Commentary: BIM's big promise and five considerations to get it right

Thu, 2018-03-01 12:56 -- SCC Partner

For years, if not decades, BIM has promised so much for the Australian design and construction sector, should it be fully embraced. And now in 2018, the same questions are being asked about the benefits and opportunities for creating a policy and procurement environment to drive uptake. In this article, Arcadis’ Director of Cost and Commercial, Matthew Mackay, presents a timely set of considerations on how we can finally get it right! — Adam Beck

The 3D and software technology behind Building Information Modelling (BIM) isn’t new, but it is taking a long time to be an essential part of the property and infrastructure industry.

Make no mistake, BIM has huge potential to revolutionise how we plan, design, construct and even manage built assets, but while more projects are embedding BIM from the start the majority still aren’t. Principally, the reason for this is a general misunderstanding about what BIM is – a collaborative process at its core, with the software itself as merely the enabler.

Yet, change is on the horizon; In a move widely expected to be followed by others, the UK Government is implementing an industry wide BIM implementation strategy, an approach that Arcadis has matched by committing to adopting 100% BIM on all of its projects by 2020.

However, implementation comes with its own challenges. There’s very little experience of how BIM works in practice across the industry globally – especially by clients – and to date many projects that have applied BIM haven’t necessarily gone as smoothly or efficiently as they should. 

Upon review of the current state in the industry, here are five considerations I think need to be included in the process to fully maximise the benefits of BIM: 

1.  BIM demands consistency – All consultants should get appointed at the same time and with the same level of service scope to ensure we all deliver the exact same outcome. The Employer’s Information Requirements (EIR) needs to be developed by the client up front and incorporated into individual consultant service scopes. 

2. BIM needs unified protocols – Many designers engaged to deliver BIM come with their own unique protocols, and while they may share structural similarities they can vary widely in terms of criteria so that there’s no clearly defined or common baseline, which can ultimately lead to gaps in delivery.

3. BIM objectives need upfront alignment across all parties – The traditional procurement process of staged engagement without a common BIM goal adds costs, inefficiencies and confusion. We need to explore new ways of appointing contractors that acknowledge and outline responsibilities for delivering BIM. Once again, the client’s EIR will ensure alignment of project objectives from the start.

4. BIM requires investment – While BIM can improve coordination, clash detection, and delivery times, as well as cut costs, it also demands new skills, additional consultants like BIM project managers (depending on the size of the project and the value that this will add), and more workshops to help seamlessly manage the process. In other words, there are upfront costs, but long-term time and cost savings can be achieved later in the design process and, potentially, during construction. 

5. BIM performs better with human interaction and collaboration – There’s been a growing trend to cut design meetings and workshops, but working in isolation rarely delivers the best result and is obviously counterproductive when BIM is a core strategy.  Communication strategies are therefore critical and must be agreed with the client and all project stakeholders.

BIM will clearly become the industry standard, particularly as governments around the world insist on its use on projects. While it poses some initial disruption to business as usual, it’s potential is huge, but only if we think and work differently to really make it deliver the way it should.

This article was written by Matthew Mackay and appeared in