Geo Week News

December 10, 2014

Is BIM Overrated?

Sean Higgins: A recent survey found that the benefits of BIM are overhyped.

Let me back up: Recently, completed a reader survey on the adoption of BIM and its benefits. The survey found that 45% of respondents believe the benefits of BIM to be overhyped, and of those who said they use BIM, just over a third reported cost savings and other project improvements. 

There are plenty of reasons to discount the survey, like that the the publication is regional and the sample size of 166 people is extremely limited. But there are reasons to pay attention, too–the finding is provocative, and the survey was completed in the UK where the BIM mandate is forcing adoption of BIM.

My question is, How well does this reflect the adoption of BIM on a wider scale? Are people actually finding its benefits to be overyhyped? For some answers, I called one of SPAR’s many resident BIM experts, John Russo, and talked it through. 

Sean: Having read the survey results, would you say that what you’ve been seeing in the US is similar? I’m trying to get a sense for whether this is a representative case or not.

John: My first question is: Where are these people at in the adoption cycle of adopting BIM? Because that may heavily influence what their answers are or how they’re responding.

Sean: What do you mean by that, specifically?

John: You know, people who are new to BIM or are just starting down the path may have a different answer or feeling on whether or not BIM is overhyped than someone who is a little further down the path. The reason is that anyone who goes down the BIM path is making a significant investment and you really have to retool your organization to go from the 2D workflows into the 3D and other “D” workflows.

BIM is a process, not just a tool. So you really have to reshape your organization, and there’s a significant amount of cost upfront to go through that process. And if you’re early in that process, you may not be seeing a return yet, and thus you may think “wow, the benefits of this are overhyped.” Or, if you’re further into that process, you may really start to see how the benefits are really starting to pay off.

Sean: In the survey, they quote **the guy** from Knauf insulation, who mentions that many people are just using 3D modeling and then calling it BIM. Do you think that sometimes people have a misunderstanding of what BIM means–maybe it’s not that they’re early in the adoption cycle but instead that they’re just doing the wrong thing.

John: That might be true. But remember, BIM can be a very robust, and even complicated tool. The first step into the BIM world is fairly simple, and you’re just trying to wrap your mind around 3D. But there are a lot of other D’s–there’s 4D (scheduling), 5D (excavating), 6D (sustainability), and now 7D, (facilities management). And depending on how well you build your BIM, it can affect how much value you get out of that for these other dimensions. So, you know, if they’re just new to BIM, they’re probably struggling to get their heads around the 3D aspect, let alone see some of the value and benefits of these other D’s.

Sean: So, would you say that people thinking that it’s overhyped might just have an immature BIM implementation?

John: That’s very possible. From my own experience, we went through the same process when we got into BIM. I said, you know, “this is costing me a lot to retrain my guys, get our projects switched, change our marketing, change our production process,” and I hear people say this a lot.

Sean: When the survey mentions that the biggest impediment to successfully implementing BIM is client interest, do you think that’s true?

John: It is. A lot of clients don’t care what process you use to get there, they contracted a designer to produce a set of plans so they could get their project built. How we produce those plans is less important to them than getting the project built.

Bigger picture, there are facilities owners who might have an interest in the lifecycle BIM approach where you can get more value out of going through that process than just getting the project built. There is data being generated that you can use during the maintenance and operations phase of the building lifecycle. More sophisticated owners are realizing the value that provides them because that, after all, is the most expensive phase of the lifecycle.

Sean: Could some of the difficulties of ushering the data through the project lifecycle also be making BIM less valuable?

John: It’s pretty hard to get a good lifecycle BIM. You know, going through from design to construction to maintenance and operation and having that data translate across those phases effectively is difficult. For instance, the designer doesn’t care what struggle the architect would have, he just wants to get the design done. I think as the technology improves, though, it’s going to be easier to get from one stage to the next.

Sean: As a final question, if you had to give one quick response to the question: “Is BIM overhyped?”, what would you say?

John: BIM certainly can be overhyped. Clearly, people throw a lot of things regarding the value of BIM, and they can be embellished in the marketing message. So, from a marketing perspective, I think BIM can be overhyped. And the reality is that there is _tremendous_ value in BIM. But learning how to use BIM effectively is important, to realize the value. That process is going to take time and the more you devote to refining the process, the sooner you’re going to find the true value of BIM.

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