid effort that this requires, I can tell you that it will cost you far more if some cowboy BIMwasher manages to wade into your BIM project with his bogus system or service and messes everything up.

Finally if we are to have realistic BIM standards in the UK the amount of documents required for compliance must be revised. With leaner, more relevant standards there is less long grass for the BIMwasher to hide in.

Comments

While giving a nod to the article on ageism that also features in this current newsletter, as the author of countless reports during my 30+ year career, one of the earliest lessons I learned in the writing of technical reports and articles was that acronyms and abbreviations should always be written out in full when used for the first time. Just how are the uninitiated to keep up to date with developments when such articles contain no explanation of what is an 'IFC model' or a 'CDE'? As to BIMwashing and overhypeing the benefits of BIM, I believe the ICE - that's the 'Institution of Civil Engineers' to you - must carry some of the blame for that - expounding the benefits endlessly as it does.

Grant Murdie, 18 April 2017

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