ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 120 - 08/11/2011

Organizations Plan for BIM ‘Centre of Excellence’ in Alberta

Five organizations intend to create an Alberta Centre of Excellence in Building Information Modeling (ACE-BIM) -- an endeavor that is expected to benefit the facilities industry beyond the Canadian province.


The organizations want the center to promote BIM use, educate businesses and individuals about using the technology, and play a research-and-development role to advance BIM and the accompanying infrastructure and industry changes that it might require. Organizations participating in this project include Alberta Finance and Enterprise, the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.


An ACE-BIM task team has been assembled to develop marketing strategies to “ensure Alberta remains an innovative leader of the construction sector.” Toward this end, the team has contracted with Nichols Applied Management to conduct a survey of representatives from organizations and employees that will be impacted by BIM adoption.

Survey participants will inform the task team about their current awareness, perceptions, and participation in BIM through these and other questions:


  • Do you have software that supports the use of BIM?
  • In what types of projects has your organization used BIM?
  • In what stage(s) of your organization’s projects has BIM been used?


Results of the survey, which will close Aug. 22, will be presented at a BIM symposium in the fall.


Project Official Provides Additional Details

In an interview with Construction Project Controls and BIM Report (CPC/BIM), Nichols Principal Shane Pospisil provided the following additional details about the center:


CPC/BIM: What is your company’s role in this effort?


Pospisil: We’ve been brought on to assist a number of the key Alberta stakeholders in looking at establishing a Centre of Excellence around [BIM] systems. It’s really intended to enhance our ability to come up to speed with the new technologies that are emerging and to disseminate some of these technologies, particularly to some of our smaller building-product firms, and that’s the process we’re kind of facilitating…. [At several] universities -- the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology -- there are all kinds of research work under way, curriculum changes that are being looked at, and our role is to look at how we pull together this new strategic partnership to make sure that our province is well-positioned given the changes that are happening [involving BIM] and that we remain competitive and leading-edge.


CPC/BIM: When will this center open?


Pospisil: We’re not at a point where we actually have a date. We’re in the process of developing a business plan, and with all of the stakeholders that I mentioned earlier -- the two universities, the two technical institutes, industry (including builders, architects, designers, and building-product companies in our province) -- we’ve been working the last couple of months [toward] trying to understand what each of those groups is looking for, what their awareness of BIM is, what their issues are, what they would like to see, and we’re pulling that business plan together and a governance structure for the center and how the center would look. I think it’s safe to say that we’re not looking at bricks and mortar right now because the bricks and mortar are already in place. The universities already have very nice buildings and facilities and research. What the center will do is tie together the synergies that have come out of each of these areas and try and leverage the synergistic elements to the benefit of the overall industry and the province. So the center is going to be virtual, and it will have a number of major program components. The big one initially will be education and awareness, making sure that not only the large- and medium-sized firms are aware of the trends and the challenges that those trends represent but also the opportunities they represent. Research and development is already under way quite extensively with our educational institutions. How do we kind of tie industry into that? How do we make sure that the research is relevant to the needs of industry, that it allows for commercialization and improves positions in terms of competitiveness? So the center will be a virtual center involving the members that I just mentioned but with some very specific deliverables around education awareness, research and development, and what I call ‘implementation-related activities.’

CPC/BIM: About how much will it cost to carry out these activities?

Pospisil: We haven’t released that number yet, but [even though] the bricks and mortar are really already in place, there’s still going to be funding elements as we pull together the partnerships that we’re talking about here and the linkages among all of these groups and developing new curricul[a] and some of the research and development. We’ve got a couple of major workshops or symposi[a] that are coming up in late September in Edmonton and Calgary, and they’re focused on education and awareness. [One of the speakers will be] the former president and chief operating officer of Ford Motor Co., Jim Padilla, who will talk about similar computerized engineering solutions that they implemented in the automotive sector about 10 years ago. The principles are all very simple. You’re using computers and the power they offer to really enhance competitiveness, productivity, customer service, logistics, and product sourcing. So, a lot of what they went through at Ford is obviously relevant to what we’re talking about in the [BIM arena] as well. We’re expecting good turnouts at [those events], and that’s one of the education and awareness components right now.


CPC/BIM: Will each partner contribute a certain amount of money to the operation? Will you also draw upon government assistance?


Pospisil: The answer is ‘yes’ to [both questions. About the] federal and provincial governments, we’re going to approach them with a specific request for funding the start-up phases. The universities, obviously, have a lot of in-kind support that’s being provided in addition to the companies. Even the people we have in our advisory group right now, when industry people sit there for a meeting of 3-4 hours, that’s a very significant in-kind contribution when you’ve got presidents and vice presidents sitting there and they’re rolling up their sleeves to help us to design a governance structure and help us look at some of the program and service offerings that the center would provide. So, the contributions -- monetarily [could come from] government and universities and the in-kind contributions from all of the participants, [which] are probably going to well-outweigh what we’re going to get in terms of long-term funding.


CPC/BIM: In the end, what will this center offer that is not already being offered elsewhere in the BIM community? What will be unique about the center?


Pospisil: … What we’re doing that’s different here is we’re trying to organize ourselves for success. The emergence of BIM is going to create both challenges and opportunities for jurisdictions around the world, and we want to make sure that we’re well-positioned to respond to the competitive challenges represented by BIM and BIM protocols but also well-positioned to take advantage of emerging opportunities both within our jurisdiction, across Canada, and across North America. So that’s the fundamental thrust, and that’s the rationale for the governments participating in this, potentially, with some funding assistance. They’re trying to promote at that platform, particularly where the smaller enterprises can participate and succeed. And up to this point in time, we really don’t have that delivery mechanism to pull all of the partners together. The universities, when they work with industry, it’s often on an ad-hoc or project-by-project basis. And this will tie the stakeholders together in a more systematic and formal way.


CPC/BIM: Beyond Alberta, how will this operation benefit the entire BIM community?


Pospisil: There are stakeholders within our emerging alliance here who are obviously working as part of some of these other organizations and groups, which have been set out there, so it’s not like we’re an island unto ourselves here. We’ve got players around that table who are heavily integrated. [They] have linkages to the center in Singapore. We’ve talked to some of our members who have experienced what’s happening elsewhere, and at this point in time we want to kind of set up our own organization and really develop the synergies and alliances within Alberta. It doesn’t mean we’re turning our back on some of these broader linkages. Quite the contrary. We think when the center is up and running and the programming and services are there, that we’ll be an even more effective partner for some of these other groups across the planet.


CPC/BIM: So there could be lessons learned from your partnership that perhaps could help organizations elsewhere?


Pospisil: Absolutely, but that’s a two-way street. Right now, as we’re going through the business-plan modeling for the Center of Excellence we’re looking at setting up, we’re certainly looking around the world at what other jurisdictions have done. In many cases, they’re ahead of us in some areas. In many cases, we’re kind of right up to where everyone else is, maybe not as formalized. We’re looking out and trying to see models that have worked and worked well. We call them best-practices models as we get together with our committee, and we’re trying to see how those best practices fit our jurisdiction and the industry and academic mix we have in our province. … We’ve had a lot of dialogue with some of these other groups around the world, and they’re intrigued about how we’re structuring our system. We’re open to sharing as well. This trend is going to be such that there will be benefits for everybody. It’s an emerging trend. There’s going to be lots of opportunities associated with it. If we can learn from each other, I think the role of the BIM systems and BIM technology and processes will [progress] a lot more smoothly. We have a lot to learn from others, and I would hope that down the road some might learn from our experience as well.


CPC/BIM: Other comments?


Pospisil: As I sit with the various stakeholders around the table -- the universities, the two technical institutions, industry, the building-products people -- we’ve got a really good group on the Steering Committee. These are people who are constantly looking for solutions. Innovation really defines the committee. It’s a group of really high-powered people. Watch and see where we end up here over the next three months. I think there will be a model here that a lot of other jurisdictions will want to look at.




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