Beyond BIM – It’s Not the End of the Road!

Current academic research in AEC aims to understand the steps beyond BIM, which will help chart the future of our industry over the coming decades. This Viewpoint article by Robert Amor, University of Auckland, New Zealand, and Robert Owen, University of Salford, UK, describes an international research effort in this area, coordinated by the Integrated Design and Delivery Solutions (IDDS) initiative of the CIB (International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction).


9 thoughts on “Beyond BIM – It’s Not the End of the Road!

  1. IDDS in principle sounds quite good, however I don’t think it should be deemed as a process remote from BIM. BIM is not purely a technical solution as you have described; properly implemented it is a PROCESS which encompasses many aspects of a companies engineering practices.

    Phil Bernstein described it in a recent interview as:

    “Building information modeling, or BIM, is an integrated process for exploring a project’s key physical and functional characteristics digitally before it’s built, helping to deliver projects faster and more economically, while minimizing environmental impact. Coordinated, consistent information is used throughout the process to design innovative projects, better visualize and simulate real-world appearance, performance and cost, and create more accurate documentation. Note, that we do not call BIM a technology. It is a PROCESS.”

    Which incidentally I agree with.

    Having established the definition of BIM it is easy to see why IDDS should be seen as an evolutionary progression from BIM.

    The general perception is that BIM has been universally accepted and implemented globally, but reality dictates otherwise. Local to me; here in Scotland; I know of 3 major companies that have not embraced 3D never 4D or BIM. One company is an offshore fabricator still happily using Autocad 2000, another is glass lined reactor design and build company using Autocad 14 and yet another a manufacturer of machinery is using Autocad LT. These companies are all within a 25 mile radius of where I stay… and I am sure there are many more.

    If we extend that across the UK or even Europe then we can see that the building sector still has a long way to go to catch up with the basic principles of 3D and BIM.

    Part of the problem is that companies don’t have the revenue to re-invest in new processes and technologies, also there is an ignorance prevalent within the management of these companies about 3D, 4D and BIM processes and the potential benefits. Regarding the latter it is hardly surprising as the definition of BIM is continually being redefined by the many people involved.

    So do excuse me if I don’t openly embrace IDDS, but considering the state of the world economy and current company engineering practices I do think our time and resources would be better spent tackling the issues of awareness about BIM.

    Personally I do see the potential with IDDS, but we first need to understand the status quo to fully understand the best way forward.

    Oh and by the way IFC is still very much a current technology, sure it was implemented more than a decade ago but its potential is only currently being realised.

  2. Indeed IDDS is the same as BIM. Both movements aim at better and faster building design and maintenance, but don’t specify how to get there. IFC is the best standard to use, but is not compatible with recent full parametric design, which is embraced by offices like SOM, Grimshaw, Foster, ARUP and many others. The incompatibility is that changed objects and their attributes that you receive in IFC format are very difficult to regenerate with a script, while scripts make design better and faster, which paradoxically is also the goal of IFC based BIM.

  3. Thanks to the authors and AECbytes for bringing this CIB effort to my attention. In the grand scheme of things, implementation of information technology in the construction industry is not a question of if, but of when and how.

    Not only is BIM itself a process, but industry-wide implementation of CAD, BIM, and whatever comes are also processes. It appears that we are in the midst of a rolling series of transitions that will challenge every enterprise in our industry to make periodic decisions about how to participate. Those decisions – right or wrong – will be different for every enterprise.

    Forecasting is risky, but the IDDS initiative as presented here and in the IDDS white paper looks like a good effort at providing early warning of what to watch for in coming years as we face here-and-now challenges like the economy, and the shortcomings of IFC with respect to robust parametrics. I appreciate CIB’s attention to that chore. I will be watching the CIB, and further developments of the IDDS effort in particular, more closely.

  4. The danger with IDDS (NAA?) is the same as with BIM – the adoption.

    The BIM idea, software, and implementation processes are around for almost three decades, and the industry is faintly aware of it only in the last maybe half a decade? How much time will actually pass before the IDDS is understood by the industry on the average, not only 50 people in the world?

    The problem is with the charted territories and pieces of the cake that every participant in the construction game expects. Those have to be redefined if BIM as a process is to be anywhere near implementation, let alone implemented. And that is going to create a LOT of resistance.

    The other problem is the ignorance and the perception, established during the implementation of CAD, that it is “drafting” – a horrible concept still imbedded deeply into the mind of a “creative designer”. God forbid that a software should “limit his creativity”. Even if it costs the client a lot of RFIs – hey, he got his fee, right?

    As for IFC, there is nothing wrong with it, and the output is as good as your BIM enabled software’s capability to handle it and whether the people know how to define it. Computers never do what we want, only what we tell them to do. The software is another issue – what is “the market leader” now leads in the CAD market, as that is what the design and engineering software market is. There is no BIM software market as yet, it is still being formed, and the INFORMED decision of which software does what best – and not which sticker it carries – is the key to actually using BIM procedures, instead of investing in new hardware. It would be contrary to all the BIM and IDDS premises to again enslave a whole industry to the whims of the software vendors. It should be the other way around – we need this, you make it!

    The economic situation in fact does not help. There is less and less building, especially building that a decent profit can be made off, and it is a money issue in the end – yes, I realize that this would help me IN THE LONG RUN, but I CAN’T AFFORD IT NOW.

    IDDS is definitely the right way forward – IF the industry realizes what the benefits are and sees unambiguous FINANCIAL benefits.

  5. From my field trips and the observational research of others, the current tendency of the many is to use BIM as a technology and for the few to use it as a process. The latter see far more financial benefit, especially if linked with lean construction processes and new structural collaboration such as IPD. Whilst simple BIM (sBIM) is a technology, it can yield much greater value when used as a process (iBIM – the i can stand for integrated or intelligent). There is already a trend for the more advanced users and industry leaders to seek out a new term because of the tendency for users to use BIM as a design technology. I guess that leading edge thinkers will always push the envelope and even design new ones.

    When you talk with organisations like Gehry Technologies, Autodesk, Mortenson, DPR, John Tocci or our own Arto Kiviniemi, you realise that current use of BIM is certainly in its infancy and we all agree that there is a real need for improved education and case studies in the sector. However, IDDS is primarily intended to guide the 4,000-5,000 (I’m never quite sure) of CIB active researchers through an interactive process in driving the research agenda forward. I’m told that my task is to integrate the efforts of most of the 60 Task Groups and Working Commissions who have some interest in this area, driving the research agenda from 2014 onwards.

    To be honest, I am normally focussed on far more immediate issues, including the question of training for effective use of current technologies, processes, and structures. However, BIM has taken a long time to evolve and we need to think ahead to what comes next, including technologies such as: semi-automated, evidence-based generative design; process-led information integration and user-based filtering; and new forms of industry legal, liability and insurance structures to support collaboration – just to list a few ideas that my few remaining neurons keep returning to.

    Thanks for all your comments – great that we (primarily Robert) have stirred the pot a little.


    Bob Owen

  6. Very interesting comments to the article – thank you.

    I would like to address some of the issues around the take-up of BIM (and I’ll accept that BIM “should be” a process change as well as a technological change) versus looking at the next steps such as IDDS. I think this brings us back to a perennial tension between academia and industry.

    I’ll claim that it is not the role of academia to wait and see how BIM is taken up by industry before looking at the next steps for our industries. The government, and society, expect us to be researching the many possible futures well in advance of industry need. It is likely that many of the futures that we investigate will be dead-ends, or discovered when implemented to have insufficient a business case for an industry context. It is our role, however, to have the answers to “what’s next” for when industry is ready to take the next steps from whatever technological change they have recently completed.

    So it may take another 5-10 years before the BIM revolution succeeds, influenced by: the economic situation; early successes or failures; usability of solutions; time to get to the tipping point, etc. But at whatever time in the future BIM becomes as commonplace as CAD, then academia needs to have ready their investigations into futures such as IDDS. The call we are making in this paper is not necessarily for industry to take the next step now (though some will), but for engagement in helping define the future. As we see time and again it is industry informed research which tends to have greatest impact and chance of success!

  7. Hi Bob and thank you;

    I am curious by what you mean by “…evidence-based generative design”?

    Hi Robert and thank you;

    Interesting comment: “I’ll claim that it is not the role of academia to wait and see how BIM is taken up by industry before looking at the next steps for our industries.”

    After 2 decades BIM should be commonplace and its not. If I were an academic working on new concepts I would certainly be wanting to know the reasons why the industry has taken so long to implement even a basic implementation of BIM. Historically CAD evolved within a very short period of time, evolving to the PC in the mid eighties and replacing the drawing board throughout the industry by the beginning of the ninety’s. In short a major transformation and investment in no time at all and yet BIM has so far taken 4 times longer and is still marginal at best!

    I fully appreciate that it is important to research the possible futures and that IDDS is only one consideration in this respect. But in my opinion to fully understand the needs and how well the industry will respond you first have to understand the historical precedent as I have already mentioned…and that surely must be an integral part of any research. In this respect BIM has failed because the early research did not consider these factors.

    Please do excuse me if I seem to be repeating myself but to me these are very important considerations which should not be overlooked.

  8. Hugh,
    Evidence-based design is disappointingly rare, at least in terms of an understanding of the widest variation of design and its impacts on benefits realisation. A good example would be the ‘optimal learning spaces’ project done over the last couple of years here at Salford to examine how design of schools affects learning outcomes (for instance, I hadn’t previously known that different colours affect different age groups in different ways). I guess I’m suggesting combining such comprehensive research with generative design being researched and trialled here and elsewhere, particularly linked with automated construction methods modelling, such as shown by Shimizu in VTT at the IDS conference in 2009 (4 minutes to model a building in several different construction methods).

    Assuming that such an integration is possible (and I believe it probably is now but can be improved substantially over the next 10 years or so), then it should be possible to free humans from much of the routine design work. That is not to talk of a totally automated architecture and construction engineering approach (although that might be possible for repetitive products such as industrial sheds and supermarkets) but maybe computer-augmented design, using rule-based substantial evidence and supporting multiple construction methods, probably within specific sectors, such as healthcare or education. Whilst repetitive design is sometimes portrayed as the devils work by some, there is much to be said for embedding knowledge of benefits realisation within artefacts – there would still be scope for difference and for exploration of better options – I would think that fully automated architecture would be both impractical for the foreseeable future and undesirable from an environmental aesthetic perspective.

    As for teaching current technologies, processes, methods and tools, it is interesting how many UK companies are suddenly realising that they need to join the fray (a great opportunity for academia – we just had our Masters in BIM and Integrated Design approved and are talking to several companies about training, as well as having introduced cross-disciplinary projects for our undergrads, with BIM as the connective process).

    I don’t know where you are based (and can’t remember whether we already covered this – old age strikes again) but we will be running a number of global workshops over the next 18 months to try to set the research trajectories required to achieve IDDS. There was one at Champaign, Illinois last year; others are in the concept stage for China, Australia and Brazil. We are also running an event with NIST, NSF, Fiatech and Virginia Tech in Washington in April 2012.


  9. Bob;

    The evidence based design approach is indeed very interesting, I sure would love to know more about this.

    I am based in Scotland and would be very interested in attending your workshop. Do you have a schedule of events for the UK?

    Would you mind if I contact you directly at the University of Salford?

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