BIM in construction and design: myths, advice, practical experience

BIM in construction and design: myths, advice, practical experience
Tags: Photo source:

Several myths have evolved during the implementation of BIM technology in Russia, and they are preventing domestic users from appreciating its advantages on a large scale.

At the end of the previous year, the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities started to implement minstroy, a plan for BIM technology (BIM = Building Information Modeling) assimilation in the sphere of industrial and civil construction. Before the end of 2015 it is planned to develop a route map of BIM technology implementation in construction. In 2016 it will be actively used, and in 2017 standard BIM technology in construction and design will be adopted.

These steps are quite logical. Information modeling is booming all over the world. In Great Britain, BIM use has been a compulsory condition for state order acquisition since 2016. And in Russia?

First steps into the unknown
GC INFARS implementation department director Olga Knyazeva has talked to construction specialists many times in dealing with BIM implementation, but they still try to cut corners financially when buying and handling BIM technologies.
— The appearance of the new instead of the time-tested seems threatening to some people following BIM implementation, she says. – For example, one customer was sure that people would always “find something to spoil”, and then kiss the guilty company goodbye… He was convinced only by proof of the distinct distribution of users’ rights. Working in the 3D format (often simultaneously), architects and designers can see each other’s work, but they can only change their own files and cannot “spoil” those of others.
Another widespread mistake is that new design technologies will render old ones obsolete. But experts are sure that favoured working tools may be used as a basis for working with new tools. New technology allows for updating, adding convenient tools that before one could only dream of. The chief architect of a project will be able to take decisions whilst having two representations: 2D, for example, in AutoCAD, and 3D in, say, Revit. His conclusion will thus be more objective, won’t it?
And of course everybody is worried about work efficiency, which may become slower. In fact, even at the pilot project stage, work efficiency levels stay the same. This is first of all due to consultants’ support: they teach clients to handle the interface and to share skills to make design and engineering easier.
So, all these doubts are only pretexts for those who haven’t understood: either you keep up with the times, or you lag behind forever.
How is it best to start?
— With setting a goal, of course! Knyazeva goes on. – One must understand what one wants to obtain with BIM implementation: to save time, to save money at the expense of design diagram transparency, or whatever. Having solved the task of the definition of the main goal, the head of the enterprise then announces a tender and chooses a partner for BIM implementation. Then they calculate and plan everything together: the necessary expenditures, the payback program, etc. Then the usual scheme follows: the technical assignment is devised, followed by a scheduled plan of implementation. Standards and regulations are worked out and we move on!
— You should not try to study BIM technology by yourself, using Internet video training, Knyazeva warns. – Even if you buy the best software, without an understanding of the technology it is only an expensive game.

Three pillars of implementation
Another thing for heads of companies to worry about: will they have to change staff after implementing new technologies? And is there any use to super-modern software being installed on powerful PCs if the old staff cannot work with them? Let’s counter their concerns: there’s no need to fire anybody who is interested in assimilating the new. Of course, the enterprise will have to send employees for at least a week’s training on a specialized BIM course. It is necessary for acquiring basic knowledge and practical skills under the guidance of experienced professionals.
Some staff changes will still be needed. Let’s consider them in details as key points of BIM technology. To use its full-scale potential, three new types of specialist will be needed.
These are the BIM Manager, the BIM Master and the BIM Coordinator — these are the three pillars (three warriors, three musketeers – as you will), who will actively implement and put BIM in operation at the enterprise. Who are they and why are they needed?

The BIM Manager
He is the one who appears at the beginning of your project when you’ve realized that you’re ready to implement BIM. In fact, it is he who will deal with the development of the technical assignment together with the partner chosen by you. It is he who will accumulate information, deliver tasks to those who will deal with the implementation, and supervise them and their work.
It is good if, before implementing BIM, the company has a CAD manager in the staff. He is aware of the CAD systems development strategy and he is able to support and update design technology. But the CAD manager cannot just change his position: he must be taught it first.
The BIM Manager controls BIM technology at an enterprise level:
• He determines the goals and the BIM development strategy in the company;
• He develops generic runtime processes and the enterprise standards;
• He supports BIM technology in the enterprise, implements modern achievements, fixes all changes in technology and introduces them into the standard;
• He develops training and advanced training programs as well as tests after each course of training and after the pilot project;
• He manages the BIM department staff and takes part in BIM-coordinators training.

The BIM Master
This employee appears at the BIM technology design development and testing stage. He is the BIM Manager’s assistant.
The BIM Master (or Masters - the more the better in a large company) deals with CAD systems support:
• He creates BIM content — families, groups and other library elements;
• He supports the corporate library for families;
• He provides users with expert support;
• He adapts software at the masks level.

The BIM Coordinator
He appears at the stage of implementation, when a pilot group is being trained, a pilot project is being developed, and when BIM standard correction and technology scaling is being implemented for the whole organization. Often the BIM Coordinator is found during the training course. He is the most active and easily taught specialist, and one who learns more information within the course than the others.
The BIM Coordinator is a specialist in a leading department, responsible for BIM modeling and the general coordination of the project. He is not a CAD specialist but a design engineer and he is fully involved in the project:
• He coordinates group work;
• He is responsible for BIM model integrity;
• He gives assignments to related specialists according to regulations and standards;
• He forms claims for BIM content development;
• He teaches and helps users;
• He takes part in company standards forming and checks their observations.
In small projects, the BIM coordinator is a leading department specialist. In large-scale projects there may be several coordinators: for architecture, structures and engineering systems.

The results are not long in coming
Before we come to the technology exploitation stage, all of the “three pillars” – the BIM Manager, the BIM Master and the BIM Coordinator – are actively cooperating with each other. They are covering all tasks of BIM technology implementation and operation. They are working in a team with consultants and experts in the enterprise.
— As experience shows, it takes about a year from starting the new technology to getting your first results, the expert Olga Knyazeva says. – Correctly implemented BIM technology will pay you back in two to three years. And then you get income.

Natalya Khudyakova, Marketing Director