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BIM vs VDC…how the US and the UK differ in approaching digital project delivery

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BIM vs VDC…how the US and the UK differ in approaching digital project delivery

Sasha Reed | September 19, 2017
4 people speaking on a panel
4 people speaking on a panel

Over the past four years, I’ve traveled between the US, and the UK to learn how BIM is impacting projects of all sizes and scale.  Along the way I asked myself, were there lessons to be learned in one market that the other hadn’t yet uncovered?  Were there pitfalls experienced in one country that could translate into meaningful insights for the other?  Would they even be willing to learn from each other’s experiences?  And what I’ve noticed is that beyond the obvious differences we all are aware of, like the UK’s government mandate requiring BIM Level 2 for all public sector projects and the lack of top-down pressure in the US, we’re not that much different.  Sure, our approaches may be nuanced based on our laws, project hierarchy and contracts but fundamentally we’re all focused on solving the same equation…how can we collaborate more effectively on projects, leveraging digital information between as many project stages as possible.

Or so I thought until I stumbled across this lively twitter exchange sparked by the well-respected, Casey Rutland, on the topic of BIM vs VDC vs digital engineering.  Seeing the passionate and multi-perspective responses in the thread, I knew it was time to dig beneath the surface and see what we agree and disagree on when it comes to BIM, not only for design but also for construction and beyond.

To have this discussion, I assembled a panel of BIM experts from the US and the UK to talk through the finer points of BIM, VDC, and data-enabled project delivery.  The panelists were Nigel Davies – Director of Evolve Consultancy, Brok Howard – Technical Account Manager with dRofus and Josh Bone – President of J. Bone Technology.  We met up at the Bluebeam eXtreme Conference, where I invited them to participate in a panel entitled, “BIM in Practice: Maximizing Data through Digital Workflows”. After presenting to the audience I pulled them off stage to sit down and talk at a deeper level about a few key points.   


BIM vs VDC…is there a difference?

To kick things off, I picked up the conversation sparked on Twitter and asked our experts to weigh in.  How do our two countries differ on the means and methods for delivering digital information?


BIM: Data you need when you need it

If BIM is considered the mechanism for how we work together then data is the what that’s delivered throughout the BIM process.  But how do we differ in what information we specify as valuable, and to whom and when?


Can BIM Improve Project Collaboration?

Much of what hinders accountability and trust within traditional project delivery methods is a lack of transparency.  If BIM is how we work together and data is what we share, then who we share information with and when is the key to improving collaboration.  Are we truly collaborating better with BIM?


BIM vs PDF: Why argue file types?

Some BIM experts narrow the scope of what can be defined as BIM and end up arguing about file types.  The trouble is, many General Contractors who work with downstream project partners that struggle to evolve beyond paper-based workflows, having 2D and 3D information that’s easily accessible, is key to being able to participate on BIM projects. 

In a recent McGraw Hill Smart Market Report on “The Business Value of BIM for Construction in Major Global Markets” the top benefits General Contractors cited as the benefits of BIM were; reduced errors and omissions, collaboration with owners/design firms, and reduced error and rework.  If BIM is how we work together and data is what we share, and who we share information with and when is the key to improving collaboration, then PDF absolutely has a role to play.  But will our experts agree?


In the end, it was clear that the experts agreed more than they disagreed.  Each looked at the implementation of BIM on a project from a different vantage point but one thing was clear.  The benchmark was the same – “how effectively are they able to communicate?”  Without improving baseline outcomes like that, we must step back and ask ourselves, “What real problem are we trying to solve?

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