BIM – it’s one of the latest acronyms floating around our industry, and the hype is growing as our governments embrace the technology to improve efficiencies across the construction industry. 

BIM can deliver tangible benefits for asset owners, not only during design and construction, but for the long-term management of their asset. So it’s worth knowing just how it can be used to get the best possible outcomes.

Unfortunately for many, it’s not always clear what value it can bring in the delivery of major infrastructure projects.

The fact is BIM means different things to different groups. How project owners use the technology can be very different to how a designer or contractor might. Delivering a single solution which meets the needs of all parties can be a challenge.

In an effort to diffuse some of the confusion around what BIM is and what it isn’t, we debunked five common myths.  

Five myths debunked

Myth one – BIM is all about the software 

As it turns out, this isn’t the case at all. For one reason or another we’ve concentrated on the ‘M’ in BIM which often stands for ’Modelling‘. What we tend to forget is that there’s also an ’I’ in the acronym – and that’s where the focus should be.

The true power of BIM lies in managing ‘Information’ rather than just the model. This helps to define the rules or protocols from the start of a project to ensure all contributors take a consistent approach, regardless of the software used.

It is about developing a project-specific rule book and guidance for all parties to follow. This is done by establishing early, the key outcomes to be achieved and mapping this backwards into protocols and requirements. Ultimately this will lead to each contributor using their own BIM software in a coordinated way. This common approach is critical to project success. 

BIM uses available data to deliver a more holistic approach right from the start of a project – one that challenges an existing construction model and potentially provides a lower cost solution and responsible asset management.

Myth two – your architect will fill the role of BIM Manager on your project

This may not always be the case. BIM management requires many aspects of work to be undertaken before, during and after the design phase, which makes it difficult for your architect to take a holistic view of the project requirements. Their expertise is in creating the 3D model but seldom in installing the levels of disciplines required to develop a fully coordinated model.

Effective design management focuses on the design protocols that are essential in integrating all design elements into a single model, supported by the robust collection of information.  

This level of BIM management, protocols and standards may sit outside the normal scope of service for architectural firms. 

Myth three – the current model fits the bill, so it doesn’t need to change

If we said that about landlines when the first mobile phone hit the market, our communication capabilities might not have evolved to where they are today.

Change is inevitable. There are many reasons why change is essential including driving growth and profitability. As we evolve, so do our methods of working and the systems we use, which are designed to help us work smarter, not harder. When introducing new technologies, it’s important to challenge the ‘normal’ methods to ensure we are continuously achieving maximum benefit.  

So while your current model might be serving you well, be open to challenging it and perhaps adopting a new and improved approach – or face falling behind and losing work to those who do.

A traditional project structure involves separate design and construction teams leaving a gap where time and money can be lost. 

Traditional vs Coffey Approach screen v2 PURP

Diagram 1: Traditional project structure

Independent design engineering management and BIM can bridge this gap by integrating all elements of the design into a single model, potentially reducing the number of errors before they can impact on construction delivery.

Design Management Structure updated JUN15

Diagram 2: Coffey’s design management led structure

Myth four – BIM is a costly addition to your project                     

Actually, the opposite is true. The use of BIM creates internal efficiencies and productivity gains that in turn can reduce project costs and schedule delays. This is because BIM detects design conflicts early in the design process helping avoid unnecessary workarounds during delivery, and therefore costly variations. 

Myth five – asset management programs are developed post-construction

Yes they are, but they rely heavily on information developed as part of the BIM model. And if the initial BIM model isn’t set up properly, the right information won’t be collected. This means transferring the information you need to run your asset management program won’t be an easy process.

Just part of the BIGGER picture

Project savings can be delivered through the use of BIM – but at Coffey we believe it’s just part of the story.

We’ve come to understand that each stakeholder has their own needs and wants when it comes to using BIM. This can result in taking a disjointed approach that ultimately produces multiple errors and costly rework.

To overcome this, we believe it’s essential to be clear on the information you’ll need in the end, right from the beginning. The use of BIM can help deliver projects seamlessly, and ensure the right information is available after the build is complete – it’s just part of our design engineering led philosophy.

Are you curious to understand more about a design engineering led philosophy?

In the coming months we’ll be releasing further insights about the direct benefits this philosophy can deliver on major infrastructure projects.

In the meantime, if you’d like to know more view our BIM services and talk to Markus Benter-Lynch.