21 October 2016

Considering BIM implementation? Not sure who or what to believe? Don't let fear and falsehoods hold you back. Here we debunk 10 of the most common misconceptions around Building Information Modelling (BIM). It's the ultimate BIM mythbuster.

Top 10 BIM myths busted

Myth #1: BIM is just 3D modelling

BIM isn’t just about drawing things in three dimensions. While 3D models are perhaps the most obvious, visual manifestation of changed ways of working, they are only part of a much wider process. In many ways the ‘modelling’ referred to in 'BIM' is something of distraction. BIM is not just about creating a visual representation of a physical object or entity, rather it's about working collaboratively to produce digital datasets. This data (both graphical and non-graphical information) is deposited in a shared digital space known as the Common Data Environment (CDE) where it can be used to generate federated models. In summary, BIM is really about the purposeful management of information throughout the life of an asset. To work in this way will require you to think about people, process and technology, it's not just about the 3D model.

The truth? BIM is definitely not just about 3D models!

See also: Isn't BIM just 3D CAD?

Myth #2: BIM will take more time and impact on productivity

Any process that involves new ways of working will undoubtedly take some time to both scope, implement and bed in. Careful and considered planning will help mitigate the impact - choosing the right pilot project and making sure you've the time and resource to get up to speed, should ensure you build momentum. Longer-term you should soon start to feel the benefits with gains outweighing the initial investment.

Compared with more traditional ways of working a BIM approach typically frontloads the creation of project-related information and assets and this can take a little time to get used to in terms of project planning and resourcing. That being said, with a range of training and resources available, and the lessons learnt by other organisations to draw from, getting up to speed should be manageable for even the busiest firm.

BIM isn't the only change that the construction industry has had to grapple with - as surely as we moved from a pen to a mouse and CAD, then BIM is just the next evolutionary step. Just as typewriters are rarely found in modern offices, one day BIM will just be 'business as usual' so time invested now is likely to be well spent.

The truth? Perhaps at first but longer-term you should be more productive.

Myth #3: BIM will cost more

There will undoubtedly be some upfront costs with any kind of programme to change traditional working processes but these should be countered by longer-term efficiencies and benefits. While BIM isn't just about the hard or software, or extra training, there will likely be expenditure against all these budget lines in a wide-ranging BIM implementation. But BIM doesn't have to be expensive - there are many tools available for free or at low-cost, and lots of readily-accessible sources of guidance and help. Don't forget that you can easily decide which aspects of BIM implementation to tackle and when, controlling spend and timescales to dovetail with existing commitments. Do think carefully about passing on costs to clients who are unlikely to understand why they need to pay more for assets to be delivered 'properly'.

The truth? There will be upfront costs but these can be mitigated and should be recouped long-term.

Myth #4: BIM's just for the 'big' - big companies, big buildings, big (government) projects

Bleeding edge 'case studies' and 'exemplar projects' focussed on the big and impressive, but this should not be taken to mean that these are the only kinds of projects that can benefit from a BIM approach. Indeed, smaller companies potentially have most to gain from the efficiencies and collaboration brought about by BIM. The fact is that all organisations typically incur the same kinds of financial costs (though on differing scales) in delivering projects.

Though governments are increasingly encouraging or even mandating the use of BIM on their projects, taken by the benefits and efficiencies that can be realised, such an approach is not restricted to large, public-sector projects. Indeed, private sector clients are increasingly seizing the opportunities across a range of projects - both large and small, of varying levels of complexity.

The truth? Big or small, complex or simple, government or public sector - all projects and participants stand to benefit from a BIM approach.

Myth #5: BIM's just a flash in the pan

Some of the key concepts at the heart of BIM have been a long time in the making. The potential of co-ordinated design to eliminate waste and bring about cost savings was championed by organisations like the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in the 1970s. The logic behind automated clash detection was debated as far back as 1966. Far from being a fad, BIM is a natural evolution, made real by advances in technology, and spurred by advances and raised expectations in the wider world. One day BIM will just become 'business as usual' and those that embrace and adapt will stand to gain most.

The truth? BIM is an evolutionary step for the construction industry - its benefits real and useful. BIM isn't a fad and will one day just be business as usual.

As surely as we moved from a pen to a mouse and CAD, then BIM is just the next evolutionary step.

Myth #6: BIM only benefits those involved in design and construction

BIM uncovers all views of the same underlying information, so all project participants stand to gain from these new ways of working. Designers can spend more time actually designing, safe in the knowledge that their designs look good and perform as expected. By co-ordinating data, owners and contractors can accurately communicate design intent to clients. Using consistent, structured digital asset data should make it easy to see where operational costs lie for those interested in post-occupational decisions.

The truth? It's not just design and construction teams who stand to benefit from BIM - everyone does!

Myth #7: BIM's just a type of software

BIM is really a mind-set and not a software package. In implementing BIM you need to consider people, process and technology, to re-engineer existing ways of working to fully reap the benefits of digital, collaborative construction. Your biggest investment by far will be in the change management you have to put into effect across your company and not the cost of software to generate models / manipulate datasets.

The truth? There's much focus on software but BIM is about far, far more - it's about driving operational change.

Myth #8: BIM 'solves' clash detection

Level 2 BIM requires contributors to upload files to the Common Data Environment at pre-determined points in a construction project. This data is used to drive the production of a federated dataset and model which makes it much easier to see clashes as the work of a range of teams comes together at strategic points. BIM modelling software and BIM integration tools allow designers to check for clashes in their own models and when models are combined. This should, in theory, make it much easier to spot and rectify clashes but is no substitute for common sense (For example, some geometric clashes will always be perfectly acceptable - pipes recessed in walls, for example) and general rigour.

See also: Clash detection in BIM

The truth? Software can help flag clashes and data drops help resolve these early but BIM is no substitute for architectural rigour and common sense.

Myth #9: Clients don't know what to do with BIM data

Clients are increasingly asking for their projects to be 'BIM' projects without always fully understanding what this actually means in practice or the benefits such an approach would bring. It is for precisely this reason that stakeholders should engage well and engage early to make sure that both the client(s) and facilities management teams are brought in from the off to allow their requirements to be fully understood. Initiatives like the BSRIA/ UBT Soft Landings Framework and Government Soft Landings can help, and titles like BIM for Construction Clients are helping to concentrate minds.

See also: What does Government Soft Landings mean?

The truth? Engaging clients early can help manage expectations and get better results across the project lifecycle.

Myth #10: The geometry requirements are too burdensome

It may be tempting to model every single element on a project but there's no need to take this down to nuts and bolts unless a client has specified this. BIM is best typically used to 'imply' a product rather than manufacture it - so you should only need enough information to allow the project team to specify relevant construction products. Throughout the project lifecycle, this implication will be replaced by actual products and the level of information will increase. Objects may start off as a 'bounding box' (a 3D rectangle that represents an object yet to be fully determined) with rough dimensions serving to provide an indication of what's intended. At a design stage actual product information can be included so there's no need to waste time early on. The NBS BIM Toolkit defines the level of detail required for thousands of objects across the project lifecycle.

The truth? Clients should determine an appropriate level of detail and there is typically no need to model every single component.

Image credit: Andrew Lewin, Number 10, reproduced under a Creative Commons licence.