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Why BIM is a Matter for the Boss

BIM Has Arrived! Recognizing Opportunities and Using Them for Corporate Success

At the beginning, only a few early adopters have dealt with the topic of integrated design, but today it is the most exciting topic discussed in the construction industry. This is a topic in which MEP designers, architects, structural engineers, building owners, operators and everyone involved in the construction process and the management of buildings are interested. The digitization of design and construction processes is expected to provide transparent control of the construction project, which in turn will lead to a reduction in overall costs. The building is first "built virtually" before the real construction begins. This allows the parties involved to identify and eliminate errors as well as risks of a construction project at an early stage through early networking, close cooperation and intensive communication. By means of meaningful visualizations of various design variants already in early stages, standardized and transparent processes, collision checks for consistent design and, based on this, a smooth construction process, construction times and costs can be considerably reduced.

Not least because of the political decision to make BIM obligatory in the future, BIM is now a must have for all service providers in the construction industry. Non-governmental clients are also increasingly demanding BIM-compliant design for their projects. In this context, the requirements are very different - from a collision-free 3D design to an overall building information model that represents the building "as built". That is where one of the challenges of this new way of working becomes obvious: There is no clear definition of a BIM process. It is rather decided at project-level how exactly the process is to be designed. Some people see only the initial additional effort to establish new working methods in the company, while others have already recognized the opportunities offered by integrated design for the construction industry and for their own company. Because BIM is no longer a vision of the future, but reality. The establishment of the new work processes should be started early, as the implementation takes time and can therefore become a problem if you wait until BIM-compliant design is mandatory. Those who have already started or are about to start have the opportunity to keep getting better with every new task and to prepare themselves for the future. 

BIM Requires Change Management and the Participation of All Employees In order to successfully introduce BIM in a company, an implementation plan is required. The introduction cannot take place overnight and requires investment. This does not only mean the possible acquisition of new software, but also the investment in your own employees. Also a timetable for implementation has to be created, with a time frame of several years especially in larger offices with many employees. In particular the changed communication rules and thus the continuous exchange of information between those involved have a great influence on the changed work processes. After all, it is the improvement of cooperation between all actors that ensures the success of BIM-compliant design. The defined communication paths must be maintained and a disciplined way of working must be assumed, taking all interests into account. At first glance, Figure 1 on the right shows that these changes in the communication process make sense, since all participants receive their information from one central source and thus there is only one valid source. The interaction must be controlled and monitored from a central position and leads to a new function within the design process. This BIM management is one of the personnel changes that must be learned. Since there are very few trained BIM managers in the sense of academic training, the existing personnel should be trained. This training is one of the main tasks within change management on the way to integrated design. In addition to the role of the BIM manager, all employees involved in the design process must be trained in a targeted manner and in practical units. The entire company must therefore gain BIM know-how, define responsibilities and redistribute roles. This requires financial resources and, above all, time to make this evolution possible. The new processes must be explained, understood with the help of training and then applied to pilot projects.

To ensure a successful start, it is very important to convince the entire team of the advantages of the changed workflow. If the participants are convinced of the idea and the underlying concept, the successful introduction and implementation will be supported by each individual. This is the only way to tap the full potential. John Paul Kotter describes the introduction of innovations within change management in eight phases (Fig. 2). In the first three phases, the aim is to establish a climate of change. For the implementation of integrated design, this means convincing everyone of the need for change. In particular, the opportunities for one's own work should be highlighted. Phases 4 to 6 are the pilot project phases in which the employees are directly involved. The first small projects should be structured in a way to ensure a first feeling of success. Standards are developed based on this in phases 7 and 8, which are then established company-wide. This process must be seen as an iterative process, particularly in the area of digitization, which is subject to rapid change. It is therefore necessary to constantly question oneself, exploit new technical possibilities and thus continuously improve the work process.

Each BIM Project Has Its Own Rules
There is no binding specification that describes a BIM process. Rather, the rules must be defined together with the builder owner for the respective project. Even this process must be learned in order to be able to advise the builder owner in a meaningful way. The building owner formulates his requirements on the basis of the “Employer’s Information Requirements” (EIR). The scope, content, quality and timing of information deliveries and data, as well as the ways in which the data is made available, are clearly defined here. Also the detail depth of the design as well as the kind of the information, which is to be supplied, are specified here. Based on this, the technical execution is determined in a "BIM Execution plan" (BEP). The “Stufenplan Digitales Planen und Bauen des BMVI“ describes it as follows: "The BEP determines how often and when planning meetings and merges of the technical models with collision checks take place. It defines which parts of the design are to be delivered by when and in what detail and when and to what extent visualizations, quantity calculations, simulations of technical systems, life cycle considerations, etc. are to be carried out “1. The BEP also defines the formats in which the data exchange needs to occur in order to merge the individual models. It requires a clear distribution of roles and the definition of communication rules to organize the exchange between all disciplines. Due to the high degree of interaction with other participants, rights, duties and ownership must also be clarified. These contractual and regulatory conditions require that the parties involved exchange information, advise the building owner and make joint decisions even before the first model has been created.

Gradual Introduction 
An implementation at the push of a button is unrealistic and will not succeed. Rather, each company goes through its own learning process to establish the complex changes and new working methods company-wide. Experience has shown that the most promising approach is to implement it in several steps by means of pilot projects. Before you can start, however, you must first enable your own design performance to participate in such a process. If you are still designing exclusively in 2D, the first step is to learn how to do the complete work in 3D. If you receive only 2D plans from the architect, as is unfortunately still very common, you can convert them into a 3D model with the help of appropriate tools. Now you can start with a three-dimensional design already in the conceptual phase. Subsequently, the degree of maturity can be continuously increased and the process of condensing the information within a BIM project can be carried out. If this is successfully implemented in your own office, you can take the next steps and gradually start to familiarize yourself with the integrated design. As already pointed out, cooperation with the other participants is crucial for success. In a functioning process, cross-disciplinary communication takes place using standardized formats and tools. The discipline-specific models are merged and any collisions identified and necessary adjustments are communicated. The BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) has established itself as an open communication standard for this process. Tasks can thus be coordinated platform-independently and performed efficiently.

New tools are also needed for these new ways of working. While existing solutions have often been extended to create a bridge to BIM-enabled environments, a truly integrated approach is only possible if tools are established for the new workflows. liNear GmbH has been following this fascinating path for several years now and will continue to move forward consistently with you in the future.


1 See Stufenplan Digitales Planen und Bauen, BMVI, 2015

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Teaser: fotogestoeber/Shutterstock, tawan/Shutterstock