I’ll come right out and say it: BIM is pretty much Bulldust in Motion.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive advocate of information modelling and truly believe that improved digital work practices and intelligent models are the way forward. My current issue is the ‘ownership’ of BIM; there seems to be a new leader from industry every time I turn around.

These leaders are not individuals per se, but the existing peer bodies which exist in Australia today. The competition to lead the conversation does nothing to further the ultimate goal and has the majority of clients thinking it's more hassle than it's worth.

It is part of a natural industry evolution, but it frustrates clients and proponents endlessly when another peer body or organisation stands up with the “we’ve solved BIM” banner. Australia is not known for its bipartisan politics, and this is reflected in its extremely adversarial construction sector. To be perfectly honest, we are being extremely siloed about our attempts to collaborate. Perhaps we need some BIM to resolve BIM?

The efforts so far, all of which have merit, list a cast of thousands all professing their own version of a solution to the industry. Now, I preface this next bit with a caution: never listen to anyone who says ‘you know what you should do.’

That said, you know what you should do; you should have the industry itself come together and collaborate on whom is providing which piece of the BIM puzzle for industry in Australia. Not having federal support may not be ideal, but in another sense, not having federal support might be just the thing.

Let’s get, for example, Consult Australia to manage an Australian National BIM Committee, get the national level teams such as ACIF, APCC, AIA, AIRAH, FMA and so on to provide the ‘what we need’ (information requirements), and use BuildingSMART, collaborateANZ and the tactical BIM Hubs fraternity to do the grassroots work and adopt and adapt the requisite delivery solutions.

Before anyone pipes in with the inevitable ‘that’s already been done,’ has it really? All I’ve seen is the same documents - different authors, different semantics and so on, but essentially the same material.

Doesn’t working together in BIM imply that we should work together to resolve a single national direction?

Until we do, the competing interests of corporate or peer body agenda will continue to dilute and confuse the general client populace regarding the management and delivery of information across projects into the asset life cycle.

Call it what you will, ALIM, AIMS, BIM, IIM, PIM or CIM, but ultimately it’s all information for the greater good of the supply chain and ultimately the client.

As an industry, we are stronger together than we are apart. It is only together in a framework which emulates others such as those in Europe and around the globe that industry can best move forward and fully realise the benefits of integrated asset delivery and management.

  • Appreciate the vote of confidence in Consult Australia Suibhne, and am well-versed in the challenges created by multiple industry perspectives on any issue. Though perhaps we are yet to enter a BIM Utopia of the type you describe, I am pleased to observe a more postivie story around the sense of cross-industry collaboration helping to shape a better environment in which BIM can succeed. For example the Framework for the Adoption of PTI and BIM in Australia was a stong start, demonstrating a great partnership between industry and government, and through ACIF I am pleased to lead a consensus view on behalf of many of those groups you mention advocating that governments adopt BIM as part of their procurement. Real progress is being made, and although slow, I am pleased to be optimistic about the future of BIM in Australia.

  • At a fundamental level, who pays the price for BIM? The technology crosses all professional divides. However the majority of input is in the domain of the Architect who builds the initial model. Currently Architectural services are loss leaders for the other disciplines, in relative terms Architectural fees are reducing whilst engineers – civil – mechanical – structural – hydraulic are increasing. That is because of very poor advocacy by Architects. Most clients like the concept of BIM, though do not want to pay for it. Quantity Surveying firms are also impacted, but are in almost all cases reluctant to rely on BIM information for quantities. Do they undertake an independent survey of their quantities for pricing, almost always.

  • Suibhne is right, sorry Megan. BIM needs to reimagine its purpose and value proposition. I attended the BIM event at Build SA recently. No one was happy. Calls for government to mandate BIM are baseless. One presenter at the BIM event had to agree all that was happening in the BIM space is that the industry is digitising traditional design and construction practices. All the while construction costs go up and we have projects making the top ten most expensive in the world. The presenter felt that progress was being made and BIM could deliver certainty. Again he agreed that certainty was about the way projects have always been designed, estimated, procured and delivered. Nothing about any independent quantification of more effective construction leading to reduced costs, faster delivery times, less waste and better quality. The missing piece in BIM is Designed for manufacture and Assembly – DfMA. Modern Construction requires a complete remapping of the supply chain value inputs to deliver a measurably better deal to the industry's customers. It means the status quo needs to change. BIM Bulldust is a reality that must be challenged as it's not the answer, it's just a part of parts.

  • I have to agree. There are a lot of these empty BIM reports being done and they are pretty much all the same.
    At least acif is a peak body of peak bodies so presumably there is common ground amongst a number of industry participants.
    But the main problem is the BIM myths the keep getting promligated.
    The myth that only clients can initiate BIM on a project, that BIM is only possible under certain types of contracts, that owners are entitled to free labour from others to populate their FM systems.
    What we need is more support to ensure BIM is useful to each participant, and how the results of each BIM process can be leveraged to benefit everyone, not just the building operator.
    So enough of these reports and discussion papers that do no more than tick political policy boxes. How about some serious, practical discussion. Something we can actually make use of.

  • A BIM is just another tool. If you know what you are doing and the model is accurate and dynamic you can look at all sorts of options and scenarios, testing ideas quickly and easily. But a tool should be crafted for the user and not the other way around. The skill remains with the user and not the tool.

    In this day and age with bean counters, lawyers, WHSQE guardians and the endless plethora of government agencies waiting for you to make a mistake (regardless of whether anyone gets hurt or how impossible it was to predict a "reportable event"), every tool should be employed, where appropriate, to help correctly perform a task. Of course I am assuming the tool-user has an element of common sense and some understanding of what they are doing.

    Naturally there will always be some who still try and use a hammer to push in a screw. For such folk technology will never be of any use.

    • I agree with Andrew, it depends on the skills of the person (or team) to give it a proper use and take advantage of the benefits of BIM, effecive management and team coordination/collaboration.

  • Agree 100 % – it's another 'black box' – rubbish in / rubbish out – it's only as good as the user – problem is: it can make an inexperienced user look good to the outside world – rubbish output supported by flash technology.

    • I'll disagree in part with Dave on making the user look good. My experience is the person doing the assessment has to know what they're looking at in the first place. For some inexplicable reason people have a misguided belief that a computer makes everything bulletproof. Therefore the inexperienced user assessed by the inexperienced leads to no advantage, garbage as Dave mentioned.
      I've seen the poor take up of systems, computerised or not and if the team aren't willing, or able then that's it for the system you've invested in. The advantage of a good system to make life easier and less stressful for all comes down to commitment.
      Shahram you'll be surprised at how little people think of drawings, the make it up as I go brigade is strong. 'We don't need to waist time on drawings' this train of thought is strengthened by poor drawings, but that is another topic.

  • Spot on guys. Before the culture of inbuilt QA is in place and even one step back, everyone can read drawings, the whole digital show would be nothing but waste.

  • OK , I'm an Electronics engineer, so BIM was a new TLA (Three Letter Acronym) to me, but the essence of BIM is already there in most of the 3d design packages, and is already actively used by appliance manufacturers, chemical plant designers, equipment/aircraft/factory builders.
    The point of the headline is the Dilbertesque situation where the "BIM" TLA has risen out of the perceptual fog and now management , government and various industry bodies start bouncing it around.

    Even though I'm not in the building game, I see two major issues:
    (a) We do not have a quality culture in Australia, we need to get there first, otherwise BIM is a skyscraper built on mud,
    (b) The building industry uses a disparate multitude of different trades, professions, sub contractors, tenderers, suppliers, (unlike the examples I mentioned above where all the modelling is carried out in house, on workstations running the same software connected to the same server, and all manufacturing disciplines are employees of one company). There are maybe 4 major software platforms running BIM, and it would be anti-competitive to force everyone to use the same software.

    • So how does the design intent get transferred between all these disciplines?

      I do PCB design using EDA (Electronic Design Automation) software daily , it has a magical "design rule check" button, (so can do all the mundane checking of various known constraints) but the user needs to have already entered the rules, and it can't spot flaws in your thinking. It has an auto-router, circuit simulation and impedance checkers and various features that I never use (these are crucial to some other engineers). But the biggest issue I have is ensuring the "model space" reflects the as-built assembly, and the drawings/BoM sheets/ PnP files on the shop floor are actually current. I can imagine exactly the same problem with building models with plumbers and electricians installing their services in "approximately" the right space.

      Finally what about as the building ages, who owns the "building model" , what happens if an extension is added in 5 years time, and the successful bidder is not the original prime contractor, are we back to 2D drawings? in 20 years time will computers of the day even be able to read todays models? I have trouble importing simple 2d mech drawings and PCB's from 15year

    • Bob, you've hit that nail on the head. The owner of the asset, and lets not just talk buildings here, needs to take ownership of the model.
      They also need to understand that it can be used in the maintenance of that asset. Also the site inspection of the asset can be foregone with any future modification, all be it preliminary to start with just to be safe.
      Then there's the format issue, well we can fix that with a DXF style approach, similar to how PDF was a document solution.
      Then going back to point a), we do need to start there and yet I see the design tools still being the answer to quality as well. Though I would suspect it to be a companies internal issue.
      As for your old drawings, have you tried opensource software, it seems to be more flexible with old files.

  • The problem is that BIM has been hijacked by vested interests and as a result ends up being pretty useless.

    You see, the various consultants involved cling on to the old notion of not providing any cross discipline information because as in the past, they do not guarantee anything.

    As a result, on a building, you will have a structural BIM mode, an architectural BIM model, an electrical BIM model, a mechanical BIM model, etc. So you do not end up with a single integrated model, because each discipline provides its information about itself only. The structural consultants provide information only but not a model because as the disclaimer goes, the other contractor is still responsible for their work. It becomes far too expensive to verify the structural model, so the other disciplines create their own models, but just in the areas where it affects them. When the structure changes, it is not a case of the structural consultant issuing a revised model that all the other disciplines now use. Each discipline has to go through the model they have created and make sure their model is updated.

    • Im not picking on structural, the same goes for mechanical services, electrical, and every other discipline involved.

      Project managers are not willing to insist on the collaborative sharing of models because they are afraid of losing key contractors and consultants.

  • The origins of BIM lie in the same methodologies and technologies used by BOEING to build its aircraft. It is also the same underlying technology that has been effectively utilized by the Plant Design industry since the early 80's. In these environments it has worked very, very well and there is no way you would undertake a major design project like a submarine or an aircraft without using it. The term BIM came from the work of Frank Gehry (Franks team may have even coined the term if my memory serve me correctly). Frank applied the same technology as BOEING to the design of his most famous buildings. Gehry Technologies and companies like Dassault Systems has been championing BIM for close to 20 year now.
    The major issue behind the lack of adoption of BIM methodologies is the lack of acceptance by the building industry (top to bottom) to wear the up front costs of implementing the technology. The building industry has never made the leap into technology. Laggards by nature.

  • I've seen alot of irrelevant info put into BIM models which would never be used in the construction stage and over the lifecycle of the building, I think some consultancies are just using it as another taxi meter, documenting information for absolutely no reason. I've seem intelligent models promoted to clients for things like those cold rolled steel style sheds, temporary buildings for a project having a lifespan of no more that 5 years and things like that.