Is BIM Better… er…. er? (Part 2.0)

So much hype.
So much noise.
So many people shouting about the benefits of BIM.

Every time you blink there is a new BIM Consulting group out in the marketplace. Each time you turn around, there is another BIM conference to consider. Ok, so there is lots of energy, lots of passion, lots of excitement. That’s gotta be a good thing, right?

Well, mostly, yes. Still, with all that energy and passion, there must be some awfully good material out there that PROVES what all these people are saying, right? Ummm, no, not really… There are some very good reasons why getting valid comparative data is hard. We operate in a bespoke industry, with a severe lack of standardisation and repetition, even in those areas where such things could be viable. How do you compare data when two projects are different? You can take benchmarks for the project type I suppose? But every site is different, the builders are different, the client is different, the details are different. You could repeat a CAD project as a BIM exercise? But the project is complete, so you aren’t going through a design process, a revision process, and inevitably the issues dealt with on site the first time around will be (even if unconsciously) avoided in the BIM version. You could quote the ‘experience’, the anecdotal evidence? Well, umm, that’s anecdotal, see? Maybe you could run comparisons at a discrete point in the process, say with a QS doing cost planning? Still needs the two versions of the project, and much of that noise about BIM is lifecycle benefit, so stopping at cost planning isn’t the comparison we really want, is it?

Interestingly, YTL Corporation, in Malaysia had a project fairly recently, that was getting close to perfect. It was a development with several identical towers which, for political reasons, ended up being awarded to multiple practices. One was in AutoCAD, one in Revit. Initial design was complete, so it was predominantly a documentation exercise. Here was the chance to get truly valid data back on ROI and the comparison to existing methodologies.

But that didn’t happen.


Still, even here there is no truly direct comparison. Working methodologies vary, tool skills vary, even staff morale and motivation can have a big impact.

What about the broader industry productivity calculations? If BIM really is better, and we have seen some real inroads into industry practice by BIM over the last 15-20 (and particularly the last 5) years, then we should see that in stats for the industry, right? As it happens, NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the United States, published a couple of charts back in 2004 which have been WAY over used in conference presentations ever since. I won’t reproduce them here because you’ve probably seen them in the last 10-15 minutes.

One chart reflects productivity ‘gains’ in construction and non-farm businesses, and is labour focused, but is of note because of the simple fact that it shows that construction has not improved in productivity in the 40 years captured in the chart. The other examines ‘inadequate interoperability in construction, and estimates that this accounted for $15.8 billion dollars of waste in 2002 alone! Most have taken this to be an opportunity… “BIM can fix this!” Few seem to have noticed that NIST updated their data in 2012 (as they are wont to do), and what did it show? In the following 8 years of data, covering a significant upsurge in the adoption of BIM tools and processes, the change has been.. ummm… nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Zero.


I can think of a few answers, some of them as simple as the evolutionary timescale required to see change reflected in data in an industry as big and slow as ours. Let’s not forget also that for all the noise, BIM penetration isn’t really all THAT big yet. Nevertheless, it is certainly disappointing.

If BIM is so clearly better, why are we having such a hard time PROVING it?

Join us at the Design Technology Summit this summer as we address this and other topics focused on the challenges that face us as Design Technology Leaders.


Chicago 2014 header

The third Design Technology Summit will be held at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel on 16 & 17 June 2014.

Note: As this event is by invitation only, you will not have the ability to navigate to the online registration portal from this site. Please refer to your emailed invitation. If you are unable to locate this, please contact the RTC Secretary.

The Design Technology Summit (DTS) is being held across two plus days – kicking off Monday afternoon, running through Tuesday, and with continuing meeting space available on Wednesday for the keen small group collaborators. DTS brings together professionals from large firms in the Architecture and Engineering (AE) design industry who have a responsibility for managing and implementing design technology. DTS is a forum; a venue to discuss ideas – to share, to challenge, and to refine our thinking. The design world is a constantly evolving landscape driven by the adoption of BIM tools, the availability of increased computing power, the ubiquity of mobile solutions, and “always on” data access. These new paradigms challenge the traditional operations of AE firms and have resulted in a new domain of expertise at the intersection of technology and practice.

DTS is the environment for those professionals, in the interest of sharing, to workshop together, to learn from each other, and to be informed about new and emerging technologies. DTS is intended to grow and evolve over time, and will strive to provide a consistent and accessible venue for architects, engineers, and related AEC industry professionals to address technology, business, and the critical juncture between them. The goal of the summit is to arrive at an agnostic solution to strategic changes in our technology and business strategy that allows design firms to remain relevant and successful in the 21st century.
The focus of the summit is on discussion sessions and more importantly, the issues that challenge us in our day to day work. We all have challenges, and most are not unique. Maybe you’re struggling with collaborating internationally; perhaps you don’t know how to balance research and innovation dollars against billable work; or your design and delivery process lags behind technology advancement. DTS is an opportunity to discuss those challenges and collectively work toward common solutions.

Attendees are encouraged to participate and not merely attend. All sessions will be recorded for audio and dictated with attribution to the contributor. Meeting minutes, audio recordings and materials presented at the summit will be shared with all attendees. Material will continue to remain available as we build a repository of ideas, solutions and best practices.

The Summer DTS will be focused on reviewing, soliciting feedback, and refining the draft deliverables commenced during the Winter DTS sessions. Each working group (Collaboration, Management and Innovation) will meet to review its’ work, to gather feedback and ideas from the broad group, to solicit input from new attendees, and to prepare material for presentation at the Revit Technology Conference in the latter part of the week. After the event, each small group will be tasked with taking their draft and turning it into a publishing ready document for distribution to the broader industry.

Attendance at DTS is by invitation only, and is limited to 40 registrants. We feel that this number fosters a better atmosphere of active and meaningful discussions between all participants.

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