BIM & SME – Our Road to BIM

Olly Thomas BIM Manager at The Design Buro Architects shares how The Design Buro, an SME and independent firm of architects who specialise in healthcare took their first tentative steps in BIM.

Back in November 2011 BIM rapidly appeared on our agenda following some indication that contractors we were working with at the time were keen to get engaged. Looking back, it certainly was a time when BIM began to become a hot topic.


I was undertaking my Part 3 at the time and remember writing an essay on BIM. The research for this essay really opened my eyes to the BIM process and way of working and from that point onwards I knew that this was an industry opportunity that we as Architects could not miss.


Following a 3-­‐day software training course and what was intended to be a year long period of understanding, assessing and adopting BIM, within 3 months, I was working on a live part-­‐level 2 delivery BIM project responsible for BIM production and associated outputs.


As you can imagine, this was quite a steep learning curve, but in hindsight I would not of wanted it any different. It has allowed me to learn from my (many) mistakes and has ensured exposure to collaborative working. Unfortunately during this unexpected project engagement, the adoption of BIM principles only disseminated as far as myself. Now, with this project imminently about to reach practical completion it is time to pass down the message of BIM back into the practice.


Through the identification of some key BIM champions we have began an extensive up-­‐ skilling of the practice through regular training, coined our ‘Steps to BIM’ whilst continuing research and attending as many industry recognised events as possible.


We are now using BIM principles wherever possible in the practice regardless of whether it means we are working in a silo or not as we are keen to personally as reap the benefits. We have also entered into some trial projects with consultants to test collaborative working and interoperability through the project team on schemes that have not required BIM as client requirement, as we see that this is the only way to ensure that we will be ready come 2016.


In the last week I have been promoted to BIM Manager in the practice with the responsibility of heading up implementation and BIM delivery going forward. In light of this, we are now focusing our efforts on understanding and streamlining our in-­‐house workflows to attain maximum efficiency without stifling creativity and design. I am actively engaging with the wider architectural community, who without, I truly believe we would not be in the position we are today.


Initially the main driver for BIM adoption was the fear of being pushed out of the market, but in time those reasons have perhaps changed. The benefits that the BIM process can provide to a practice cannot be underestimated. There is a need to be careful though as to not expect the process to provide all the benefits immediately. There has needed to be a real mindset change as to the way we work on a day-­‐to-­‐day basis and an appreciation that the role of the architect in 2013 is changing.


I would suggest that currently, our main drivers are efficiency and coherence of information. I am sure that these will change again in time as we continue to resolve and align ourselves with the process. In respect of the future, I hope for a time where the traditional 2D deliverables/outputs are somewhat a thing of the past and strive for a push in LOD based outputs that are solely represented through their intended 3D format.


I believe one of the biggest business lessons we have learned to date is to not be overly reactive to BIM. BIM is a fast moving topic and is changing on a daily basis.


Anyone who follows social media will know the multitude of information that is circulated and it is important to identify what is important to you at your point in time. I believe this caution can also be applied to software too -­‐ identify when and what you need and ensure that you as a practice are gaining value from any investment you decide to make. Ultimately, be aware of BIMWash!


I hope as an industry we are at a point in time where the documentation, protocols, etc… that have been produced are being refined to allow for alignment or a standardised approach. Certainly there is still a long way to go, but for us it is all about seeing the bigger picture. We believe that you cannot ignore that the construction industry is, or even has, changed.


As we move forward towards 2016, our business goal is to as of January 2014 be using BIM, the process and principles on all projects in the practice regardless of whether working in a silo, collaboratively or as part of a client requirement.