BIM Academy was born out of a partnership between Ryder Architecture and Northumbria University 10 years ago, with an idea to digitalise the way we design, build and operate the built environment. Fast forward to 2020 and BIM Academy is a leading global provider of digital solutions and consulting for strategic information management, operating in 19 countries on 4 continents.
Pursuing digital transformation purely in response to a government or client mandate or to follow an industry trend can be a fool’s errand. Spend some time questioning the aspects of your business or organisation which demand improvement, ask yourself ‘why’ – perhaps areas relating to risk, asset management, customer service and building performance. Then you’ll be far better placed to develop a digital strategy which addresses your real needs and will deliver tangible value.
There is sometimes a misconception that BIM is all about technology – buy the software, do the training and that’s it. BIM is actually a blend of management processes and collaborative behaviours underpinned by a suite of powerful digital tools whose value can only be fully realised by clear-sighted forward planning, a team working ethos as well as diligent application of the software tools themselves.
Whilst BIM may have first emerged in the AEC sector, often led by building designers and constructors, the principles around the structured planning, coordination, management and use of information in a digital context reach far beyond buildings. On our journey at BIM Academy we’re gratified to have seen an escalation in adoption in the broader infrastructure including transport, utilities and more recently the mining sector.
BIM is an inherently collaborative process and it’s impossible to have a successful BIM process without commonly understood and shared standards for aspects such as naming conventions, data classification, workflows and information exchange. The recent proliferation of standards including the internationally recognised ISO 19650 suite is a positive step but can be intimidating to the uninitiated. It’s important to recognise that the essence of the process can be simple and there are many sources of guidance to demystify the process.
From its beginnings in US and UK and spurred by economic and environmental demands, BIM has grown to be an accepted component of modern project delivery, led by demand from both government and private sector. Whilst there may be regional variances and emphasis, the fundamental methodology is universal now reinforced by internationally recognised standards.
Resistance to change is a natural human behaviour and organisations have found different ways of managing the digital transition. Often a top down / bottom up approach works best, with vision and strategic leadership at the top recognising the business vale and the enthusiasts at operational level leading the charge with the application of the technology and processes.
In its early years BIM was often misconstrued as purely 3D digital modelling. It’s far more than that – a powerful suite of digital technologies that create, manage and apply both graphical and non-graphical date delivering a single source of truth. The clue is in the middle letter of the acronym. Rather than ‘Building Information Modelling’ it could be better described as ‘Better Information Management’.
BIM needs a shift in mindset to understand that the downstream benefits of data-rich coordinated information which can be used to streamline the design, construction and operation of project will only be realised if time and effort is invested upstream to plan prepare for the journey.
In the early years of adoption, BIM was sometimes seen as a panacea to the ills of an inherently dysfunctional construction industry, which was at the time emerging from the global economic crisis. Don’t expect instant results but instead adopt an incremental approach, perhaps through pilot projects to measure the impact and build confidence and team working.
When we established BIM Academy, we foresaw a huge demand for support from an essentially analogue industry about to undergo a major shift to digital. There were those at the time who regarded BIM as a fad which would soon pass in a couple of years. Ten years later, many are still on the journey. The diversification of the digital built environment into related areas involving AI, machine learning, IoT and digital twins has at its heart the fundamental principles of BIM and its structured planning organisation and delivery of information. An exciting prospect which will continue to enhance the creation and operation of our built environment for all who use and enjoy it.
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