Almost daily we read articles from suppliers, consultants, influencers and digital pioneers who say they are leading development of building information modeling. They claim to bring exciting news and visions about breakthrough technologies capable of transforming engineering and construction firms built on a 1960s-based business model into lean, smart and efficient enterprises. Too often purported breakthroughs are proposed in seminars where BIM is sold as the key to success and to real efficiency. Yet there is no evidence of such progress.
The industry’s problems remain the same. According to studies by construction management consultant FMI Corp., 30% of projects do not meet schedule or budget, 11% of construction costs are spent on rework, and 92% of project owners say architectural drawings are insufficient for construction. Why has BIM not changed everything—and improved productivity—and why does such a powerful innovation not change the way we build? One reason is that the promotional presentations fail to mention that real know-how is needed to gain all that can be gained with BIM.
We offer another question—who in construction can point to an optimum example of a perfect 100% BIM implementation, and what is the basis for saying that? What’s lacking are any serious key performance indicators or BIM project rankings.
Granted, there are scientific papers addressing the issue, but these are mostly neglected. More importantly, there is almost nothing addressing BIM performance indicators in principal international standards, including the important ISO 19650. Without a deep discussion of the key performance indicators, how can they be evaluated? And how will progress be made with no standardized function to evaluate results?
Until the industry defines and adopts an agreed-upon standard to evaluate BIM projects, there would be no objective reason for a company to implement the technology. As things stand now, industry can hardly evaluate in a clear and objective manner how BIM influences work quality and productivity.
Several research papers have suggested a schematic model that can measure the performance of BIM implementation. Some focus on measures related to general execution, such as construction time, cost and requests for information.
A different approach, now gaining trust in the scientific community, relates partly to customer satisfaction. But how does one measure learning curves and growing skill in an industry where the product is rarely standardized, and how can measures be interwoven with BIM implementation?
We believe a realistic approach is to try to shift performance measures from general themes to specific and measurable aspects of the BIM model’s use: coordination among multiple parties, submissions of deliverables, time management, quantity take-offs completed, clashes detected and others.
This approach is superior because each BIM model use is structured differently according to its specific scope. As a result, meaningful key performance indicators must be linked to these purposes and based on the number of resubmissions, coordination mistakes, production time and resources used. For example, BIM-empowered quantity take-off models would be measured by the amount of extra materials needed, recalculation speeds and the time spent on these issues and tasks.
By relying on specific performance measures, it is possible to evaluate BIM compared with a traditional computer-aided design. With these quantifiable measures, broader key performance indicators will emerge that address financial performance, customer satisfaction, stakeholder understanding and conflict avoidance.
International standard-writing bodies should introduce the most meaningful performance indicators for BIM. If that is done, they will open eyes and provide inspiration that will accelerate the shift from computer-aided design, and the entire industry will benefit.
Nicola Ianeselli, BIM lead for BEC Industries; Riccordo Coccoluto, BIM coordinator at Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura; and Massimo Purin, BIM expert for Italy’s LFAGroup, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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