The construction industry often says it would learn more about building information modelling (BIM) if it shared the bad stories. Grontmij head of BIM Rupinder Wilkhu shares his BIM bugbears.
Grontmij head of building information modelling (BIM) Rupinder Wilkhu thinks the construction industry is approaching BIM the wrong way. All of the engineering and construction titles want to celebrate the best examples of BIM implementation on projects, but he thinks the industry would be better served by by talking about the bad experiences.
It would be useful to find out what people are really struggling with and get the bad stories about building information modelling (BIM)
There are certainly schemes that have not been efficient because of BIM and I think by being honest we probably get the feedback that we need to improve what we want to do.
We underestimate the amount of hand holding people actually need
One of the key areas is people. But the people with the technical knowledge, the people who’ve been in this industry for a long time aren’t happily adopting BIM. When we look at the people actually involved in the field, they’re focused on what they’ve been doing and not looking or wanting to look at how they’re going to change that.
We sometimes change our programmes to get the guys out in the field involved in the design room.
A6 federated virtual environment
We have actually changed some of our contracts to be able to do that – and clients need to be aware of this.
If we don’t change the contracts to allow this early collaboration, then they can’t expect more collaboration. I think that’s part of the problem: when you tell people you need early input from them and they say “fine, but it’s not in my scope”.
There’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation.
If the contracts companies are stuck in, don’t allow them to get involved early on, then they’re not going to do it, and vice versa.
On some schemes we meet with representatives from each of the companies bidding for the contract
We don’t know who the contractor is going to be, but we might have an idea that it is going to be one of three companies, so we at least try to get someone from each contractor to come and sit or get involved early on in the design stage. That way we can start adding or changing the way we’re going to do things, so that it supports them going forward.
It’s a shame that people still ask for traditional handover drawings and PDFs to 2D specifications
That is a major issue for us as a designer. We’re being asked to do so much more from an early stage and also produce the traditional output in the same timeframe.
If we’re producing a smart model that does all of the fabrication and construction and full digital handover, we could be a lot more efficient, but the deliverables in our contracts, and even the BIM level 2 mandate next year, will still be the 2D traditional drawing output or 2D traditional reports.
Grontmij head of BIM Rupinder Wilkhu
The technology vendors are not the problem
The technology vendors are working with us; they’re trying to change their products and we’re trying to embrace the new technology. Some programs are fantastic at creating a very smart model and not so good at producing the engineering drawings that the guys on site want. That’s the problem, the vendors are already designing for the future - I have no issue with them. But we’re tied down by our contracts, our current culture and the institutions who are still asking for 2D drawings.
The design standards and specifications need to be updated
But the industry is not moving the design standards, specifications and how we check and reveal all these criteria forward. It’s the institutions’ responsibility - bodies like the ICE - they’ve got a responsibility to change the standards. The Institution of Structural Engineers came up with new standards for how to check a building that’s using BIM enabled processes.
That’s not happening in infrastructure yet. A typical example is when it comes to designing a vertical alignment for a road. The software can design it in a 3D virtual environment, but if we look at the industry and how they want us to check that design criteria, it’s still stuck in a 2D process.
We’re being asked to do so much more from an early stage and also produce the traditional output in the same timeframe
The highways sector has a fantastic opportunity to steam ahead with BIM because of its cultures
If we look at way projects are pushed out, right from the start they know who the tier 1 and tier 2 contractors are, so they’ve got a much bigger opportunity there to get them involved early on and get them working properly from day one. That’s very difficult to do at the moment on a building scheme or a rail scheme.
But the buildings sector is better positioned from a technology point of view
In a typical building you have the different disciplines: architects, structural engineers, mechanical electrical and plumbing (MEP) contractors and civil engineers.
Nine out of 10 times, the four could possibly use the same design application, they could possibly use the same fabrication application and then hand over a similar process. On an infrastructure scheme, in a typical highways scheme, and on the ones we’ve been working on, we can have up to 19 different disciplines - each one using a different design application. We don’t want to do BIM for the 3D modelling, we are trying toembrace BIM in design - and to do that, the software is not ready for the infrastructure sector.
The BIM level 2 specifications are going to be very painful for the infrastructure sector
At the moment, BS1192 (which specifies the requirements for BIM level 2) is looking at the future but it’s still focused on buildings.
The whole BIM level 2 specifications, even down to the digital plan of works, is very much focused on buildings.
But the way data is captured in infrastructure is very different. If you look at Network Rail, or even Highways England, they’ve got a massive number of assets and for them to suddenly start changing how they present their information for the BIM level 2 requirements will be a massive task.
Different infrastructure clients use different platforms to manage their assets
We have three road clients in Essex and each one has got roughly three or four databases to manage their assets and they each use different platforms to do this. BS1192, part 5, talks about handing over data in a common format, but that only supports an asset management system suited for buildings.