After attending the Spring 2014 BIMFORUM in Boston, it is apparent that there is still an ongoing debate within the industry on how BIM should be used throughout the development of a project. The theme of Optimizing Design with BIM led to a wide variety of presentations that showed how there are very different methods in how BIM is utilized. There were a wide variety of opinions, from including as little usable data as possible within the design phase to that of a full design and collaboration effort. It was a bit disappointing to hear, considering we can no longer say that BIM is a new concept in construction.
Many presentations centered around how firms were utilizing BIM in-house or in a user-centric way. They highlighted the tools or software they created to speed up data analysis and the flow of information within the company. This is an important element in the design process, and it highlights the ingenuity of those involved to develop newer and faster methods to analyze and share information, thus reducing the time necessary for the design phase. Where these newly designed methods are important to the individual entity that has developed them, they do little in the overall concept of sharing data with the entire project team.
Although only few discussions touched on the efforts to share information between trades, the projects highlighted in the AIA Tap Awards all centered around the central theme of collaboration. Each of the 4 projects stressed the importance of the collaboration and information sharing from design to construction as one of the key factors that led to the success of their projects. From Disney’s Enchanted Storybook Castle to Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena, the concept of including a large and diverse design team and resourcing multiple trade contractors, allowed for a quicker more effective process. Design and constructability conflicts were able to be resolved more rapidly and more efficiently because all those needed to make these changes were actively involved throughout the life cycle of the project. Two of the submitted projects have already been completed with both groups indicating that because of the collaborative process they were able to complete their projects ahead of schedule with significant and documented cost savings to the owner.
Thankfully there were presenters at the BIMFORUM who saw the value in this type of collaborative process. Jonathan Ammon with Gilbane and Chris Blomquist of Payette Architects gave a thoughtful and insightful presentation portraying the path necessary for BIM to succeed in the future. Jonathan stressed that business as usual would not lead to a path of success as we move down the rapidly evolving progression of BIM implementation. They challenged everything from the current project delivery systems, the collaboration process, the decision making method, as well as the skills that will be necessary for all individuals involved in the design and construction of a project. They stressed the importance of including multiple trades in a design assist capacity as early as possible. Their recipe for success suggests that ultimately a change in philosophy between how things were done and how they will be done will be required within the construction industry starting with the design phase of a project.