BIM – building information modelling – is one of the hot topics of the moment for the construction world. There is a great deal of activity going on in the consultancy and engineering sector, much of which is asking whether our industry is ready for the challenges and opportunities that BIM will bring.
Wider uptake of BIM will undoubtedly bring benefits to the construction sector: better sharing of information; compatibility between systems; perhaps fewer misunderstandings between teams.
Fundamentally, this means a closing of gaps between design and construction. By modelling more accurately how design changes impact on real world issues, projects can move more quickly from conception to commissioning.
All of this could lead to significant cost savings and efficiencies. I have seen estimates of savings as high as 40% elimination of unbudgeted change, cost estimation accuracy within 3%, and 10% savings of the contract value.1
The Government Construction Strategy makes clear that BIM is central to improving the delivery of public sector projects. Yet a construction industry driven via BIM will also require a change of operating culture – and with that a new perspective on risk management.
Back in 2008, insurance giants and ACE affiliates Willis highlighted BIM as a game changer in the underwriting environment. BIM will provide challenges to suppliers, clients and the insurance industry because it is not always clear where the risks lie.
This will mean that procurement and contracts will need to be adapted to suit this new environment. The implications of working at full integration will require contractual and insurance requirements to be brought into line with the demands of integrated working.
For the construction sector, this implies greater transparency and a greater sense of shared responsibility. No longer will suppliers be able to sit within their traditional domains; we will all be in it together.
There will also need to be work on capacity building, education and skills within the supply chain. New professional protocols will need to be established – perhaps leading to a challenge to the existing structure of the supply chain.
To think in terms of consultants versus contractors would therefore be a recipe for failure. This was spelt out by Paul Morrell earlier this year: “If you think this is a race between institutions then you’re in the wrong sport”.2
As a report to the Government Construction Clients Board in March this year made clear, a realistic programme for change will be required to realise the benefits of BIM while managing the risks.
ACE sees BIM as a topic of great importance. If embedded correctly, it has great potential to drive efficiencies and improve risk management in construction – which will be of great benefit to all of us.
Just as social media is transforming the way we communicate, do business and live our lives, so too will BIM transform the way the construction industry delivers. BIM has to be market-driven. It is not for government to tell us how BIM should be done – it is for industry to push the boundaries of what can be achieved.
1 Stanford University Center for Integrated Facilities Engineering (2007)
2 NBS press release, 13 May 2011. Paul Morrell dismisses talk of a BIM race and ramps up call for ‘irresistible’ integration. www.thenbs.com