One of the more famous urban legends holds that the head of the patent office quit in 1875 declaring in his letter of resignation “there is nothing left to invent!” What makes this tickle our fancy is the irony: with the advantage of more than a century we marvel at his shortsightedness.
Yet let’s look at some current urban realities. New York has one of the largest construction markets in the country and although Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been around for a couple of decades, for far too many owners, architects, and builders it remains a novelty. Never mind that it’s evolved into the next Big Thing and there is an entire workforce that knows how to use it. This is not the next generation of CAD drawings, this is the next generation of construction. We should recognize how (not when) it’s changing the industry.
How can owners, architects, and builders look a little less shortsighted?
ENGAGE: Owners have the most to gain and should recognize that BIM is not re-inventing the wheel – it is the same wheel but now it will be rendered virtually. Ideas are tested on various models before they get “bought” in the real world. (For the die-hards out there who cling to the “old school” methods, note that BIM improves the bottom line – an “old school” tradition we all agree is worth preserving). By embracing the best technology available owners can improve planning and can expect a reliable database for the eventual operation of their facility. The entire life cycle of the building (from conception through operation) is cataloged and easily referenced. Taking their traditional roles as leaders of the construction industry, owners will start a new tradition of leading virtual design and construction into the future.
SHARE: Architects can facilitate this process by recognizing the opportunities in sharing their BIM data. Although liability should never be compromised, it can be fairly maintained. After the liability concerns are out of the way architects can benefit from the the unprecedented ability to coordinate and manage projects. The database must be shared and it should follow that, to a large extent, risk can be shared as well. As with everything else in construction, agreement beforehand presents the least amount of risk and liability. With better coordination, the Architect is afforded more control of the project, not less.
COLLABORATE: Builders, BIM makes construction a “team sport.” You and your subs are now playing on the same team and cost is not the only goal. Use BIM as a playbook rehearsal for coordination, planning interaction with other trades, participating in logistics, getting material and manpower when needed -- and just as important, not when they’re not needed, plus quantity take-offs (QTO’s) and more. The team is now participating in the entire outcome of the project. This is the winning move.
Separately and together, owners, architects, and builders have to think of BIM as a means to conflict mitigation; helping to identify what works and avoid what doesn’t, through every phase of the design and construction process. The old adage of “measure twice” is now up to computer speed. We can think, check, and rethink in nano seconds with BIM, allowing us to only “cut once.”
If you are not using BIM, start now. It is never too early. Yes, there will be “bumps,” (and we assume “bumps” didn’t stop your success in the past), and don’t expect your first encounter to be your best or your last. Figure out how it will serve you best. but remember, the world of construction is changing. BIM is how projects will proceed from now on. It is the future and you can’t keep thinking about how it used to work. Or you can, and become (like the head of patents) one of the infamous legends of history.