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Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine

All too often, we hear the adage that BIM is 10% technology and 90% sociology but what does this really mean if so many construction industry stakeholders still remain skeptical about the benefits to them? Stephan Jones, Segment Manager of Trimble MEP, examines how best those heading-up the BIM vanguard can help other more cynical businesses on-board. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he determines, it’s collaboration and not elitism that’s the key.

For subcontractors especially, they are often dependent on the demands of the general contractor; this demand has been written into contracts without the detail or process to either back it up or render it effective, clash detection is significant tool in the armoury of good coordination yet the downstream matching of installation to plan through the use of laser setting out (consistently across trades) often results in delivery coordination issues seemingly negating all that upstream investment.

Even when best practice is followed the functional coordination is often overlooked leading to inaccessible access panels, dampers that can’t be serviced and maintained and air handling unit filters that can’t be replaced. To ease BIM engagement the what, when, and probably why need to be contextualized for each trade and commitments made to ensure that discipline is maintained otherwise the benefits for each and all will be diluted by the failure of a single project participant.

Subcontractors need to feel the benefit to both commit and then invest in BIM. A recent discussion with a leading US M&E contractor showed that good practice backed up by clear engagement requirements that included penalty clauses for failure to deliver the right information to the right quality at the right time has catapulted their business forward, all driven by BIM-esque principals.

Other constraints include the sheer cost of mounting a campaign to adopt BIM. It’s not just buying a single new piece of software; that software will likely link in with other point solutions and each will require extensive training, a shift in job scope and a differently skilled/capable worker. All this adds up to a significant cost which due to the nature of the industry is traditionally allocated to the project cost center.  This is reasonable when the BIM level of engagement repeats on subsequent projects, but more difficult when you are a medium tier contractor whose work portfolio is not 100% populated by BIM projects! In instances like this it’s valid to remember that buying-in BIM services and expertise can be of real value.

In conclusion, and in the hope that you will by now agree that Luddism is not an appropriate characterization for those questioning or struggling with BIM. It’s clear that further effort is required by those in a position to do so to translate, condense, make real what is required, how to do it and probably a bit of support in investing in the capability.