Part III: Building Information Modelling (BIM)

Part III: Building Information Modelling (BIM)

Check out 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 technology trend promising “transformation” or “disruption.”

At Freeman Clarke, we feel that it’s all right to have a little healthy skepticism. We’re always looking ahead, of course. It’s just that we don’t buy into every prediction. Self-driving cars may be on the way, but in the meantime, we’ll hang onto our driver’s license.

So you can believe us when we say that if you’re in the AEC sector, you definitely 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 US National Institute of Building Sciences, which is working on national BIM standards, has a definition:

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.

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 visualizing 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 ever be necessary.

Why should I care?

Because the potential advantages of BIM are enormous:

  • Better coordination between architects, engineers, and contractors
  • Greatly reduced wastage and errors
  • More efficient construction with fewer changes
  • Faster communication between 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 we believe that 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 the C-suite to lead this change — or they’re going to get left behind.

As we mentioned above, the US 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 — an C-suite-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.