"Do You Do BIM? Part 25 Jun, 2006 By: Brandt R. Karstens
New software is but one aspect of building information modeling — be sure you understand all the challenges of this new approach to the building cycle.
Understanding BIM (building information modeling) and its benefits is the first step toward making the BIM transition. A relatively new approach to building, BIM brings together the major stakeholder groups early in the building process — architects, mechanical-electrical-plumbing-structural engineers, building contractors and owners — and offers benefits for all. BIM facilitates information sharing, breaks down traditional barriers — and cuts costs.
But to tap the full potential of BIM, you must understand it is not simply a technology implementation. Yesterday's article compared BIM to the conventional approach to building and outlined the benefits of BIM. Today, we'll look at software as an enabling technology for BIM and the challenges of BIM implementation.
Software as an Enabling Technology
Current software does not allow for total interoperability among proprietary vendor products. Representatives within each of the major stakeholder groups can use software that works seamlessly - for instance, contractors and subcontractors using common software. However, outside the group - architects working with outside structural engineers, for instance - interoperability becomes more complicated. Thus, planners, designers, builders and owners usually create their own documentation by reentering the data to suit their own processes.
IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) is an open standard that aids software interoperability by providing vendors with a data schema they can use to help integrate their products. In other words, a door specified in one software package will still be a door when it is translated into a different package. To better understand IFC, think of it as "Information for Construction." IFC helps software vendors evolve their products, which helps BIM and its related software mature.
While the standard is still evolving, it is possible for a software vendor to work toward IFC certification by programming its software to conform to the standard. Interoperable software can help the architect and associated disciplines become more efficient. Real, practical efficiency improvements exist in current vendor offerings, but the future holds out even greater potential when you consider the potential benefits of interoperability.
More than a CAD model, the building information model holds data to enable better decision making by all stakeholders in the construction process.
Challenges in Implementing BIM
Many BIM processes are undefined today, partly because the approach is new and partly because the effort depends on all stakeholders working together. When a client asks if an architect can "do BIM," but doesn't fully understand what BIM entails, the architect must become a trusted advisor to consult on what BIM is and how it benefits the process and stakeholders.
BIM implementation carries with it significant challenges in the realm of change management, especially for those who have done things a certain way for a long time. An architect consulting on BIM can help stakeholders
- understand that they need to change;
- become willing to change; and
- obtain the tools necessary to make the change, including software, education, training and so forth.