Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guest Blog: Extreme Collaboration

Building Information Modeling Goes Viral
by Andy MacPhillimy
Morris Architects, Houston

In our first blog installment, we outlined the change that Building Information Modeling (BIM) is making on not only the world of architecture, but the deep impacts it will have on all aspects of the AEC Industry.

So how does change go from fringe to mainstream?

As our firm began developing our strategy for implementing BIM, we quickly realized that once we reached internal competency with the software, we would be limited from further benefit unless we found equal partners – first in our immediate group of consultants, then in the contractors we work with, and ultimately in knowledgeable owners eager to receive and use the BIM model for their benefit in the management and operations of the building. Though the use of BIM software has benefits if adopted and used internally in a firm, we know that the real power to affect the speed and quality of delivery comes with the general and complete adoption of BIM by the entire team of players and stakeholders.

We concluded that the implementation of BIM across the AEC industry is happening in stages:

First, vanguard firms – which can be in any industry segment -- commit to BIM implementation.

Then those Vanguard Firms draw in and mentor affiliated firms.

And thus, the pool of firms knowledgeable and experienced in BIM grows.

Further delving into this adoption process sees that the drivers are first individuals that see the future clearly and know that eventually the industry as a whole will both embrace and will be transformed by BIM. There are inherent drags on implementation – disruption and change to current design and management processes, sheer cost for software and training, legal concerns on the dropping of boundaries and sharing of information.

BIM software has been around in some form or another for over 20 years and had its origin in the high-tech industries such as aerospace and automobile manufacturing. In these settings that required tight coordination and high tolerances where many multiples of a single product were manufactured – the investment in software was of clear benefit. Even it there were multiple vendors creating product for the plane or auto, sharing of detailed drawings and information for the benefit of the team was common. But the AEC industry has multiple silos of activity that operate largely independently with their own culture and engrained processes that do not necessarily play with anyone else’s.

Building Information Modeling as software and as a new “design and delivery” process will only reach its true full potential when everyone from the product suppliers, to the design professionals, the contractor, and the owner all embrace and become competent and comfortable in the world of BIM.

In future posts, we will look at the different blocks to implementation including what is and is not happening in the schools of architecture and engineering to prepare students for this new world, resistance from the top to take on the challenge of transforming a firms established delivery processes, and more…

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