For building information modeling (BIM) to reach its full potential around the world, governments will need to play a significant role in promoting the technology, according to WSP Group Plc. This conclusion is included in a new report that the global engineering design consultancy commissioned, entitled “10 Truths about BIM.”
“Throughout our business, we are embracing BIM not just as a design tool but as a completely new way of working, which will change the way we do business in the construction industry,” WSP Executive Director Paul Dollin said. “However, change is not embraced by everyone, and for the benefits of BIM to be realized fully, the industry will need the support of governments in addition to the private sector and the broad cooperation of owners, designers, contractors, and manufacturers.”
The report was produced by Kairos Future, which combined interviews and desk research with a statistical analysis of online media, including a review of approximately 600,000 articles from around the world.
The research led WSP to make the following conclusions:
- BIM Takes Design to the Next Level -- “Technological developments open up new avenues for design, and BIM is no exception. The 3D function enables complex shapes, and the software’s ability to handle sophisticated calculations will allow structural engineers to push the boundaries with ever-more-daring designs.”
- In BIM, the ‘I’ is More Important than the ‘B’ --“Pretty pictures might impress, but it is as an information-management tool that BIM software really shines. One reason for the slow take-up of BIM in the civil-engineering sector is that the BIM community has so far focused on ‘building’ to the detriment of ‘information.’”
- The Color of BIM is Green -- “Using [BIM] properly will cut project time and thereby energy use as well as cost. BIM will reduce the waste of materials during construction and building management and eventually assist in sustainable demolition. Energy modeling can also minimize energy use over a building’s life cycle.”
- BIM will Destabilize the Construction Industry --“Unlike computer-aided design, which computerized a single activity while leaving macro processes largely intact, BIM will change everything. There’s no point attempting to implement BIM software throughout the industry with the expectation that things won’t change. They will.”
- Governments Must Actively Participate -- “The benefits of working the BIM way only [can] come with close collaboration. If one member of a project team is using BIM while the others continue doing things the old way, there will be limited benefit. To make the investment worthwhile, someone has to help break the stalemate. That someone is often the government.”
- Companies Must Work as One -- “Firms and disciplines working separately, interacting only through the exchange of construction documents, just won’t do any more. BIM both enables and requires tighter integration.”
- Both the Software and the Professionals Must Work Together -- “But simply working together isn’t enough -- habits and routines have to be aligned in order to make cooperation natural. The software will need to be developed to allow seamless integration, and so will the attitudes of professionals.”
- New Contracts will Emerge -- “Both digitalization and close collaboration challenge the prevailing system of intellectual ownership. There are two possible development routes. One is increased specialization, where ownership resides with modeling specialists. The other is consolidation into giant firms as companies work increasingly closely, solving ownership issues.”
- The Software Platform is at a Crossroads -- “The fight for supremacy in the software world rages on. Depending on the outcome of current power struggles, the digital environment in the new construction industry will conform to one of three types: open standard; closed and proprietary standard; or no/several standards.”
- BIM will Become the DNA of Future Construction --“When the system is sufficiently streamlined, we can start to focus on using it. Once the basic information infrastructure is in place and we’ve learned to work with it, numerous technologies – [whether] in use or in the pipeline -- can be brought in.”
WSP Official Provides Additional Details to CPC/BIM
In an email interview with Construction Project Controls and BIM Report, WSP Group Communication Director Siv Axelsson provided the following additional information about the “10 Truths” report and the worldwide outlook for BIM.
CPC/BIM: Could you provide some additional information about the methodology that was used to conduct the research? Which types of construction professionals were interviewed and when, what specific questions were they asked, etc.?
Axelsson: The research was made by Kairos Future (www.kairosfuture.com), which specializes in conducting research for international clients. They combined statistical analysis of online media and scanned blogs whitepapers, reports, forums, academic and technical journal articles, and interviews with expertise from a wide array of experts. The study was conducted during March-June 2011. The questions were about how they perceive BIM, what they think of the future of our industry, and how BIM will impact our business, what the gains are, and what the hurdles are.
CPC/BIM: Which countries did this research project encompass? Do the ‘10 Truths’ hold up for all areas of the world? If not, in which areas do they not hold up?
Axelsson: The research encompassed Australia, China, India, United Kingdom (U.K.), United States, Finland, Sweden, Norway, South Africa, Germany, and United Arab Emirates. I would say that the ‘10 Truths’ hold up for all countries. It differs in weight as you can see in the word clouds, but it is still quite consistent.
CPC/BIM: The report states that for BIM’s benefits to be fully realized, the industry will need government support. Exactly what will governments need to do to provide an adequate amount of support? Direct subsidies? Tax breaks? Requiring BIM for all public buildings? What specific requirements and/or amounts of government funding will be needed?
Axelsson: Direct subsidies are important to make it happen. BIM is in a way like the telephone. If you are alone with a phone and have no one to call, it doesn’t make much sense. There are good role models in, for instance, Norway and the U.K. [Statens] Vegvesen, the road authority in Norway, requires a BIM process in new projects. And [last] June, the U.K. government published its Building Information Modelling Working Party Strategy. This report announced the government’s intention to require collaborative 3D BIM -- with all project and asset information, documentation, and data being electronic -- on its projects by 2016. Specific amounts of required funding are hard to predict. I think if BIM becomes a presumption for public buildings and infrastructure, we have come a long way.
CPC/BIM: How will the report be used and by whom? Will the report be sent to government officials worldwide?
Axelsson: The report is used by our local BIM experts, and it differs from region to region on how they will use it. For instance, here in Sweden we have a big seminar this Friday where we have invited officials and academic professionals to discuss how Sweden can take steps forward [to include] BIM in the public procurements for both buildings and infrastructure.
CPC/BIM: The report states that ‘depending on the outcome of current power struggles, the digital environment in the new construction industry will conform to one of three types: open standard; closed and proprietary standard; or no/several standards.’ In your opinion, which one of these three types will win out and when?
Axelsson: That’s a good question. I wish I knew. For the moment, it differs in different countries. In Germany, for instance, it’s a German brand, Allplan, which is in the lead of the industry in Germany and some other non-English-speaking countries. Revit is the leader in many others. I wish for the open park, and sooner or later I guess we will be there. It is like the ‘http’-protocol for the Internet. It will be something everyone has to relate to, but there will always pop up new ideas and technologies that will have to connect. There is an estimate in the report that by [April 2022], plus or minus [about] five years, we will be there.
CPC/BIM: Will a follow-up report be issued and, if so, when?
Axelsson: We don’t know yet. It depends on how it will be received and how our organization takes it to heart.
CPC/BIM: Other comments?
Axelsson: I’m glad for your interest and hope that we all can be part of making our industry more efficient and cooperative. It’s a big issue, and it will take a while. But if you compare to other industries -- for instance, the graphic industry -- the tipping point came quite suddenly. So, we will see.