BIM: it's Software, not a Superhero

08/07/2013 3198

Thank goodness Building Information Modelling software isn't a person. If it was, it'd be under a lot of pressure to solve many long-standing construction industry ills.
Today, the UK Government released its industrial strategy for the construction industry at the Government Construction Summit in London, run by Future Cities sister title Building. The Construction 2025 strategy sets targets to cut construction costs by 33 percent, cut carbon emissions from construction by 50 percent, and deliver schemes 50 percent faster by 2025.
To achieve these bold targets, the private and public sectors must invest in making the construction industry more technologically advanced. This means using software such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) to improve efficiency when designing, constructing, and managing buildings; and investing in research to find new software breakthroughs.
My colleague Mary wrote about the complexity of BIM last week, but that complexity is not stopping senior UK politicians and construction industry leaders from putting BIM at the centre of its ambition to drag the industry into the digital era. Peter Hansford, chief construction adviser to the UK government, explained the vital role that BIM can play.
"Only through the implementation of digital technologies will we be able to deliver more sustainable buildings more quickly and with less processes onsite," he said.
If BIM was a person, I'd be feeling sorry for it. Why? Because in this morning's sessions, it became quite clear how many responsibilities BIM will be expected to shoulder. It is not just a software package for designing buildings, but a panacea for many industry ills.
For example, Hansford said BIM could help find 20 percent savings on construction projects, which is why the government has mandated the use of BIM on all central government-procured construction projects by 2016. It is also seen as a way to help construction embrace off-site construction; speed up the procurement process before tendering for a contractor begins; and help UK firms develop BIM expertise they can export globally.
I'm not saying that BIM definitely can't do all these things. But I am skeptical, and want to illustrate the multitude of industry expectations resting on this technology.
The UK's strategy for rolling out BIM across the construction sector is being led by an organization called Digital Built Britain, which was launched by the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in December. Its hope is that BIM will help the UK move towards cities full of smart buildings and, eventually, create smart cities.
David Tonkin, chief executive for UK and Europe at global engineering firm Atkins, said too many people got fixated on the idea that BIM is only about the design of buildings. Rather, he said that the technology represented a "great opportunity to take out cost and build sustainability over the long term."
Andrew Wolstenholme, chief executive of cross-London rail project Crossrail, said that investing in BIM to design and manage buildings would help developers and contractors to achieve savings throughout the lifetime of a project. He drew a parallel with the use of robots in the car industry, which are expensive at first but lead to long-term savings.
"You invest in robots to build cars because you'll see value over their life cycle. They don’t build cars quicker, but they do reduce recalls," he said. Wolstenholme added that BIM would help construction firms reduce waste and deliver more sustainable projects.
BIM can play an important role as the construction industry comes to grips with advanced buildings and, eventually, smart cities. It has great potential, but can it really solve a whole range of long-standing building industry issues?
Can it really reduce construction costs, waste, and delays on-site at the same time as speeding up procurement, speeding up the move to off-site manufacturing, and giving the UK a thriving export market for BIM expertise? I have my doubts, and I worry that, if it fails in a couple of these areas, the knowledge we accumulate will be jettisoned for the next big thing.

BIM isn't a superhero, it's software. Let's treat it as such.

Fonte: UBM’s future cities