Part III: Building information modelling (BIM)

Part III: Building Information Modelling (BIM)

We have blog posts about how midmarket AEC firms can recover and get ahead of the competition with a comprehensive digital roadmap. Have a look at the first post, on streamlining systems to cut costs. And the second, on getting onsite IT right.

Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) is a fascinating sector because it embraces such a broad range of skills and challenges. But in one way, AEC is like any other industry we work with: there’s always some new tech trend promising ‘transformation’ or ‘disruption’.

At Freeman Clarke, we feel that it’s all right to be a bit skeptical about trends. We’re always looking ahead, of course. It’s just that we don’t find it necessary to buy into every prediction. Self-driving cars may be on the way, but in the meantime, we’ll hang onto our driver’s license, thanks very much.

So you can believe us when we say that if you’re in the AEC sector, you absolutely need to be thinking about Building Information Modeling (BIM).

What is BIM?

As with other trends, the definition can of BIM can be vague depending on whom you’re talking to (especially if they’re in software sales!). The UK Infrastructure and Projects Authority has a definition:

BIM supports the digitisation of construction and uses information relating to the asset to build a three-dimensional model. BIM requires all project and asset information, documentation and data to be electronic, which supports efficient delivery at the design and construction phases of the project.

Think of BIM as a 5D computer model. CAD renderings, with length, width and height, are 3D. BIM adds the further dimensions of time and cost. What this means is that you have a model useful for both visualising a structure and understanding the lifespan and costs of its component parts.

With BIM models, architects, engineers, and contractors are planning the design, construction, operation and maintenance of a structure. They can even plan for its efficient demolition, should that be necessary.

Why should I care?

Because the potential advantages of BIM are massive:

  • Better coordination between architects, engineers, and contractors
  • Greatly reduced wastage and errors
  • More efficient construction with fewer changes
  • Faster comms amongst teams
  • Increased client satisfaction due to visibility and transparency
  • Increased overall quality

At this stage, BIM simply requires the adoption of standard tools that can handle standard file formats. But it will get more complicated. Either way, as with any new technology, it will require an investment of time and money.

Still, CEOs of all AEC mid-market companies need to embrace this technology — and expect their Board to lead this change in the coming years — or they’re going to get left behind.

The UK government is already working on standards for BIM, which will presumably be applied to everything from foundations to the tiniest bolt. The companies connected to these standards will move ahead; those who don’t risk getting excluded from systems and suppliers or government contracts.

What’s my next step?

We believe that IT leadership is the key to adopting BIM — a Board-level CIO or CTO with experience in both business and technology. BIM will become a standard business practice before long, and it will be the key to any number of lucrative contracts. But with the right leadership, you can implement it in any that makes commercial sense for your company.

If you’d like to discuss how Freeman Clarke can help your midmarket AEC firm develop its BIM capabilities — or any other kind of technology — feel free to get in touch for an informal chat.