BIM: What do owners want?

The Spring BIMForum conference hosted several professonals in the AECO industry to bring forth their ideas for the evolving business information modeling process.

By Brian Skripac, CannonDesign June 19, 2017

The Spring BIMForum conference hosted almost 500 industry leading architecture, engineering, construction and building owner professionals from across the country. The conference provided a continued evolution from past BIMForum events including the Fall 2012 BIMForum which focused on BIM for Facilities Management. While only a very few owners were approaching the BIM for FM discussion at that time, the conversation has dramatically changed in 2017.

Now more than ever, owners are becoming extremely focused on leveraging building information modeling (BIM) to deliver their projects. Moving beyond the simple request to state that projects be designed and/or constructed with BIM, owners are creating project delivery specifications and turnover guidelines that are BIM-centric and outline innovative BIM-enabled processes to successfully deliver their work. This evolution was further reiterated in the conference’s opening remarks with comments about striving to have BIM done right – just requiring it is not enough. Not only did these statements reflect the need to advance BIM in the AECO community, but they also challenge designers to continuously improve while generating results that evolve processes and focus on creating high-performance projects. This is an exciting opportunity to raise the bar for BIM.

While BIM, in and of itself, is not the end but rather the means to a number of potentially valuable project delivery outcomes for the owner, it’s important for all project participants to think inside other people’s boxes to better understand how their work can provide value and identify project delivery needs from the outset. Here are three examples to grow stronger in this effort.

Define process flow and data needs early

As most owners have multiple systems that share (duplicate) data supporting various tasks, it is critically important to define the process flow and data needs from the outset as the integration of BIM post-occupancy is not about technology, it’s all about the process. Confirming this approach, other presenters at BIMForum spoke about the need to focus on not only what BIM can do, but what value BIM can provide to businesses. This idea of task over technology allows owners to focus on the delivery of an as-maintained model that can serve as the connective tissue between design-build and facilities management for the lifecycle of the building.

This connective tissue will need to be carefully strategized and defined, as only good geometry and data can generate reliable information to serve as the basis for a useful decision-making process. This is ultimately the basis for the transition of BIM to owners, which comes with the understanding that incomplete or delayed information risks the perceived integrity of the entire system.

Seek out collaboration

Defining a transition to facility life cycle management also requires collaboration with industry partners for sharing ideas, risk, goals, successes and failures. There needs to be more acknowledgement of the business case (it is a business and people must make money to stay in business) and understanding what can be shared and what cannot. A presentation on this idea during the conference noted that making money may not be making money the same way as in the past. It may be making money by delivering what owners actually need more efficiently. This was a powerful thought that resonated with the audience. Owners shouldn’t pay more for BIM, but they should pay differently.

Transform project deliverables

Very actionable ideas were also shared from the US Department of Veterans Affairs regarding the development of project deliverables the AEC community should embrace. These ideas challenged designers to collaborate and evolve project delivery processes to not simply design for bidding, but design for construction. There was also mention that the VA is working to establish the Design-Intent BIM as the AEs primary design deliverable, which will take precedent over two-dimensional drawings.In addition, the non-editable Federated Design-Intent Model (.NWD or equal format) will be the instrument of the contract used for the construction award. These statements were extremely well received by the audience and became a talking point throughout the conference.

While these goals are a huge step forward in the industry and the VA’s leadership is greatly appreciated, the design and construction community has to hold up their end of these statements. With owners defining BIM project deliverables, simply turning over a model will not be enough value. The next step evolving BIM for the design and construction industry is to strengthen the quality and integrity of BIM deliverables. The need to improve, measure and control deliverables are key to any project’s success, and the owner’s life cycle strategy is an area the AEC community will need to address. Achieving BIM done right and looking to provide reliable information for clients to support their facility life cycle management strategy is an exciting next step in the evolution of the industry. 

Brian Skripac is director of virtual design and construction for CannonDesign. This article originally appeared on CannonDesign. CannonDesign is a content partner of CFE Media. 

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