Given the rapidly increasing importance of BIM to the design and development of the built environment, proficiency in the new technology is fast becoming indispensable to AEC sector professionals.

It now appears all but inevitable that BIM will eventually become a standard, need-to-have technology for industries involved in the creation of the built environment. This is a global trend, with major economies such as the UK and Singapore already taking the lead in mandating the usage of the technology for key infrastructure projects.

Given the apparent inevitability and rapid progression of this trend, the implications for AEC sector professionals and their employers are set to be profound and far-reaching.

As with many other career skills, acquiring high levels of expertise and proficiency in BIM is best achieved via learning on the job, as opposed to through instruction in classroom environments.

Should BIM proficiency become one of the most pivotal considerations for members of industry, it could significantly skew employment patterns in favour of those companies that possess the most extensive and sophisticated BIM systems and provide the best opportunities for on-the-job training.

This could even further raise the appeal of leading and established engineering firms such as AECOM and Downer for new entrants to the work force.

In addition to the lustre that working at such prestige companies can confer upon the CVs of budding professionals, it’s also these large-scale concerns that provide the best means of rapidly acquiring high levels of expertise in BIM usage, thus putting them in good stead for their upcoming carers.

This heightened access to much-coveted talent that marquee companies will enjoy may profoundly alter employment trends among fresh workforce entrants.

It could even lead to a situation among civil and structural engineers similar to that for their peers in the IT sector at the highest echelons, where the best talent is monopolized by a few blue chip firms due to the extent to which positions at such companies are coveted.

Another major issue that the spread of BIM in the AEC sector industry raises is the need to constantly maintain and upgrade the proficiency levels of professionals, particularly given that one of the chief advantages conferred by BIM is the ability to facilitate coordination and collaboration between the multiple parties to complex construction projects,

The ability of BIM to enhance project cooperation could be severely hampered should participants in work projects fail to remain fully abreast of the latest advances in the technology.

[Image of Ben Mallinson courtesy of LinkedIn: 1fccbae.jpg]

According to Ben Mallinson of Sydney-based p3 BIM Consulting, a lack of sufficient BIM understanding and expertise is the reason why many companies see their initial forays into usage of the technology flounder.

“Implementation of any technology requires confidence, knowledge and foresight,” said Mallinson. “Businesses flop and ‘get burnt’ with BIM when these are not present.”

“The main insight is the need for consistency in BIM methods, understanding and usage, in order to put companies in a position to move in the same direction and achieve a unified outcome.

“Directors and project chasers sign contracts, yet have no real understanding of the work involved with regards to BIM and training their staff to meet its conditions.”

The challenge of ensuring that AEC professionals continually upgrade their BIM skills is further compounded by the fact that BIM technologies are currently undergoing extremely fast-paced changes.

Speaking at the Bentley CONNECTION event in Sydney last March, Bentley CEO Greg Bentley noted that the pace of change in BIM-related technologies is rapidly accelerating, with greater advances seen in just the past several years compared to the preceding decade.

These rapid changes, along with the increasing capabilities and sophistication of BIM technology, have already led to the emergence of a specialized industry of BIM consultants and advisers that cater to the needs of those companies hoping to stay on the cutting-edge of development.

Mallinson pointed out that in addition to enlisting the assistance of specialised consultants, one important means of enabling companies to keep their staff up-to-date on the latest BIM developments is to implement fundamental changes to their internal culture.

“Companies can create a curious culture in their offices by encouraging and accommodating existing staff to find and learn new ways to engage in design and documentation, as opposed to working them to the bone,” said Mallinson. “This is the age of working smarter, not harder.”