Observation: My BIM is not the Same as Your BIM
It's really apparent that Building Information Modelling (BIM) means something different for everyone. If you do a quick internet search, its definition is quite vague and open to different interpretations. Here’s an attempt at a definition: "BIM describes the lifecycle process to design, construct, and manage structures and places using physical and virtual representations." I’d like to mention the use of intelligent 3D models as the basis, but BIM includes temporal change and cost information, which means we get into 5D and higher dimensions. The reason for the vagueness is because there are so many stakeholders who are involved in different parts of the building’s lifecycle. Each provides their piece of the puzzle at different times, but rarely throughout the whole life of the structure.
For architects, BIM is primarily an intelligent, multi-dimensional design tool for creating a vision of a structure or place based on an owner’s requirements. For constructors, it is a centralized coordination platform to ensure that all managers and contractors are on the same page such that the construction succeeds. For facilities managers and owners, BIM isn’t central for them as it's simply another data source that helps them manage and maintain a building and its functions. Then, we can add an end-user component and future capabilities that take advantage of real-time mobile capability and the Internet of things (IoT).
For all parties to realize the full value proposition of BIM, it’s imperative that all stakeholders open their minds to the different challenges experienced by the other when they perform their specialized functions. This also means they must plan beyond their normal timelines. The biggest roadblock is cultural (institutional?), as we know that the setup of the construction industry is notorious for working in silos. And everyone has a lingering suspicion of the other, which is poisonous since construction is a team sport.
Desktop BIM was a step in the right direction; however, there are greater reasons to be very optimistic. Construction is transitioning to collaborative BIM enabled by cloud-based tools and real-time mobile capability. Project information is becoming more accessible to all site and office workers, and accountability is more apparent. We already see that collaborative BIM is enabling architects, managers, and constructors to collaborate on the same wavelength. Architects and engineers are creating the framework, and they are more aware that their designs are meticulously analyzed by constructors for coordination. Constructors, having experienced different designs, are telling architects and engineers if there are better methods to design.
Now, its time that owners and facilities managers get more involved since BIM benefits them the most over the long-term. Owners and facility managers have to explains what they want so that constructors, engineers, and architects deliver the right information to them. On the flip side, constructors have to record the data necessary such that owners can create consistent building lifecycle plans with minimal surprises. Architects need to design for smarter construction and for simple management.
So the goal for the construction industry is when we all collaborate and can say, "My BIM is the same as yours".