BIM Voice – Rob Charlton: Time to move beyond BIM?

BIM Voice Rob Charlton

BIMcrunch has become a platform for a plethora of elite industry names to become guest writers on the site and share their thoughts and opinions with the #GlobalBIMCrew. Today Space Group‘s CEO Rob Charlton discusses whether BIM is actually now holding up progress and development of the AEC industries.

I have been one of the biggest advocates of BIM. I was an advocate of BIM before it even existed. However I now believe there is the potential that it could hold up progress and development of our industry.

Clearly this is a strange statement to make as CEO of Space Group which includes businesses such as BIM.Technologies, bimstore and has developed BIM Show Live in recent years.

I’m not saying BIM is not important and all of our businesses have an important part to play, but the key is this is only part of a better industry. I’m worried as BIM matures people may believe it is job done!

My interest in BIM was always far wider than technology, coordination or data. For approaching twenty five years my personal drive has been to make the construction industry better.

I love design and construction and want us to continually improve. Our progress in recent decades has been minimal as we take two steps forward and one back through the boom and bust cycle.

After going to university for 5 years I felt I was ready to become an Architect. However what I was told at university was very different from the reality I discovered. At university we were educated that the role of architect and his wonderful design flair is the centre of construction. The architectural profession can be very elitist and I even remember a lecture about the architectural cognoscente. Even as an undergraduate it didn’t feel right to me.

When I started in the industry I soon realised my training was a long way from reality. The process of delivering a building is not only very expensive but very risky. The industry is very cyclical and prone to boom and bust. There is a very adversarial and contractual culture. All of this I had to work out for myself as none if this was mentioned in any of my classes at university.

Design and build was developing momentum as a procurement route in the early days of my career. Management of the design and construction process was moving from the architect to the contractor as clients looked for ways of managing risk.

Design teams allowed this to happen and in many cases found it a way of passing design responsibility to others such as specialists and trade contractors.

My view of construction quickly developed. It was clear it was adversarial and there was a lack of trust. To put it simply no one liked each other and every part of the design and delivery process became very protective of their own position and lost sight of the bigger goal of delivering a constantly improving product more quickly at a reducing cost.

BIM has been a big success for the UK construction industry and there is no doubt we are leading the way in the world with our digital transformation. The work the Government has delivered through the BIM Task Group is fantastic. We now have a common language for us all to use.

Momentum has been built with an ever-growing group of people in the industry who are now debating the fine details of the recently released Digital Toolkit. This is fantastic for the technology aspects of the industry but our challenges are much deeper. BIM is not a panacea for all things wrong in our industry and there are still many fundamentals to be addressed.

The silo mentality still exists and our culture is unchanged. Instead of these being in an analogue world these issues now reside in a digital “BIM” world. There is a lack of trust between consultant and contractor and contractor and the trade. There is currently a BIM land grab as to who can control the process. These are cultural issues which go deep in our industry.

There is no question the ball is well and truly rolling regarding the digitising of our industry. We now need to work on true collaboration and culture if we are going to make a real long term impact.

Follow Rob Charlton on Twitter: @spacegroupRob

To read other blog posts from Rob, click here to visit his Blogspot page.

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