Wednesday, May 8, 2013

BIM - 10 years on

A reflection on achievements (and misses) of BIM in the past 10 years based on  a range of highly diverse, BIM related conferences that are currently on the way in Australia.

It has now been over 10 years since BIM became officially accepted as the industry acronym to represent the breadth of investigations into object-based virtual modelling and building product models that reach out to the entire building lifecycle.

Back in 2003 BIM had been around in one way or another for 2-3 decades, but it was not until that year that the construction industry globally started using this three letter acronym.

Where do we stand with the adoption of BIM right now? What has been achieved in those 10 years and what has not (yet) been achieved over this period? 

I won’t attempt to produce a full chronological account of the achievements and challenges leading up to this decennial (I’m sure these will pop up elsewhere). Instead, I will reflect on the path we have taken by illustrating the breadth and depth of developments surrounding BIM on the hand of 6 conferences that are about to take place in (in around Australia) which all deal with BIM one way or another. The density and the diversity of these BIM related events, on a national (and partly international) level, are unprecedented. This BIM “mainstreamification” is in no way limited to the Australian region. It follows an international trend where more and more developed countries are becoming savvy in the implementation and application of BIM related processes, policies, training, and procurement.

The suite of large industry events in this ‘BIM season’ is kicked off by a VANZI conference & expo on 13 & 14 May in Sydney. VANZI stands for ‘Virtual Australia & New Zealand Initiative’ and I was fortunate to pre-view the Keynote presentation by VANZI’s CEO Michael Haines just before the start of this exciting event. Central to the initiative is buy-in from government, large corporate organisations, academia and leading thinkers in the ‘virtual space’ overall. VANZI thereby addresses a broad range of spatial, social, environmental and built-environment related issues in their virtual, physical and legal context. It becomes evident that BIM now plays an important role as a stepping stone to connect geometric information and spatial data from the building level, to a ‘precinct’ scale (PIM), and finally the overarching geospatial context (GIS).  

Those attending the VANZI conference can just about make it to this year’s Australasian Revit Technology Conference (RTC) that will take place in Auckland (NZ) from 16-18 May. RTC has established itself as the BIM user conference. It so happens to be initiated by Revit users, but it has long expanded from this focus to become a true BIM event with an ever increasing spectrum of presentations that deal with broader aspects of implementing BIM and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) in practice. An example of this broad (but still very practice centred) approach is the expansion of the “Principals’ Stream” from one to two days. Next to the peer-to peers support usually provided in the other (more technical) streams, the principals’ stream offers insights from legislators, quantity surveyors, client representatives, facility managers and BIM experts. 

The conference parade continues with the “BIM Day Out” in Perth on the 18th of July. Similar to the RTC, the BIM Day Out also seems to be a mainly user-centric event (proclaimed as ‘BIM festival’ by the organisers). As much as RTC jumped eastwards over to NZ this year for the first time, the BIM Day Out may well be its western cousin. It will surely cater for the steadily growing West Australian audience, but the organisers don’t hide their ambition to make this a national event. It is too early to tell the exact focus of the BIM Day Out as there is too little information available publicly about the speaker line-up and associated activities. 

After discussions with Sumit Oberoi, Project Manager and BIM-MEPAUS and Executive Director AMCA (VIC) I am getting excited about this year’s Construction Innovation Forum in Melbourne from 25-26 July. For the first time, the AMCA runs this as a two day event and it further demonstrates their BIM leadership role as a national organisation representing a group of subcontractors. As noted in a previous post, last year’s BIM-MEPAUS conference was one of the highlights of the event calendar and I have no doubt that this year will continue this trend. Respect is due for AMCA’s approach to deliver both: The big picture of where the entire industry is going as well as subcontractor focussed reports and case-studies that provide a thorough grounding on current best practice in Australia (and beyond). I won’t hold back with my opinion that this annual forum is the leading sub-contractor-initiated BIM event globally and it puts the outstanding work of this Australian industry group on the map. 

The next BIM-related event tackles the subject from a different angle. The national conference of the Society of Construction Law (SOCLA) will take place in Sydney from 2-4 August. They focus on Construction, Technology & the Law and a short glimpse of their speaker line-up promises a strong bias towards BIM and associated approaches for integrated project delivery (IPD). Based on my knowledge about the Australian BIM scene I would argue that 2012-2013 has seen a substantial increase in interest by lawyers who investigate the impact of BIM. Contract and dispute law are the two key areas affected by BIM. The establishment of new agreements that better fit a BIM workflow are currently under development by a number of firms. The development of contractual frameworks that focus on the Managing Contractor model as well as Relationship contracting (such as currently investigated by the Department of Defence) is pivotal to the success of BIM on the procurement side. Key contributors to the discourse about contractual implications of BIM are present at the conference.  This shows substantial promise for advancing the subject throughout our industry. 

The final conference on this list is the annual BIM Summit in Sydney on August 26 & 27. In its third year, and organised by Informa, the Summit has established itself as one of the premier events on the annual BIM calendar in the Australasian region. The elevated price tag indicates that the Summit is not your average user conference. Instead, it is a high-class get-together of the leading global BIM facilitators and ‘doers’. The Summit has an ambitious line-up of speakers with keynote addresses from some of the biggest hitters from the UK, the US, Asia, and our region. The Summit thereby covers a broad spectrum of BIM related activities in the planning, construction, and management of building assets. This spectrum ranges from policy related matters to BIM research & skill development, Project Management, Collaboration, BIM for Quantity surveyors, BIM for Facility Managers, BIM for Consultants, contractors, and BIM for Owners. In addition to covering all these topics, the organisers also call for submissions for the first Australian BIM awards.

After 10 years of BIM we start to see convergence between the efforts by various professions in the construction industry and those who facilitate its progress through legislation and the supply of building products. BIM is now steadily expanding into PIM (precinct information models) on the geospatial and infrastructure side, while witnessing tighter integration between design, construction and operation. Legal frameworks and policies are reconsidered in the context of enabling ever more transparent sharing of information while managing the risks associated to the BIM workflow.
Many challenges still lie ahead:

·         Tighter supply-chain integration and lifecycle analysis, feeding into:
·         Better building performance optimisation and control,
·         Increased automation of pre-fabrication and assembly
·         Intelligent model checking applications (also against the code)
·         Increased interoperability between distinct CAD/CAM/BIM applications
·         Intuitive user interfaces, backed up by knowledge-based systems for swift decision-making
·         Application-based software for targeted and local optimisation and rationalisation routines

Without doubt, we live in very interesting times and the last 10 years have shown substantial progress and a fundamental impact of BIM on the way we conceive and deliver buildings. Working in the cloud is about to become the next stepping stone in this development and some of us are already in the starting block for this to happen.

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