Funny thing about some words…An article about BIM…Written for the Construction Business OwnersBy Marc GoldmanThe word “building” is a funny word. By reading this article, I can practicallyguarantee your initial understanding of it will be the physical assembly of parts thatyou work on 200+ days a year. Your definition is the noun form of the word. As ithappens, the word “building” is also a verb, which is a term meaning the act ofassembling. Two related but different definitions that we use on a daily basis in ourwork and we don’t stumble over which definition we are referring. Another word(or at least an acronym) that has both a noun and verb definition is BIM – yes, it hasthe word “building” inside. But unlike the word “building”, the term/acronym BIMis a dynamic term.Like the word “building”, the term “BIM” has multiple meanings; and both “building”and “BIM” initially imply the noun. Sure, BIM has been a passion for a considerablenumber of us involved in the building industryfor several years; but we continue toeducate many on the process of BIM vs. the BIM file. Perhaps it is the softwarevendors who win the product battle when the industry adopts their file type as astandard. Or, maybe it’s the fault of the early adopters whoseinitial forays into BIMwere presented as 3D renderings of 3D BIM Files. This made for some greatmarketing and probably led to some better design. But it also failed to tell the storyof BIM as a verb. It is my opinion that wehave over-emphasized the noun definitionof BIM – we dwell on the creation of a BIM model, file, rendering or other output,without focusing on the process, or journey of the BIM workflow.Don’t get me wrong; I’m all geeked-out on the idea of a set of digital files that allowus to view a highly detailed and complex building from any visual or data-orientedperspective. A single (perhaps distributed) model which can be used forvisualization, documentation, analysis, simulation, construction management andoperations is the final goal which industry and academia have been pointing us tofor decades.However, the models have been built and they continue to be built at a growingpace, and we have our clients, the Owners asking themselves, and us: “What do wedo with the BIM model now that we have it?” They are asking what verb we apply tothe noun.The approach is backwards. It should begin by looking for problems to solve asopposed to justifying the creation of using a BIM model. Instead, we should be startby identifying problems and improving currentprocess by employing BIM-centricworkflows. Of course, our efforts should result in enriching (or at least notdeterring any other uses) of the BIM dataset. We should still work toward creating aBIM model that is useful to the owner at project handover. But we must work
towards BIM deliverables with the goal of improving our processes. Withoutunderstanding the many benefits of implementing BIM workflows (the verb), theadoption of BIM will be unnecessarily delayed and you, your team, company, projectand client will fail to realize the personal and professional benefits.The benefits of BIM workflows for You, the reader.You are an owner,or an executive of a construction company in the midst of theworst economic hardship this industry has seen in generations. You are leading yourcompany at a time when competition is fierce – 5 to 10 times the number of biddersfor projects compared to just a couple years ago. Margins are squeezed by the needto compete on price. Expectations are greater for a higher level of service, and yousee the quality of marketing increasing during bids. And in some markets, you’veseen projects where BIM and Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) is required.For those of you who have adopted BIM & VDC, congratulations! You can skip aheadto the next section. You are likely already seeing some return on your investment asyou are improving both speed &accuracy of pre-construction workflows. Perhapsyour BIM-enabled business lends itself to automation, and you’ve connected BIMdata to fabrication. If so, you are likely producing higher quality deliverables due tothe comfort, safety and predictabilityof a factory approach to component pre-assembly.Or, you have taken BIM to the field and you’ve automated worklists, punchlists,materials management and more with a connection to the BIM model. With yourBIM / VDC experience, you are able to promote your services more aggressively, bybidding on projects that once seemed out of reach. BIM allows you to manage someof your ongoing processes and deliver new and improved work products as well.You and your client have more visibility into the project, resulting in a well-informed and hopefully long-term client. You are weathering the economic crisis,and perhaps even growing.Perhaps these BIM benefits sound attractive, but do not yet describe yourbusiness.If you fall into the category of “not yet adopted BIM”, it’s not too late.Despite the message you might have heard, BIM has not passed you by, yet. There isstill an opportunity to figure out what BIM benefits you can realize for yourbusiness.There are a wide range of sources and resources to help you determinehow to implement BIM workflows that benefit you, the reader – the owner.The benefits of BIM workflows for your Team And Company.As business owners and leaders, your passion and motivation is attributed to morethan just the paycheck. You likely have a long tenure and deep interest in thecompany’s lasting success. You want to work with people who have the passion youhave; this requires creating an environmentwhere your team members feel asthough they are on a winning team.
BIM by it’svery nature is a team effort, and winning companies are adopting BIMprocesses. Today’s successful construction companies are BIM-ready, and BIM-centric companies. These companies and teams have been forced to evolve, orsometimes create newmethods and workflow as BIM best practices are a movingtarget. Recognizing there is still a lackof standards in many areas of BIM, someteams have developed best practicesand work processes that addressinteroperability and collaboration.These teams have impressive metrics and statistics, which they present at industryevents and publish in industry publications. Some of these teams are those you’veseen in ENR lists; others are companies who you hadn’t heard of until this year.Now, you see these companies contributing to news-worthy construction projectsand mentioned in case studies and articles about BIM. Regardless of your familiaritywith the company, these are the organizations that have positioned themselves forthe future, and they are the teams your players want to work with, work for, andspin-off and emulate.If your goal includes keeping your company viable and profitable in the long term,consider the impact BIM and VDC might have on your team and your company.The benefits of BIM workflows for the Project and the ClientAs I write this article, we are nearly 2 years into a recession (yeah, I know they say itended) where 20% – 40% unemployment are the numbers discussed for segmentsof the design and construction industry. This situation can’t go on forever –industry analysts predict that commercial construction will begin to stabilizesomewhere in the third to fourth quarter2011 and then begin a slow assent in whatthe economistare labeling “the new normal”. Given this, those organizations whodesign, build and deliver most efficiently in end the will reap the rewards of an eversmaller, but growing market.Many of the owners who have continued to build during the past 2 years arerequiring BIM data and processes to be utilized as part of their contracts. Theydon’t all have a clear understanding of what BIM means, and they might not have animmediate use for the data modeled and delivered. But they understand, at an evergrowing pace, receiving a “digital double” will help them in a wide range owner-specific business processes. For some, the vision of the model applies to facilitiesmanagement, others asset tracking, others lease management or property and taxpurposes. Your ability to work and contributeto the BIM workflows and modelscreation helps you serve your clients’ various uses of BIM.Some of the most innovative uses of BIM for Owners comes from the Retail industry.Crate&Barrel and Target, two distinctly different retailers, recently presented theirperspective and their uses of BIM data. Originating at building design, BIM is usedby Brand Management to ensure the design meets corporate standards: Target’sbrand is more recognizable; Crate&Barrel’s brand is less obvious but arguablydelivers astronger architecturalstatement.Throughout design and into construction,
BIM models are created, aggregated and analyzed, improving both owners’ ability tomanage the project and ensure the doors are ready to open ahead of schedule andunder budget. As stores are re-configured, merchandising models are createddemonstrating optimal signage, product positioning and store traffic flow.Are these two companies the “standard of practice”, or are have they risen above theaverage and are they setting the standard for the future?Regardless of the answer, they are using BIM to serve their business needs. Theirneeds are generally unrelated to often discussedBIM purposes such as clash-detection, construction sequencing or quantity take-offs. These clients, and manyothers, use BIM to manage, differentiate and grow their companies. BIM is astrategic element of these clients success. As the owner of a construction business,you must position yourself to serve these clients in creative&profitable ways.Adopting BIM, and promoting your BIM expertise will allow you to move beyondbusiness as usual, and win projects where the client expectations exceed yourcompetitors’ ability to deliver.Your company servesyour clients by improving the processes, shortening the cycles,uncovering issues earlier, removing the risk of delays and overruns. BIM deliversthese benefits and you deliver the benefits to your clients.The benefits of BIM workflows for the IndustryThe number of “scholarly articles” on the declining rate of productivity of the UnitedStates Construction Industry surprised me. : 493,000 with 15,000 published in2010, 400 specific to “Building Information Modeling”. Enough has been written,with plenty of suggestions for improvement. One might wonder how something sowell understood remains so unproductive.We know we work in an industry of great fragmentation wheresimilar informationis exchanges, processed, massaged and output. Drawings are re-drawn, lists are re-entered, quantities are re-counted and materials are ripped out and replacedunnecessarily. The examples of unproductive workflows are all contributors to adeclining productivity. What’s needed is an acceptance of new workflows thatcontribute to the individual, the team, the company and the client’s typical andspecific business goals. What’s needed is BIM.BIM is certainly not the panacea to all that ills the construction industry; but manyof the BIM workflows do address many elements of the unproductive environment.ButBIM can be more to the Industry than workflows, differentiators and career-advancing techniques. BIM can be part of the “brand” which the constructionindustry conveys. Modeling, 3D-4D-5D,Virtual Design & Construction, Laserscanning, Animating, pre-fabricating and more. These are the things that attract thenext generation of workers. We are in an industry that we love, many representingthe third or fourth generation in their family business. It is important that theConstruction Industry attract the best and the brightest of all generations; and it is
imperative we are attractive to a younger workforce than the rapidly increasingaverage age.We are at an exciting time in the building industry. Some are taking a wait and seeapproach. And some of us are doing more than waiting. We are insteadexperimenting and pushing our teams, our industry and ourselves.I welcome you to join me, and many others for an exciting ride (the verb, not thenoun).Mr. Marc Goldman has a twenty-year track record of forming, building, launching andmanaging profitable technology-based product and service businesses in theArchitecture, Engineering and Construction industry. Most recently, Marc successfullyled the global BIM business development efforts for Pinnacle InfoTech, Inc. &SatellierInc. His prior work history includes eight years in senior product development andmanagement positions with Autodesk, a leading provider of BIM development tools. Heis responsible for guiding The Blue Book Building and Construction Network in itscontinued development of web-based information products and applications for theAEC Community.About The Blue Book Building and Construction Network…The Blue Book Network has been connecting the commercial construction industrysince 1913. Building from a database of over 1,000,000 classified company listings in560 classifications – The Blue Book Network today provides digital information andcommunication solutions designed to enhance the daily workflow of the entireconstruction industry.