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BIM: What do owners want?

BIM and Information Technology

BIM: What do owners want?

By Brian Skripac | CannonDesign | April 17, 2017

I recently had the opportunity to moderate the Spring BIMForum conference (Conference Theme: BIM: What do Owners Want?). The conference hosted almost 500 industry leading architecture, engineering, construction and building owner professionals from across the country including two of our clients from The Ohio State University and University of California at San Diego who each had the opportunity to present. 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. As my co-moderator stated in our introductory comments, “we’ve come a long way baby.”

Now more than ever, owners are becoming extremely focused on leveraging 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 (like the work we’ve done at the Ohio State University) to successfully deliver their work. This evolution was further reiterated in the conference’s opening remarks with comments about “avoiding the BIM hangover” and “making sure we strive to have BIM done right – just requiring it is not enough. Not only did these statements reflect our need to advance BIM in the AECO community, but they also challenge us to continuously improve while generating results that evolve our 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 our work can provide value and identify project delivery needs from the outset. Here are three examples of how we can 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 we 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 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 lifecycle management also requires collaboration with industry partners for sharing ideas, risk, goals, successes and failures. We need to be better at acknowledging 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. Russ Manning of Penn State presented on this idea during the conference and he shared that “making money may not be making money the same way you did 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. Russ then left everyone with his believe that “owners shouldn’t pay more for BIM, but they should pay differently.


Transform your project deliverables

Renée Tietjen from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shared very actionable ideas regarding the development of our project deliverables the AEC community should embrace. Renée challenged us to collaborate and evolve our project delivery processes to not simply design for bidding, but design for construction. She also commented 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, she also shared that 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, including myself, 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, we as a design and construction community have to hold up our 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. While not all BIMs are created equal, they can be a “hot mess” or the “devil in disguise” as Cindy Baldwin of VDCO Tech stated during her presentation. The need to improve, measure and control deliverables are key to any project’s success, and the owner’s lifecycle strategy is an area the AEC community will need to address.

Achieving “BIM done right” and looking to provide reliable information for our clients to support their facility lifecycle management strategy is an exciting next step in the evolution of our industry. These ideas and conversations are well matched with many initiatives and goals within CannonDesign’s Virtual Design & Construction team that will ensure we don’t fall into any “BIM hangover” while enabling us to provide a greater partnership and more value to our clients in the achievement of high-performance projects.

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