Vox pop: Has BIM changed the culture of the industry?
Alex MacLaren, partner at Wyatt MacLaren, tutor at Heriot-Watt University, BIM2050 Group
For us, the biggest practical changes in switching to BIM were to do with everyday process protocol in the office: naming, classifications, filing etc. We had our own systems, grown up over many years, and it was a jump for us to switch to new rules, some of which felt nonsensical from our limited viewpoint.
This sort of gripe still seems to ring true for many people: the “lived experience” of a BIM project has been more about jumping through process hoops than about delivering effective outcomes. But universal protocol is key to good data transferability – we need to weather that storm.
The students I work with at university are handy examples of this issue: the uni sets up these proprietary bespoke collaborative learning environments and they all get so annoyed by the clumsy interfaces that they just opt out and co-author their projects on Facebook. Industry is not so different!
Casey Rutland, associate director and BIM specialist, Arup Associates
In my opinion, what happened with the BIM deadline kicking in is absolutely nothing. It was a passing date, a line in the sand for development to continue. There are still massive groups of the industry that just don’t want to change. It might be micro-SMEs close to retirement who just want to carry on a few years before they finish, or they might not use technology whatsoever.
Time will tell whether they might eventually come on board. At the moment there are people actively and pro-actively working on the deadline and those people will continue that work too.
The overall message is positive: you can pick up a swath of documents, go to the BIM Level 2 website and read everything you need to know to get started. It’s there now and it’s consistent and structured. It’s a lot easier now than a few years ago.
Peter Jacobs PPCIOB, managing director of construction logistics and integrated solutions, Wilson James
Well, changing the culture around BIM is the hard part, not the technology. On some of the projects I’m involved in, BIM is starting to create a culture where the team has been put together earlier. If you don’t get the specialist involved early when using BIM properly, then you waste time by creating the model twice. So it’s starting to force people towards forming the teams earlier.
There’s got to be a culture of helping to educate clients that the business isn’t just about the lowest tender price.
BIM is such a powerful tool, but it won’t be fully useful until it’s top-to-bottom in supply chains and we can price jobs properly – when even the bottom of the supply chain understands BIM fully.
Gerard Graham MCIOB, business development manager, Martin & Hamilton, and senior vice-chair CIOB in Ireland, Northern Centre
It has made everyone more collaborative in my opinion. We all need to work closer together and as part of a bigger team.
I think what it’s doing is breaking down the hierarchy. In the past you had the architect at the top of the tree, now everybody who is part of the project all have an important role to play for BIM to be properly executed.
You also have to mention facilities management. Five years ago nobody had really heard of FM, but now if BIM’s done right, that leads to proper facilities management which is a big issue.
So it’s a game changer. I would say it’s the biggest game changer this decade.
Frank McLeod, head of project technology, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff
I would argue BIM has not changed the culture of the industry, it’s people that do that.
What BIM, the environment, has done is shine a bright torch on our behaviours, such that we can see clearly that Latham and Egan were right. Wolfgang Grulke in Lessons in Radical Innovation warned us that radical change was a combination of technology and relationships, which can be very uncomfortable.
So BIM is highlighting issues within our industry’s culture, clearly showing who is being open and sharing and who is not. It is driving us towards understanding that we are modelling information for our mutual benefits and not just ourselves.
James Thompson, senior BIM technician, Waldeck Consulting
As a direct result of the introduction of April’s BIM Level 2 mandate, the industry has been forced to work in a smarter, more collaborative way. Closer partnerships between site teams will reduce residual risk and ultimately provide the client with a more useful digital asset to own and manage throughout its lifecycle. Although earlier collaboration has been recognised in the industry, an inward culture of resistance to sharing data remains.
As software, infrastructure and supporting BIM guidance (including legal procedure) progress, the industry will have the freedom to share data more openly between internal and external design teams. This will reduce duplication and improve supply chain collaboration at earlier stages of projects.
Overall, the industry’s attitude towards the mandate has been positive and we look forward to future improvements to data efficiency, carbon reduction and post-construction asset management.