Lessons in Building Information Modeling Adoption
February 25, 2010
Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been the topic of many
presentations, articles and discussions over the past few years.
While the concept saw much interest and excitement early on, some
of that soon waned as critics and skeptics saw the technology as,
perhaps, ahead of its time. However, for Scott Simpson, FAIA, LEED
AP, senior director of architectural firm Kling-Stubbins, BIM is
not a way of business; it is the way of business. Simpson, whose
firm began using BIM in 2003, lead a discussion this afternoon about
the subject and used his firm's experiences and actual projects
as the basis of the discussion.
"We've used BIM in all its manifestations," Simpson said,
this includes visualization, simulation, coordination of the documents
and quantification of what's inside the building. "We remain
convinced that this is a fundamentally different way of doing business,
a fundamentally way of doing design, and, most importantly, a way
of linking up all the brainpower of all the team members it takes
to do a job successfully."
Simpson described BIM as the connective tissue that allows everybody
to communicate his or her information and input from a common platform.
"It's everyone working together
developing ideas on
a common project. This changes the sociology of design," said
Simpson. "From design to documentation to fabrication and installation,
the BIM system allows us to do all these things from one platform
One advantage of BIM, according to Simpson, is that it helps improve
communication. He explained that for many years architects and engineers
"tortured their clients and tortured the construction industry
by asking them to interpret our intent through the means of plans,
section, and elevations
in our abstract, mystical language
of how we communicate design intent." However, with BIM, "we
can show the 3-D implications of the design decisions-the colors,
the surfaces, the materials, the light
we can simulate how
the acoustics will perform
how much things will cost, how
they will look, feel behave, etc.," said Simpson. "This
is an incredibly powerful tool for us to make our clients true partners
in the design process. I am a big believer that the more brainpower
you get involved in the design process the better it's going to
Working with BIM requires a new way of behaving and approaching
design, so there are some behavioral barriers that must be overcome.
"When we get successful at doing something we get comfortable
doing things the same way over and over," said Simpson. "BIM
challenges that because it gives us ways of doing things differently."
Likewise, he pointed out that with any new process or technology
there are always early adopters and skeptics; both are important.
"You need the early adopters to try new things out, but you
need the skeptics to push back and say 'Wait a minute. Maybe not
so fast. It isn't working quite right.' So, you need a very active
dialogue and you have to be brave enough to have those dialogues
between the early adopters and the skeptics. If the whole industry
is going to move in this direction we have to pay attention to the
skeptics and help them understand the value of it."
He continued, "With BIM we have the opportunity to behave differently;
to share ideas and be less concerned about authorship, less concerned
about ownership and more concerned about collaborative effort, and
about outcome; less concerned about protecting our backsides and
be more open to different ways of risk management."
Simpson explained that when the project team is working to make
decisions together and everyone is working collaboratively to make
those decisions it's very hard later on to blame someone for their
mistakes because everyone is making the same mistake at the same
There are also some technical barriers that have to be accounted
for. These can include the cost of the equipment, hardware and software,
as well as training.
"It takes time and energy to learn this stuff. It took our
firm about seven to ten months for everyone to get into it and have
everyone trained and then another year or so before everyone was
fully conversant," said Simpson. "But then, everyone was
really excited about it. After a short amount of time, once we all
became converts, BIM became like breathing to us. It's what we do
and how we do business."
Simpson also shared some of what he views as "the brave new
world of BIM." This includes seeing every project [industry
wide] being done on BIM; the whole process becoming like a video
game design with everyone together working around one work space
for a true collaborative effort; all documentation being done in
3-D and 4-D formats; all projects being done in a year or less;
a world with no change orders.
"I can see a lot of exciting things happening," Simpson
Looking ahead, he added, "As we come out of this recession,
tomorrow's success will not look like yesterday's success. It will
be a different way of doing business and the smart firms will take
these new tools and procedures and come out of this recession with
a whole new business model."
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