What screws up the BIM process?

Summary of “What screws up the BIM process?” discussion
Cincinnati BIM User Group meeting 16 August, 2012
Facilitator: Dave Pluke

In attendance were representatives of Educators, Owners, General Contractors, Mechanical & Electrical Contractors, Electrical, Plumbing and Structural Design Engineers and Architects. No one identified themselves as a Civil Engineer, Facilities Manager or Developer.

The following is a list of items discussed, in no particular order:

Contractors expressed disappointment that some Design Teams remain unwilling to share BIM. An acknowledgement was made of potential Liability and Intellectual Property issues, but it was suggested agreements could be enacted to minimize exposure. Contractors have committed to work in BIM. If Design Models are not shared, Owners ultimately incur the additional costs of redundant efforts.

Along those lines: the only good information is current information. Some attendees reported difficulty in receiving updated Models from fellow Teammates. Such behavior is anti-BIM. While there are logistical issues involved, technologies exist to facilitate timely updates.

Architects mentioned BIM is a front-loaded process and that traditional phase-based fee structures no longer reflect percentage of work completed.

Everyone felt it is important that all BIM consumers know which content is Preliminary and which is Final (i.e. can be relied upon). It was stated that the BIM process works better when all players are at the same Level of Development at any given time.

A discussion of BIM Content resulted in no clear direction. Free Content may not be worth the price. Vendor/Manufacturer-supplied Content is often too detailed (i.e. bloated) and, in some cases, inaccurate. Some manipulation of available Content is still necessary for many firms. Should Content have Level of Development toggles/variations? Can our software vendors help us?

Some Owners are struggling with how much Data should be contained in BIM. The pros and cons of a unified/global Model versus separately developed, linked files were discussed. Technology imposes certain restrictions today, but it was pointed out that we shouldn’t allow that to limit our goals.

The group was in general agreement that well-informed Owners with defined and realistic expectations could be BIM’s best friends. How do we spread the word among Owners?

Changes in object Naming Conventions create hardships for downstream users. The example given was of the Estimating process, in which extraction templates failed to recognize items whose tags changed from “DD” to “CD” during the design process.

A need exists for better coordination between Fabrication (i.e. actual) geometry and Design BIM. Case in point being floor or roof Trusses. Design BIM may picture diagonal and vertical elements in a certain configuration, while the Truss Fabrication software yields a different arrangement. Trades placing Ducts, Pipes and Conduits through the trusses need to work with actual conditions. A better integration of Design and Fabrication tools would be beneficial.

A non-BIM-enabled firm places additional burden on the rest of a BIM Design Team. File translations (eg. Revit to AutoCAD) are stop-gap measures, unsustainable over the long term. Files should be exchanged in Native format, leaving non-BIM members responsible for un-productive time and any risk of information loss resulting from translation.

There is room for improvement in area of Clash Detection / Trade Coordination. An example of a bathroom wall, with common Plumbing, Electrical and HVAC elements was cited. Items which may be considered “too small to model” can still clash.

Does BIM represent a De Facto Project Specification? If substituting an existing element for one from a different manufacturer causes re-work for others, can this be weighted into any cost calculations? In other words, does a lower unit cost of an “approved equivalent”, on a BIM project, actually save money or cost money?

Summary, Conclusion, Musings:

By way of summary, I see some global themes emerging from the conversation. Three “Big Picture” items impacting BIM progress are:




By signing onto the BIM process, we are implying – and relying upon – a higher level of Trust with all other parties. This can create some apprehension. Kind of like being told the invisible fence has been turned off, but remaining reluctant to test it. If Trust is allowed to erode, we risk sliding back into our old bunker mentality and the BIM process suffers.

BIM was supposed to break down the individual silos we’ve historically operated within. We need to gain and maintain an Awareness of how our actions impact fellow Teammates. Such Awareness can us help identify actions that represent a net benefit to the BIM Project.

Without Communication, we’re all stumbling around in the dark. Today’s budgets do not allow for games of “Where’s Waldo?”. Don’t make your Teammates hunt for clues – Communicate what may be changing BEFORE it changes! Share information and discuss the overall impact of changes before acting (Awareness, remember?). And, don’t get hung up on style points. Sometimes, a simple phone call is better than all the other Technology in the world. Most people aren’t telepathic. We all need to Communicate!

Thanks to all attendees for an open and objective exchange.


About Dave Pluke

Dave Pluke served as "the man behind the curtain" (Principal and VP of Technology) of a successful Structural Engineering firm for over 2 decades. Overseeing the transition from two, stand-alone 80286 Personal Computers, through Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) and Design to a fully networked, Building Information Modeling (BIM) integrated environment has provided plenty of "life lessons" (sounds better than "battle scars", doesn't it?). This blog's purpose is to share those experiences and apply lessons learned to better assist meeting the challenges of the future.
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