BIM – collaboration is the key

on 11 November, 2013

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is changing the way the industry views the construction process.

At Desco, we have been working in the 3D environment for over 10 years, with full BIM capabilities for almost three, and the specialist experience to be able to adapt the technique to any project. It was important to the senior management team to be early adopters of BIM, in light of the fact that it was already widely used by architects and increasingly becoming a client and project demand. As a result, we have invested time and money in the technology and training to ensure our team has the required skills in place to negotiate the various procedures and processes stipulated by the BIM technique.

Fundamentally, BIM was born out of a desire to drive waste out of the design and construction process, with a subsequent reduction in procurement costs, and to leave clients with an asset management tool superior to the traditional O&M manual. In order to get the most out of BIM, we believe collaboration is key and a joined-up approach should be adopted by all parties at the inception of any project, from the client through to architects, engineers and contractors.

BIM requires a shift in mindset – it is not simply 3D CAD (although that undoubtedly forms part of it). The clue to its real power lies in the “I” of BIM: Information. In essence, a BIM model comprises a data-rich virtual building, capturing the physical and engineering properties of the complete project. It can be used by designers, cost consultants, project planners, contractors and ultimately the client/occupier.

BIM software has been developed to allow multi-disciplinary coordination, yet if one part of the chain is missing, BIM cannot reach its full potential. It’s important that for BIM to be a successful technique, everyone needs to be on the same page.

During the design phase it brings together the various elements and systems of each member of the design team; it is much easier to deal with clashes between components at the design stage than on site. For MEP engineers, BIM software has taken a while to catch up with that used by our design team colleagues, however it has now matured to a stage where it can be used with confidence. Even though industry-wide development of components and families remains frustratingly slow; this is certainly an area where MEP equipment manufacturers can help.

Our experience tells us that despite the fact that BIM can benefit every project, not every project is at the stage where it is ready for BIM. You have to know your client; with BIM there’s no halfway house and your customer has to understand its benefits and, in many respects, we as consultants have to be able to educate our clients about what they are. As a relatively new process, the industry is operating at different stages and it’s really important to be able to adapt according to the project.

Our experience of BIM at Desco has been positive to date. We’re extremely fortunate to have an exceptionally dedicated team across the UK and internationally, who have been quick to embrace the shift in mindset that is a pre-requisite of BIM. We believe the future of the design process is with BIM – it’s reconnecting the industry like no technique before and the sooner you take the leap, the sooner you can begin to reap the benefits.

Dave Fittis is director at Desco, an international MEP design consultancy.

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