Transcending the BIM Hype

In this Viewpoint article, Eric Lamb, Dean Reed and Atul Khanzode of DPR Construction, Inc., analyze the rapid adoption of BIM technology from the perspective of the “Hype Cycle” devised by research and consulting firm Gartner Inc., which captures the over-enthusiasm and subsequent disappointment that typically occurs when a new technology is introduced. Based on DPR’s extensive experience with implementing BIM as well as working on several IPD projects, they provide suggestions for the AEC industry to move beyond the hype of BIM technology and for architects, engineers, contractors and owners to maximize the rewards of adopting and integrating BIM into their business.


6 thoughts on “Transcending the BIM Hype

  1. As a software company for construction companies (accounting and project management), how can I get a listing of materials needed to purchase? I have gotten no clear answer on this topic. Do I have to wait for level 5D to be used, because I am under the impression that adoption of this level is years away.

    Andrew Karr
    Product Manager
    Viewpoint Construction Software

  2. I have had first hand experience on the 3 projects mentioned in this article and can attest to the very significant benefits that DPR has brought to their execution. The suggestions in this article are sure to help other project teams using BIM, particularly the strong emphasis on early collaboration and joint development of the BIM model. Working together from the beginning in an IPD enviornment is the most effective way to realize the design, cost and time benefits that can be realized by using BIM combined with lean methods and off site prefabrication.

    There is one issue that I think deserves more emphasis: an educated owner is the key to success. We are talking about a revolution in business process and the owner needs to understand the implications and then incorporate them into the contract and processes suggested in this article. There is a tremendous need for owner education to realize the full benefits of these new technologies and business processes.

  3. Good article! The hype reeks of some of the same generalizations made about cadd in Bld’g design in the first place in the 80’s. “Those who don’t early adopt will be left by the way-side”, which may or may not be true. The hype is always fostered by marketing people of the software companies – to the degree that the curve has to have the big downside of “disolushenment”. It would be so much better if users/adopters get over themselves and just integrated it into their practices as just another tool. Which is what it will become later, anyway. The design industry gets all up in arms emotionally about these “big ticket” paradigm changes – yet in the end every firm finds its own way on its own terms, for better or worse, in its own best interests. There is no one best method of implementation of these newer technologies, just as there aren’t projects types that can be “coined”. Thanks for the insights on DPR’s examples of their own work.

  4. Dear Eric, Dean and Atul,

    First of all, I would like to appreciate for your kind sharing. Secondly, there are couple of issues came to mind mind while I reviewed your article. I’ll be thankful if you can clear them for me:

    1- “the trade or contractor responsible for doing the bulk of the physical construction work should create the BIM in collaboration with the design team.” from WHO creates the BIM.

    – You stated it’s better if contractors do BIM with designers’ collaboration; however I believe designers as the main decision makers shall create BIM. Because, in my book, it is significant if we could shift the majority of decisional tasks to the earlier designing process as much as possible. To me BIM, despite of ability in documentation, it is more feasible in supporting decision making process.
    How does it sound this contradiction? – Design team should create BIM instead of Contractors or vice versa?

    2- “One approach to minimize interoperability issues is to map the workflow required to deliver an entire project, looking for opportunities to eliminate unnecessary steps and hand-offs.”
    I think you made a typo for the word “minimize”. was it “maximize”?

    At the end, I hope you don’t mind if I discuss gain? your kind reply is highly appreciated in advance.

  5. It is refreshing to read a logical common sense approach to the BIM/VDC debate and for the most part I agree with the DPR approach. I do have few comments though, noted below:

    Quote: “When BIM/VDC first emerged in the commercial construction industry in the 1990s, the consensus was it would revolutionize the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.”

    Comment: This concept was actually integral to the development of the Pafec Dogs suite of software back in the early 80’s.

    Quote: “For example, on a large-scale hospital project, the design team had already created 2-D documents when DPR joined the project team. Due to the complexity of the project and the customer’s overall goals, DPR created a virtual model during preconstruction to coordinate systems and increase the ability for prefabrication on the project.”

    Comment: Agreed and a good point: the creation of a virtual model during the conceptual design phase of a project is important. Being a conceptual model the design should be spatially aware and even define spatial corridors and voids for systems routings and preliminary construction criteria. Preliminary constructability studies can also be derived from this model which should also align with material schedules, which may or may not impact construction phasing.

    Quote: “To gain the most value, we recommend that, whenever possible, the trade or contractor responsible for doing the bulk of the physical construction work should create the BIM in collaboration with the design team.”
    Quote: “To minimize the waste of duplicate effort, the team, including the owner, determined that the best course would be for the consulting engineers to switch to design software that was more compatible with what the subcontractors were using before any substantial work began on the project.”

    Comment: These 2 quotes align well with a fully integrated design philosophy approach that utilises expertise throughout the project design/build cycle and one which should be encouraged. Properly implemented the eventual discipline specific design models should be a shared resource that satisfies the design criteria and be compatible for direct input into the manufacturing/construction environment. This also brings another important resource to the table, which is the expertise of the fabricators, vendors and contractors directly into the design workflow at a very early stage. This philosophy also minimises the need for the design team to develop 2d drawings to convey design intent to the contractors, thus saving time and negates potential errors.

    Quote: “Small items are often overlooked in a model, such as anything with less than a 1-1/2” diameter, miscellaneous steel, hangers, connections to exterior skin systems, bracing, gusset plates, seismic connections, headwall units, and systems, including as pneumatic tube and medical gas.”

    Comment: This is debatable, the determination of modelling content should be based on a common sense approach – typically small bore pipe that are normally site run should not be modelled, critical systems routings and support hangers can be modelled judiciously. Small non critical items should be considered with care regarding whether or not to model – the authors mention later issues with model sizes that dictate potential share options and manageability of data – the more complex the model the bigger and more difficult it is to satisfy these aspects.

    Finally a comment on interoperability; recently a major cad developer dropped what was considered to be an excellent mechanical design product in favour of another. The unfortunate thing is that although the newer package satisfied the base criteria for the intended end user it did not have the same seamless interoperable capabilities as its predecessor. Interoperability between discipline specific cad software is the key to enabling a fully integrated design approach and needs to be a higher priority with the systems developers.

    BIM/VDC in conjunction with a well implemented design workflow involving all aspects of a project from design through to construction is the way forward.

  6. Everyone,

    Thanks for the comments and responses. We really appreciate everyone’s thoughtful comments. We have tried to respond below and would love to discuss this further if anyone is interested in sharing their experience on how to do this better. Our specific comments are below.

    @ Andrew:
    We (and others) are adopting 5D. The tools certainly are there to support this. You do need to look at the processes to gain real benefit as we argue in the article.

    @ Paul:
    Thanks for your note, Paul. We completely agree with Paul’s comment and we have been fortunate to work on these projects with owners like Sutter and Autodesk who have fully supported the use of these tools and are now seeing the benefits through their use in a collaborative environment.

    We wanted to focus on how teams can move beyond the hype using these tools and share some of our experience. One argument we do make though is that using the tool within your current process is good but might or might not result in the benefits that you can get and are possible. You might also look at how you can change the process itself. For example, the Shop Drawing process. It can be done sooner or completely eliminated if you remap the process and try to eliminate the waste.

    @Dr. Mazi:
    You are right about the use of BIM in Design. We absolutely agree that it is useful there. We want to highlight the fact that the tools are more powerful than just exploring design options and have real use in the construction process and can benefit tremendously in the fabrication and construction process. We believe that establishing the purpose of BIM before a model is built and then building the model as a collaborative effort between design and construction team adds the most value to the project.

    On the issue of interoperability, we wanted to highlight the fact that project teams have the opportunity to address this issue upfront. By minimize, we meant minimizing the problems that can happen due to lack of interoperability.

    @ Hugh Tompson:
    Regarding history and emergence of the tools in commercial construction, we saw the earliest implementations coming out of Stanford in 1990’s which is why we attributed the timeline. The article is not about history and who first came up with the idea, although there are lot of good references by Chuck Eastman and Paul in their book on this topic.

    Agree with your comment on the process and use of BIM in an IPD approach. We believe that has the biggest potential benefit because the expertise of fabricators and builders goes into the building of the model.

    On Level of Details, your comment on being judicious is absolutely right. Flex conduit etc. can be routed in the field, but our experience working in California with sesimic bracing is that it is important to model this because of the amount and complexity that it involves and not doing it causes a ton of field issues. It’s a question that can and should be addressed by the team working on the project.

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