Measuring BIM’s Disruption: Understanding Value Networks of BIM/VDC

In this article, John Tobin, Director of Architecture at EYP, an architecture/engineering firm headquartered in Albany NY, shares his insights on how the two contrasting types of innovation, “sustaining” and “disruptive” — as popularized by Clayton Christensen in his seminal book, The Innovator’s Dilemma — can be applied to the AEC technology industry. He posits that BIM is a disruptive technology, in contrast to CAD, and brings a different “value network” to the AEC industry: the initial goal of “smarter CAD” morphed into a BIM movement, which in turn morphed into a BIM/VDC movement, where BIM sows information in a model environment, while VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) largely harvests that information for downstream uses including commissioning, facility management, and construction logistics.


4 thoughts on “Measuring BIM’s Disruption: Understanding Value Networks of BIM/VDC

  1. An excellent summation. It is noteworthy that governements and industry (IT) continue to overlook the potential for large ROI from innovation in IT in the construction and property industry. Look at any research survey and see how this sector is omitted. Communications and logistics still monopolize IT innovation, but behind the scenes look at what BIM/VDC is achieving ~ it already is a seriously disruptive innovation.

  2. I started in the Architecture/Building business 53 years ago, drafting on tracing paper, graduated to plastic film, early versions of C.A.D, many versions of AutoCad and am currently modelling buildings in 3D, photorealistically rendered. I have seen, and promoted various BIM solutions to design and construction companies, and various architectural practices, none of which could see the enormous promise of the BIM revolution. The possibility of an Architectural practice extending its income stream and its responsibilities by including ongoing building management and maintenance was not on the manager’s horizon. Many managers could not even conceive of the possibilities. The disruption which can/will be felt by organisations is probably related to the change in traditional job description/expertise. Much time, energy and expense is required to train staff. Many companies will not spend the money.

  3. Excellent article John! Thanks for pointing out (and naming) the differences between disruptive and sustaining innovations.

    From my workfield, I also find BIM is a “Socio-technological” innovation, where the competences of people working with BIM are different. This does indeed mean that the social impact on existing staff is the biggest challenge for our industry.

  4. Excellent and very useful article. It’s essential that people in the industry fairly soon start to get to grips with the truly transformative potential of BIM. There are many similarities between BIM in construction today and EPOS in retail thirty years ago – and just look at what happened there! In “The Digital Hand” James Cortada wrote, in 2004, about the Digital Revolution as having already brought about fundamental change in the structures and modes of operation of many sectors of the US economy. His survey covered sectors generating about 80% of total GDP notably excluding construction. BIM is construction’s Digital Revolution. There is lots to learn from these earlier innovator industries about how the transformation happens: lots of lessons to learn and mistakes to avoid. This is hugely important, given construction’s contribution to GDP in developed economies. It is even more so in the context of the urbanisation of the developing world, where accommodation, schools, hospitals and infrastructure for three billion new city dwellers will have to be constructed in the next forty years.
    So, good stuff John; more articles, more discussion like this!

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