November 13, 2012

More and more building projects today are requiring a BIM (Building Information Modeling) process. Unfortunately, the real BIM methodology is failing to materialize due to the myriad of misconceptions that have spawned since its inception. None the less, dazed and confused owners and AEC professionals set off working on a project only to find themselves in a pool of chaos and frustration.
Imagine this! You’re playing a game with no rules, with no out of bounds, with no structure, and with no way to win. Sounds like a fun game, right? So, why do so many owners and AEC professionals agree to play the BIM game this way? Is it desperation to find work in a tough economy? Is it ignorance to the fact that it’s just not CAD? Or, is it just pressure to jump on the latest trend for fear of losing business? I’ve seen and heard them all during my experiences with customers. Whatever the reason may be, most of the time, the collective investment into the process is not fully there.
First things first, let’s talk about what BIM really is. BIM is a collaborative process of creating and managing reliable (graphical and non-graphical) data integrated into a 3D virtual simulation of the building project. The data-rich model is used to inform and describe a building project’s key physical and functional characteristics during design, through construction, and into occupancy. Notice that I did not say drawing lines, printing sheets of paper, or pointing the finger of responsibility! Now, that we have a clearer understanding of BIM, let’s get back to playing the BIM game as it was intended.
Before we can start the BIM game, we need to organize before we can mobilize. We’ll need all the players to meet to form a unit. We’ll call this gathering the “Project Kickoff Meeting.”  A large part of playing the BIM game correctly is communication and transparency. Therefore, each player will be given the opportunity to discuss what the project goals, critical milestones, and various individual expectations. Each player will also be given the chance to voice any concerns and ask any question they may have so that the collective can come to some common solution.
When the game begins, it will undoubtedly need structure, strategy, and execution. Think of this concept as a playbook for the project. We’ll call the playbook the “BIM Execution Plan.” Inside the BIM Execution Plan we’ll need to address several things. First, we’ll need to generate a list of all the players, all of their roles, and all of their responsibilities. By doing this, players will know their individual zone of responsibility and avoid being called for off sides. This brings us to the second point. There needs to be rules put in place to keep the players honest and accountable for their actions. These rules will also establish what information is to be created and managed as well as, how it will flow from player to player in order to assure that all goals, milestones, and expectations are met on time. There is nothing more damaging to the momentum of the project than one player committing a delay-of-game. Thirdly, the plan should indicate which equipment is to be used during the game. The equipment will not only need to create and manage the ever evolving information but, also facilitate the BIM process. Defining the equipment can also identify any disruption to the flow of information and how to mitigate potential bottlenecks. Finally, the BIM Execution Plan should specify the schedule. The schedule will keep the game on track and help minimize risk.
With the plan in place, it is now up to the biggest hurtle, the players. Ego and habit can be very damaging to the team. In order for the BIM game to play out to its potential, the players must exhibit trust in one another. When there is trust, confidence is gained. With confidence, players can communicate better. Each of the players should organize their staff according to their skillset and talents. Put people in positions that will have a positive impact on the overall objective set forth in the plan. Train, practice, and share as much as possible. Finally, motivate one another to perform at their upmost ability and provide them with the necessary support. In summary, a well-defined and executed plan will always be a win on the project scorecard.
Bill Knittle has a four-year Architectural Engineering degree from the University of Hartford. He has accumulated over seven years of industry experience in the field of Architecture. During that time he helped design, document, and in some cases, manage a variety of residential, commercial, municipal, and institutional projects. Most notably, he received recognition for the adaptive reuse of a vacant factory into leasable office condominiums and a conversion of a dilapidated 81-year-old silk mill into a local bank’s administration building using sustainable design techniques. For the past four years at Synergis, Bill has been training, supporting, and implementing the Building Solutions offered from Autodesk, which include AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture, and the Revit applications.