The BIM Gap

October 12, 2010

When construction companies get together and talk about how they implement BIM (building information modeling) they have a tendency to not talk about all the challenges they faced before getting to best practice cases. But the truth is BIM is complex, complicated, and it isn’t going to be perfect the first time around.

Julian Kang, associate professor and graduate program coordinator, Texas A&M University, www.tamu.edu, College Station, Texas, isn’t afraid to address the challenges with BIM.

“People want to know what difficulties (occurred)—what challenges did you have to resolve to get the things done,” says Kang. “As you may know, not many people were talking about those challenges because they always wanted to talk about the good things that they had to offer.”

Kang says he was in a situation where he was able to look at the different users—architects, engineers, owners, general contractors, and subs—in the BIM situation and assess the challenges. He brought the owners, general contractors, and subs together to discuss the gap that exists between those parties at a BIM forum, http://bim.tamu.edu, in Dallas, Texas, September 23-24. This has become an annual event, and in the future Kang would like to incorporate the architects and engineers into the discussion.

“Without getting to know the problem, it is not going to be easy for us to come up with the solutions to solve those problems at all,” adds Kang.

While the challenges do vary on a case-by-case basis, some of those presented include the architect not providing the team with the necessary model; the building information model provided by the architect not being for construction; the owners not caring about using the model; or the owners not happy about how the architects and general contractors are using BIM on the project.

These points aren’t easy to bring up—in some cases they are sticking points or sore issues among the project team. But the reality is these challenges are happening on projects across the globe.

“Currently I guess what we found from the conversation or panel discussion was owners are interested in using (the) building information model, but they are not providing a clear guideline for the general contractors.”

Another huge challenge is who owns the model. Kang says discussions determined it has something to do with who pays the building information modeling activities.

In the future, Kang would like to investigate some of the deeper challenges contractors might face and present those challenges on behalf of general contractors and subs. Part of his plan is to form a new alliance between the owners, general contractors, architects, subs, and lawyers to better utilize the building information model.

“I have been asking those general contractors to present some lessons that they learned from their first BIM project, but none of those general contractors that I have been talking (to) were willing to open all the mistakes that they have made when they are using the building information model for the first time and share some of the lessons that they learned with others.”

In the future, Kang plans to continue the BIM forum in Texas with more discussions about the gap that exists between the parties using building information modeling.