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Time to plug the BIM knowledge gap

Posted by Nigel Alexander on December 28, 2017

Having experienced the under-representation of BIM technology at a recent trade show, Tridify’s Nigel Alexander is not surprised by the new BIM+/CM survey, and says it’s time to plug the knowledge gap to wake the industry up to the huge benefits.

The recent BIM+/CM survey revealing that even public sector organisations are not embracing business information, with only 38% of centrally funded government clients making BIM a requirement on all of their projects, is no surprise.

One thing that was abundantly clear from my recent visit to EcoBuild 2017 was that there is still a big knowledge gap around BIM (building information modelling) data and its importance to the future of the construction industry.

This gap is not just isolated to certain areas of the industry, it pervades the entire construction value chain. From architects through to end-user focused manufacturers, not enough people appear to be addressing BIM at the moment. It’s disturbing that we have such a disconnect between the needs and requirements of customers, investors and the professionals who are able to deliver services.

The big issue here is education. A lack of understanding of the benefits BIM brings means people see it as a cost, not an asset. What needs to be realised is that BIM is an enabler for greater efficiency right across the value chain, not to mention the economic benefits it brings.

Data-described projects produce significant savings and efficiencies across the board. For example, BIM data enables suppliers to predict their deliveries more accurately as they can estimate to a higher degree of confidence.

What’s more, late-in-the-day redesigns are practically eradicated as BIM allows people to actually experience accurate representations of their environments before they are built. Moving a wall by two meters is far more costly and troublesome – and far less sustainable – in a physical build environment than in a digital space.

When combined with other technologies – such as virtual reality – BIM offers very real and tangible visualisation capabilities that far exceed the 3D jpeg-driven mentality that pervades the industry at present. It enables designs to be placed in the hands of the end user – the people who are going to be living and working in those spaces – so that they can understand them and interact with them across devices that are commonplace today, such as tablets and smartphones.

Although many of the companies, like those at Ecobuild, claim to be at the cutting edge of construction, it is disappointing to see that few are taking advantage of BIM’s ability to reduce wastage and drive efficiency across the construction industry.

The bottom line is that if companies across the construction value chain are not addressing BIM in their strategies over the next year or so, they are likely to struggle and get left behind. Furthermore, with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, there is a need for greater efficiency and BIM can hold the key to unlocking this. Quite simply, BIM is the future.

The Government certainly thinks so, bringing in regulations to encourage BIM adoption a year ago, with former Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude stating “this digital way of working – constructing an asset in virtual reality before trying it for real – not only helps us work out problems in the design stage; it also allows for a more collaborative approach”, and calling for widespread BIM adoption.

No doubt there will be disappointment in the corridors of Westminster at these latest survey results, and now it’s time for the industry to show its desire to embrace innovation for the benefit of all stakeholders.

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