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Why the development of BIM goes through digital adoption
BIM is one of the hottest topics in the construction industry, at the moment. Despite the fact that this technology has been around for a few decades now, it is clear that in the course of the last years Building Information Modeling has attracted much more attention.
Nevertheless, there is still a lot of confusion around it as a natural continuation of the problems that the entire sector faces with regard to digital adoption. Global construction is a $10 trillion giant with a productivity gap of $1.6 trillion compared to the average economy.
These shocking numbers highlight the imminent need for stakeholders in the industry to start working in a more efficient and fact-based way. This is where BIM adoption comes into the picture.
BIM is a unique vehicle to share data and it can offer full overview over the different tasks and phases of a project. A common mistake, though, that people in the industry make is prioritising 3D over data.
Of course, a well-updated 3D model can make a big difference but it is only as good as the data added to it. And data comes from user adoption. Before we fall for the nice and shiny that BIM can provide, it is of paramount importance that we examine the readiness of construction with respect to processes, policies and people.
A combination of technical and cultural parameters should be taken into account before we can explore the full potential of BIM for construction. Based on this precious information, a consistent decision framework can be put in place so that both pillars of BIM adoption are properly addressed.
START FROM THE PROCESS DIGITALISATION
You have to walk before you run and in the case of the construction industry, you have to transform the way you design, collaborate, and build before you can take a big step forward to a BIM-driven construction process.
That being said, the transition from a hammer to a mobile device should be the number one priority. Once people, both on the site and the office, are introduced to a digital way of working and reporting, solid guidance and heavy investment in training are required.
Like that, the project team will be able to understand the value that the new tools bring to the table and the ways in which they can make the working burden lighter while improving the final outcome.
After process digitalisation comes standardisation. The ability to reuse the same systems and processes across multiple projects can accelerate considerably the learning curve and contribute to the development of BIM.
By establishing a universal language between all the members of both internal and external projects, it becomes easier for an organisation to gradually align digital understanding and user adoption regardless of geographic, cultural and state differences.
Such an approach could play a decisive role in tackling common issues related to digital and BIM adoption like the lack of a common “specification protocol” for onsite follow up. Having a well-defined set of standard internal classifications will lead to a more transparent building process for everyone involved.
People on the field will submit their latest updates to the model in a straightforward manner, while the BIM manager will effortlessly link the latest onsite activities to the model.
Furthermore, standardisation will lead to replicability of project systems and processes, shed some light on the true role of BIM and pave the way for a fully integrated mode of operating and collaborating.
THE CULTURAL CHALLENGE
The data revolution has begun but it is wrong to believe that it’s a linear process and will continue to evolve no matter what. On the contrary, it takes a lot of hard work, bold initiatives and heavy resource investment in order to keep digitalisation growing.
More important, it requires people who can couple theory with action. In other words, data scientists who have experience of life on site and vice versa.
Despite the cloud-based nature of BIM, the true challenge for its adoption starts offline. You can put together the best guidance and training framework but it would mean absolutely nothing if the implementation team isn’t culturally on board.
Digital solutions should be seen as an opportunity to transform the way we build and operate in construction instead of a threat. And that mindset shift can sometimes be a long procedure.
At the end of the day, the secret to digital adoption lies on proving how a data-driven working approach can be beneficial for everyone on site both on a personal and a professional level.
It goes without saying, though, that this requires an in-depth understanding of BIM’s true potential by the project team. It also requires a solid alignment between the available technology and the processes that are being used.
For instance, the manual drop of data on a BIM model can be a serious waste of productivity. Such cases are typical examples of a serious mismatch between old manual processes and new technologies.
BIM POLICIES CAN HINDER ADOPTION
BIM policies can have a serious impact on the data culture of an organisation. BIM adoption can many times be hindered by contracts which have failed to remain relevant to the latest technology. In simple words, the exchange of data can be limited or even blocked.
That can happen in cases where the different project parties don’t have the same codes and regulations when it comes to sharing project data. For that reason, a lot of potential can go to waste sometimes as the project stakeholders are worried that they will get caught in a legal conflict if they act on data which is provided by another side and turn out to be inaccurate.
CHANGE IS ON THE WAY
It is evident that the industry’s relation to digital tools is changing at a rapid pace. BIM appears to be an area with tremendous potential for the sector but it’s still maturing.
In addition, the way stakeholders in construction use digital solutions is evolving. That is because the supply chain starts to understand the benefits of digital adoption both in terms of process standardisation and cutting down the cost.
The initial implementation cost is one of the main obstacles for spreading BIM but as the confusion around Building Information Modeling is gradually going away, this will hopefully no longer be a problem in the near future.
All in all, data and the value that it can bring to a construction project, from start to completion, is expected to be the catalyst for this meaningful paradigm shift in the industry.
About the author: Anastasios Koutsogiannis is Content Marketing Manager at LetsBuild, the end-to-end digital platform for the construction phase.