BIM for Today

I seem to have caused much controversy recently! I have become known for my strong views on interoperability and IFC, yet this is not what is causing most questioning of my views. In fact if anything I am seeing a refreshing attitude to IFC recently. Things are definitely changing on this front. There is still much work to do but the discussion is moving in the right direction.

So to understand why I attract a bit of controversy, you need to begin to understand my views and where I am coming from. I have a very simple view of BIM and it comes down to: “can I make BIM work today?” This may be an overly simplistic view but at the end of the day, in the role of BIM Manager, my job is to deliver solutions to my colleagues. My colleagues are after all my customers. They want to know how to do things now and I see my role as to try and give them the answers. I try each day to make sense of the vast amount of information out there and turn it into something that they will understand on their own projects. I am often on the end of their frustrations, so for me it’s difficult to tell them what might happen, when all they want to hear is how to progress their live projects today. Don’t get me wrong – I always challenge their approach and tell them where the future might be but that’s normally whilst I am showing them the solution to their particular issue. This has the best of both worlds – solutions for today and a hint at tomorrow.


Alongside this I am one to question everything we are doing. Just because an official document states something it doesn’t mean that it is right for us or even more importantly, for the industry. If something is not practical on real projects then it won’t be adopted and will simply become a box ticking exercise or worse – not applied at all.


I of course have a view about the future but this is always overridden by the reality of what we need to do today. So fundamentally I don’t disagree for example with what Rob Charlton says about manufacturers’ content, (see Generic or specific…? That is the question) but for me much has to change for this to become reality. I don’t feel in a position to change or influence this so I have to work within the constraints I am given now. I am more than happy for content creators or others to educate manufacturers about the future but in the meantime I will tell them how I personally see life today and maybe what I see panning out – right or wrong. If I am wrong, then the market will show that.


I also think that if we don’t iron out some of the issues we are having today, there will be no tomorrow. The recent BIM4Real event in London highlighted the need to understand some of the most basic issues we face. Even a whole room of experts couldn’t agree on how we should deliver projects now.


To give you another example where my thinking seems to be ‘out of step’ – PAS1192-2:2013 states that the lead designer is responsible for carrying out clash detection. Yet whilst some architects (assuming they are the lead designer of course) will be capable of this, many won’t for sometime and the reality is that many contractors are moving into this space. For me this makes a lot of sense as contractors are the only party (on a D&B project) who have a contractual relationship with all parties. They carry the most risk and it is in their interest to reduce this. But this suggestion of altering the roles appears to be unacceptable to those that wrote the PAS. Whilst it might not be what they had envisaged I am not convinced it is wrong to change who carries out this role. Provided it is carried by a competent party, what does it matter? Again maybe they envisage changes in contractual relationships in the future but this isn’t the reality of today.


My other controversial view at BIM4Real was around COBie. Personally I am not convinced that COBie is a mechanism for client decisions during the construction phase of a project. I accept it is a perfectly reasonable method for creating structured data for FM purposes, if a client specifies it. I know others question even this but it is the data drops I am less convinced of. We produce much of the space data anyway, in the form of schedules of accommodation, without the need for COBie. Of course, COBie may make this more efficient in some areas but I am not convinced that a client wants to make decisions using a spreadsheet (accepting it doesn’t have to be a spreadsheet in the future). As I said at BIM4REAL, the reality is most clients don’t even fully read Stage Reports, Design & Access Reports or Specification documents. So what makes us think they will be checking a vast quantity of data? Isn’t the model, Room Data Sheets or even, dare I say it, a drawing, a better solution to show spaces rather than COBie?


The reality is that much of the Government’s approach is fine for a client like the MOJ or for huge infrastructure projects but how does this apply to a ‘normal’ building? There is much talk that the UK has already reached BIM Level 2 and now it’s just for people to get on and do it. Personally, I don’t think all the building blocks are there yet and I still think those applying BIM on a day-to-day basis are still coming to terms with the new documentation and working out if it is practical and sensible.


I hope my views are taken in the spirit they are meant. I have no hidden agenda, it’s just me trying to do my job. As anyone who knows me well will testify, I am a huge advocate of BIM but I suppose at the end of the day I am a ‘doer’ and I like to implement solutions on real projects. For me, if we sort out today and learn lessons each day, tomorrow will take care of itself. Challenging the norm is healthy and I think we should all contribute to the debate to help shape the future of our industry. If we don’t, we risk moving in the wrong direction. I certainly know I’m not right about everything, and I am happy for people to influence my views, but remember I want to deliver real BIM today.