by Richard McPartland
The Periodic Table of BIM serves as an at-a-glance guide to the steps you need to take to ensure a successful BIM implementation.
Following on from the launch of the table, we’re developing a series of articles looking at the table groupings and the terms within. The sixth grouping focusses on TECHNOLOGY
Other articles in this series
The TECHNOLOGY grouping focusses on what you need to consider when thinking about software, hardware (and appropriate training), not to mention the file storage required for your new digital files. There's much to think about when establishing BIM infrastructure and we expand on some of those considerations below...
When deciding which software and platforms to use, don’t limit yourself to the views and prior experiences of your immediate project team.
Software and technology vendors will undoubtedly have something to say when it comes to features, integrations and success stories, but be sure too to talk to other practices to see what they’re using and learn from their implementation journeys. Get your head around what comes ‘out of the box’ and what takes more time, skill and bespoke know-how to implement! Think carefully about a phased approach to use – which bits will you need upfront, which can you turn on later?
Be sure to factor in the systems you’re currently working with when choosing new options – while complete replacement is one approach, it may not necessarily be the right one – playing to the strengths of a multitude of systems or dovetailing with existing work practices at various points may be worthwhile. Typically there’s no ‘one solution’ when it comes to BIM so do bear this in mind and consider what role free tools may potentially have to play in your BIM workflow.
Word of mouth and networking via traditional conferences and trade shows and digital methods (such as social media, webinars) will all prove useful in weighing up the pros and cons.
Closely linked to the decisions you’re likely to be making on software, don’t forget to consider the impact on existing hardware (or the cost of purchasing and installing new).
It may be tempting to pinch some pennies and make-do with existing kit if it will just about run new software. However, if you have to set up new machines down the line, right in the middle of a batch of complex projects, it could be foolhardy to skimp upfront.
Typically ‘the bigger, the better’ is the way to go when it comes to computer components – whether it’s the processor clock speed, the amount of RAM, size or speed of hard drive. Replacement cycles have lengthened in recent years – as computer specifications on launch typically exceed, by far, the minimum requirements of software, though there’s evidence that Moore’s Law may be starting to falter.Another thing to consider is the potential brought about by cloud hosting and storage solutions. By relying on external kit to do the heavy lifting work and more-moderately specced kit back at base is becoming a more realistic and affordable proposition for some.
New software (or using existing software for new things or in different ways) will likely require training. Depending on existing skills and knowledge you may be able to cascade training down from existing experts in-house, alternatively there’s likely to be a whole range of vendors and consultants willing to talk you through the basics or tailor something very, very specific to your needs. Be mindful that not everyone will need to know everything – but most (if not all) should understand how processes and deliverables fit together as part of the bigger picture.
Don’t forget that BIM is about much more than software… there’s a job to do to explain what BIM is, what benefits it brings, and what its impact will be on the way things are right now. These first principles are key to bringing people along on your journey, empowering them to let go of the past and get involved.
Remember too that, with a greater focus on collaboration, there’s likely to be a requirement to support members of staff in developing a whole range of soft skills that will get them working (and challenging) the right things to deliver better, more efficient outcomes.
File Storage (Fi)
As you move toward implementing platforms and software and the processes that will use them you should have a much greater understanding of what kind of files you’ll be generating for each project.
There’s a tricky balance between opening up relevant systems and storage to allow for collaboration while being sure that security is sufficiently locked down to avoid the potential of damage – be it unintentional or malicious.
Your technical team will need to wrestle with appropriate routes in and out of your internal network (and potentially into someone else’s in your supply chain). They may be called upon to potentially configure something entirely new and separate, perhaps even based ‘in the cloud’ rather than physical server boxes in your IT departments’ rack space.
As the amount of digital data you produce is set to increase, consider your approach to fail-safe and back-up from the start. How and when will data be mirrored or snapshots taken and where will it be stored? Documenting the process of getting things going again, should the worst happen, will also keep your IT department busy in the months ahead.Consider too your approach to file formats and naming conventions to allow your systems to easily query and anticipate what’s what and ensure that they’ll be able to use them at the appropriate points of a project. Be sure to take into account the needs of other parties down the supply chain as well as best practice recommendations.
Your infrastructure is the network of systems that keep things moving as part of your BIM workflow.
As you make decisions on software, hardware and security, you’ll need to ensure that a whole range of systems and outputs ‘talk to each other’ in the right way, in the right time and output in the right formats.
More fundamentally, you need to understand every point of your infrastructure to troubleshoot or design-out potential weak-links at various points in the procedure and ensure there’s suitable resilience and fall-back.