The World According to BIM, Part 2

17 Feb, 2009 By: Pete Zyskowski

The discussion continues about the workplace challenges presented by BIM, and the approach we think will yield the best results.

In Part 1 of this article, I examined the role of the CAD operator as it relates to building information modeling (BIM). I also provided some insight into the thought process that should govern how BIM operators are selected. This time I will discuss the communication that should take place among the various parties involved in a project and how data sharing should be approached.

External Communication and Sharing Intelligent Data
If you haven't yet looked at the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) documents on the AIA web site, you should, because you almost cannot speak of BIM without mentioning IPD in the next breath. There is a wealth of documentation out there regarding IPD, so I won't dwell on it, but I will reiterate some of the more important points as they relate to the focus of this article.

To this end, I routinely field questions during classes and presentations about how the communication must now happen between the architect and external parties that include the owner and consultants. The communication between architect and consultant is self-explanatory once you begin to read through all the documentation on IPD, and it can be summed up in two words: early and often. This is because the bulk of the work now shifts forward in the design timeline and questions need to be answered quickly so that the model can be developed in an intelligent and timely manner.

These are points that we have seen and had repeated to us in multiple documents, often with nicely plotted supporting diagrams. There are even documents discussing how the architect should change his contracts to match billing cycles to this change in workflow. But I think the things that are lacking in many of these documents are answers to practical questions such as How much information does the model need to incorporate in order to be an effective BIM?

The answer to this is partly linked to the BIM expertise of the consultants you are using. The second part of this answer lies in the psychology of your client. This is where you need to understand your client's desires in a different way. You can break client types into two major factions: owner/operator and developer/seller.

IPD tends to focus on the owner/operator ideal and the related wealth of data that you, the architect, must understand, input, and test so that it can be handed off and used for the remainder of that building's life. It is quite interesting when you think about it: all that data sitting in a virtual building while it should be exported and extrapolated and used for beneficial purpose. It is also quite time-consuming, which means that there is additional expense in capturing and storing this additional information. To make matters even more complex, the owners often have specific parameters that they would like to see added to the building objects. These bits of data are often beyond the ordinary keynotes or model numbers. For instance, if the building model is going to attempt LEED certification, then there will be green-building parameters to track.

My company is starting to work with owners as much as we are working with the AEC industry. Owners need to understand what they can and can't get out of BIM, how much information is realistic for an architect to input, and how much data they may want to keep proprietary and add to the model during facility management. Consequently, for everyone's protection and to manage expectations and maintain accountability, some form of contractual obligation between all parties involved will clarify what will be delivered to the owner in the model.

It is clear that BIM is changing the way we hire and mentor, and how we think about and handle data requirements. Party lines may be crossed as to who does what and how. But the underlying principle that you need to realize when adopting a BIM workflow is one of communication both internally within your organization and externally with your clients and trade partners. The way that we work together also is changing, one hopes for the better.

About the Author: Pete Zyskowski

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