BIM is NOT a software application

Building information modelling (BIM) is the foundation of digital transformation in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. But using powerful software like Revit does not automatically mean one is using BIM. By Kirsten Kelly

Tammy Venter

Tammy Venter, team lead:
AEC and BIM implementation
specialist, Modena (Durban)

If I ask you to reach into your pocket and show me your cell phone, chances are you have the latest technology in the form of a smartphone with apps and 5G signal. So why don’t businesses use up-to-date technologies too? If you are an AEC professional, and you are working with 2D and siloed 3D methodologies, you are essentially lagging behind,” states Tammy Venter, team lead: AEC and BIM implementation specialist, Modena (Durban).

BIM is a skill

Venter compares BIM to driving a car to a predetermined destination. “You first need the right software (car); you also need to be trained by a professional on how to use the software and should ideally earn a type certification (driver’s licence) after the training. You then need to decide on the route to get there (BIM goal). Will you take the shortest route? Will you take the route that avoids toll roads? Are you happy to take a 4×4 route? Furthermore, you need to understand the rules of the road (BIM guidelines and standards).” At an academic level, there is not enough focus on BIM as a necessity. Graduates are entering companies where they must rapidly get up to speed with the choice of software, as well as BIM as a methodology, and then work on project models where mistakes can be expensive to both consultant and client. “While institutions may conduct courses on certain software (like Autodesk Revit or Archicad), they do not really teach BIM as a methodology. Furthermore, the courses they do conduct on the subject make up a very small percentage of the actual degree or accreditation. If you are not fully software literate, you are a liability to the AEC industry,” she adds.

BIM is a methodology

BIM is a methodology, not software. Software is at the technological core of BIM, but that represents only one third of the system. BIM is used to create data models. The value of BIM lies in data collection and data outputs. Data is king. It can be used to streamline the construction process by providing better visibility of potential obstacles and challenges throughout the construction process and provide better predictability for future projects. Digital twins and smart cities are built on data. Algorithms can be built from data and can enable generative design. Revit has a powerful scheduling feature that enables users to review and analyse data and check for errors before issuing models for construction. Navisworks can perform clash detection where models can collectively be analysed to check for clashes between services, as well as structural and architectural elements, resulting in less, and often expensive, variation orders and site instructions. Any clashes can be rectified immediately, before anything is built.

BIM breaks down silos

Cloud platforms – such as Autodesk’s BIM 360 and Autodesk Construction Cloud
– create collaboration for a traditionally fragmented AEC industry. Models are uploaded into the cloud and if anyone from the professional team makes a change to their design, that change is incorporated in all the models and is available to everyone almost immediately. This builds a seamless process where there is, for example, a single architectural model, structural model and mechanical model where changes are reflected instantly across the entire design team. The cloud environment is governed by the BIM execution plan, where the project team agrees on items such as:

“Having a clear execution plan ensures the success of a construction project. The execution plan forms the foundation of the BIM collaborative environment, stipulates who is responsible for what aspects of the project, and clarifies the expectation around BIM deliverables,” adds Venter.

Barriers

As the only Autodesk Platinum Partner in Africa, Modena provides advice, training and software solutions to a variety of industries – such as the AEC industry, as well as the manufacturing space. “It is extremely difficult for any company to implement BIM themselves without a structured implementation plan. A mistake that many people make is trying to teach themselves Revit. It is always recommended that employees receive Autodesk Accredited training. Obtaining a Revit Certified Professional certification is valuable to both the user and employer, as it communicates a level of Revit competency. Different companies have different needs and different goals and, at Modena, our vision is to see all companies succeed. We spend a substantial amount of time learning about a company’s challenges and finding the perfect solution for that company,” says Venter. She believes that the biggest struggle is the fear of the dip in productivity when converting to a new technology, as well as the frustration. “Often, one has to take a step back to take two steps in the right direction. It is about enduring short-term pain for long-term benefits. I also think that there is the fear of the unknown and fear that the new technology will not provide measurable value. But that is why companies need to partner with BIM specialists like Modena. We assist companies through the entire process. “Another obstacle can be a generation gap. Millennials, Generation Z and eventually Generation Alpha do not typically speak the same ‘language’ as their managers. They have grown up with technology and they are the staff members in the engine room doing the work and using BIM software. Decision-makers, who are usually of a more traditional mindset, are often those who do not use the software personally. Mindsets that proved to be successful a decade ago do not prove fruitful in today’s world. The truth is that yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games. It’s important to think of your company’s legacy and how to remain relevant in a fast-changing world,” explains Venter. Improving coordination and clash detection, reducing risk, and enhancing data outputs and sequencing are some of the more well known benefits of BIM. Artificial intelligence, automation and digital twinning are some of the new and exciting possibilities. 

BIM can be used to streamline the construction process by providing better visibility of potential obstacles and challenges throughout the construction process, and better predictability for future projects