BIM, BIM, BIM. By now, everyone in the AEC industry has heard this acronym at least once at some point. Building. Information. Modelling. A lot has been said and written about this topic already, and opinions range from the skeptics and neo-luddites of the “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” persuasion, to the fervent street preachers and true believer types.
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but the bottom line is: opinions don’t change the fact that BIM is a reality and it is not going to go away. It will change and evolve. Granted. But it will stay. We all heard about the BIM Level 2 mandate from the British Government, which came into effect on the 4th of April this year. A few may be aware of the announcement made recently by the Spanish Ministry for Industry, presenting the creation of BIM Task Groups, with views to implement a similar mandate to the British one by the end of 2018. Even less people may have heard about the European Parliament Directive 2014/24/EU (Art. 22, § 4), to encourage BIM adoption for public contracts in all EU countries.
It is coming to us from all sides. But forget for a minute about the politics, the 3D models, the fancy technology and the big promises. I recently heard a consultant reply to another one from a different discipline: “the information is in there…“, holding his hands up matter-of-factly, in reply to a complaint from the latter about the composition and layout of a drawing that the former had issued, which had a small detail in one corner of the sheet that could easily be missed by a contractor or sub-contractor during construction. Just another error of the many that happen on a daily basis in building sites around us due to poor communication and coordination.
When the winds of change blow, some build walls, while others build windmills.
I thought to myself that, right there was exactly one of the main reasons why we need BIM. And I mean “we” as in “everyone involved in whatever way with a building or infrastructure, during any part of its life cycle”. From client to end-user, architect to engineer, window fitter to main contractor, carpenter to minister. Having the information ‘there’ just simply isn’t enough. Not by far. The information ought to be there in the first place because someone will have to look at it, make sense out of it and then take decisions based on their interpretation of it. Therefore, information has to be: first of all correct, where expected, when expected and presented in a way that facilitates its understanding. Because it is in everybody’s best interest! We share information with others in order to communicate our ideas. Isn’t that the whole point of communication, getting a message from sender to receiver via a common channel, trying to keep the noise to a minimum? If the intended recipient misinterprets our message, we are basically failing. The same applies at all levels and stages of a building project.
BIM is about facilitating this exchange of information across all stakeholders, not only in a construction project, but on the whole of a building’s life cycle, by enabling a common channel, namely the Model, where information is shared, updated, accessed, audited, etc. by all parties involved. One unified vision which all can look at, and where all will see the same unequivocal data. From design intent to built-asset.
It is not a question of whether we want BIM or not, because we will get it, eventually. The question is what kind of BIM we want for Gibraltar. Town Planning has recently introduced e-Planning, an online portal for submittal of planning applications and for all planning information to be accessible online to the general public. And also their GIS Department has been releasing valuable data, now available to the public. It is a significant step in the right direction, and Gibraltar’s AEC Industry should realize that it has a great opportunity ahead of it at this point in time, and it should seize it, by engaging Authorities and conveying to them its vision of BIM. We could move, as a whole, towards a culture of collaboration and excellence, and away from distrustful and unhelpful competition and finger-pointing.
Or we could do nothing about it and then dutifully accept whatever becomes local law in the end, when BIM finally comes. We should create a platform to get together and discuss, as an industry, the way we want to have our BIM, or we run the risk of enduring a very painful process of rushed adaptation.
Let’s be proactive and initiate a consultation. Let’s make a move toward Better Information Management, which by the way, also spells BIM.
The gauntlet has been thrown…