Perhaps it is time that we consider replacing the word “modeling” in Building Information Modeling (BIM) with the word “management”. By now, we can all agree that BIM is not only modeling, but a management of that modeled information, and what we do with it. With the reality that projects are still being constructed and maintained off 2D documentation, Revit models (or any other 3D modeled program) are largely best considered as a 3D database of information. For those adventurous enough, that 3D database can be further enhanced and utilized as a maintainable asset database which can support building operations and maintenance upon completion of the project.
Reality or not, that 3D model is still only the basis of that information management.
Harvesting the power of this 3D database is a no-brainer, yet many companies still struggle with this, if they are working with 2D computer aided drafting programs or believing that Revit equals BIM. If they are using a program such as Revit, there is often a lack of understanding in how to populate and extrapolate useful information, what to do with it, and how to properly manage it between consultants, clients and contractors. A lot of information results in being left behind, usually because there are not enough resources to have someone appointed to manage it and coordinate that information with the project team.
Simply having a model (or several, if you have other consultants working in 3D with you on the project), and even a BIM execution plan, does not make a project “BIM”. It is how a team uses those models, and how well they stick to the BIM execution plans throughout the life of a project, which contribute to it being BIM. Many projects start off with solid intentions of utilizing BIM, even capturing the process in a BIM execution plan, yet the design team slips back into the familiar foxholes of their disciplines, working exclusively, not collaboratively. Teams tacitly expect that working in Revit means they are coordinating and collaborating, because the software is doing the work for them. No one is there to keep the team on track with the BIM execution plan, or to modify it as the project changes, and so the BIM process is left behind.
Ultimately, what makes these projects fail at BIM is a lack of dedicated management of the BIM process. Many times, projects expect the modellers to be the BIM managers, relying on them to produce 2D contracts and drawings while managing the BIM. One of those two roles will eventually suffer, and the typical result is for the model and information management to be reduced. When the project reaches 90 per cent and experiences a major design change (such as levels dropping by 500mm), the Revit models break and consultants are left furiously trying to fix what they can to make the deadline. Additional hours are now lost because of poor model management, which likely could have been mitigated through the foresight and planning of a dedicated BIM manager.
Often, the value of a BIM manager is not fully understood, because their efforts can easily be hidden by a successfully running project. What BIM managers are doing in the background are multitudes of tasks, be they small or large that translate into a well-oiled machine of a project. Just as one might frequent the gym to become more fit and strong, they will attend regularly, perhaps 30 minutes to an hour a day. After two days of this, they see no result, but after several months, the benefits begin to show. Likewise, by a certain period within a project, a team has developed their daily best practices through the guidance of their BIM manager, and the long-term benefits are proven through the team’s ability to utilize the information within their models with little effort. The ability to coordinate that information with the rest of the consultants is a more effective process because the framework has been laid out through the project’s BIM execution plan, which has been properly followed by the design team.
At the rate in which technology within the AEC industry is moving, BIM will either be left behind (if it is not already) or grow into something more complex than what most firms are ready for in the industry. This is a concept that has been looming over our companies for over a decade now, and yet many still believe that Revit equals BIM. Schools not only need to educate students on how to design and construct buildings, they need to educate students on how to understand the power of the metadata within their projects.
Soon, the days of 2D deliverables will be gone and projects will solely be delivering 3D databases that can connect to other mediums that will collect and sort the information for a more sophisticated method of constructing and maintaining projects. While modeling remains an important aspect of BIM, it is the power of the information within those models and how it is utilized that will set a project apart from the others.
Melonie Beskowiney is BIM coordinator at Dialog Design in Edmonton, Alberta. @meloniebeskowin