Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How BIM changes effort levels across the AEC industry


This is  a short overview of a recent industry study conducted by AEC Connect in order to establish the sentiment among some of Australia’s leading architecture and engineering consultants who use BIM to deliver projects on a day to day basis.

Precedence to this report

This short report is the outcome of a recent industry study conducted by AEC Connect in order to establish the sentiment among some of Australia’s leading architecture and engineering consultants who use BIM to deliver projects on a day to day basis. Download the full report here!

Manifold conversations (some of which rather passionate) with industry expert preceded the research undertaken here. The following questions came up again and again:
  • Does working in BIM save consultants time and money?
  • What effect does BIM have on the quality of documents consultants produce?
  • Can consultants/contractors ever expect to be paid higher fees for delivering projects using BIM?
  • What value-add is the use of BIM on projects to clients?
  • How could clients judge the quality of BIM outcomes they are presented with?
  • Why would they pay an extra cent if it saves the consultants/the contractor money?
  • Should fees actually go down?

Some of these ‘hot topics’ are rarely discussed publicly. Clients seem too little informed to be able to make a sound judgement in how far BIM affects fees. Consultants and contractors are at times uncomfortable discussing the effort-level that goes into establishing BIM as most go through a substantial learning curve with fast moving targets. Ultimately, the success of implementing BIM on projects is not decided by those who apply it best, but rather by those who are least advanced, thereby holding back progress of others. In addition to this, the ROI of BIM is difficult to grasp as it depends on a large variety of factors that seem to change dramatically as building industries globally go through the BIM adoption process. 



In early 2013 McGraw Hill released an in-depth report reviewing the rate of BIM adoption across North America between 2009-2012. The report highlighted two key findings:

  1. Using BIM is no longer a distinguishing factor, but rather a means for consultants to maintain repeat business from their clients
  2. A positive ROI when implementing BIM is not per se a given. It depends strongly on the quality of implementation and the profession you belong to (with engineers finding it particularly tough).  

Whereas the reasons for the ROI dilemma are not easy to grasp, the McGraw Hill report highlights that the construction industry in North America is still experiencing major challenges in the adoption of BIM. It can be argued that the situation elsewhere is not much different. What is good ‘BIM value for money?’ How does one justify the cost of implementation? Does the market simply dictate the level of BIM services clients can expect from consultants and contractors? What are the benefits for those who ‘do’ BIM well?
The core reason why these questions cannot easily be answered at this point is the lack of clear measures of BIM competency and the quality of work delivered through BIM. By nature, BIM redistributes the roles and responsibilities of various participants on design projects as Quality Assurance occurs much earlier on projects than in pre-BIM times. Not only does QA occur earlier, it is also conducted by different parties with a shift away from costly checks on site, to eliminating clashes/inconsistencies in the planning phase through more detailed coordination. Even though the final outcome may look familiar, with BIM we ultimately produce a higher quality product that entails a new distribution of effort and value.
Clients, who are not aware of the underlying dynamics inherent to BIM, easily overlook the relationship between effort, quality, and value. This oversight (ambivalence) is more likely to occur if they apply traditional contracts to procure projects, set up teams, and determine the associated fee structure. 


Going out to the industry

In order to address some of the issues mentioned before, this report provides a starting point for further discussion. It contains responses to 13 questions that were asked to a group of leading architects and engineers who are at the forefront of using BIM across Australia. 15 practices participated in this short survey. This report does not offer a comprehensive and detailed picture of BIM uptake in Australia. Instead, it provides an insight about the current sentiment these leading practices have regarding the level of effort that goes into implementing BIM.


Some respondents struggled to quantify the effort levels for the use of BIM in relation to pre-BIM approaches. This does not come as a surprise, as – similar to issues related to ROI – effort sometimes is nearly impossible to quantify as it depends on manifold factors that undergo substantial variations over time. In some cases there simply is no precedence:

Still, the overwhelming majority of respondents embraced the challenge to provide a ball park figure (of effort) based on their initial ‘gut-reaction’. In addition, a large number of survey participants added more detailed comments to their responses in order to contextualise their responses within a wider context of their implementation effort. The combined percentages, complemented by the associated descriptive comments offer valuable insights into the perceived effort levels associated to various tasks we undergo when using BIM.

click image to enlarge

Results Summary

In the graph presented here you can find combined results. The numbers on the left represent percentages of perceived change in effort when using BIM.







2 comments:

  1. It is interesting and revealing that only a small portion of the firms have a grasp of the implications of BIM on FM. The single tie from design to operations which has the most value impact on the life-cycle-cost of the building. The conclusion of the original report is, I believe, right on target. Until owner/operations reps understand the possibilities of this connection we will likely continue to 'wander in the wilderness' not knowing where to go. Fortunately, the FM crowd is beginning to awaken to this possibliity.

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  2. It was an interesting post with some valuable information however it does not offer a detailed picture of BIM uptake in Australia but it provides a detailed insight about the current sentiment these leading practices have regarding the level of effort that goes into implementing BIM.

    Land Surveyor Sydney

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