by Murillo Piazzi | August 27, 2021 | 5 min read
In most methodology courses, one of the first lessons we learn is the importance of sampling. Using the right sampling strategy is paramount in getting good quality data with which we can later carry out analysis and write our evidence-based conclusions.
So, how can an individual’s experience be of any value in reflecting the practices of a wider industry? In scientific terms not much. Though, the adventures experienced by a young professional in a fast-developing BIM scene might still give you some insight into how BIM is being implemented in a developing economy.
The vast array of possibilities proportioned by BIM is usually represented by three distinctive and interlocked fields of activity: policy, process, technology . In this article, I will use this framework to evaluate my personal experience with BIM in Brazil.
Contracts, standards and research: the policy side of BIM
As a nation member of ISO, Brazil is benefiting from the latest improvements in the BIM standards. The national chapter of ISO 19650 is currently under public consultation. The country is also revising supporting standards such as NBR 15965-1:2011 which establishes a classification structure for disciplines in the construction industry. Therefore, ABNT, the Brazilian counterpart to BSI, is slowly and steadily building the standard landscape that supports BIM activity. For these standards to be implemented is another matter.
It is still rare to see contracts that include any mention of BIM in daily practice. Although the Federal Government has mandated the use of BIM in some strategic construction projects with the release of decree 10.306, the private sector has still to pick up. Most private organisations are yet to begin their BIM journey . As a general tendency, the organisations that have started implementing BIM employ it to improve productivity internally rather than implementing uses that extrapolate project stages and organisational borders. Regardless, BIM adoption is on the rise with many organisations planning to start BIM adoption within the next two years .
The enactment of more complex BIM uses, however, could be accomplished through the upskilling of professionals. In a recent presentation, Prof. Dr Regina Ruschel, one of the pioneers of BIM research in Brazil, has revealed that Brazilian universities are already implementing BIM training in their curriculum with a focus on obtaining short and long term results .
In the private education sector we can see the rise in the number of BIM training courses covering basic topics, such as the operation of authoring tools, as well as advanced topics, such as programming for construction information management.
Design, construction and maintenance: the process side of BIM
As in many other places, BIM adoption in Brazil is led by design firms. Currently, a number of architectural practices can deliver the information they produce in BIM if required. However, clients are not always aware of this possibility.
Therefore, as mentioned previously, it is fair enough to affirm that these organisations focus on the implementation of BIM for their benefit. Uses such as better coordination between 2D outputs, visual communication and clash detection are well diffused among design practices.
However, the use of BIM in construction sites is somewhat lagging behind. It is still uncommon to see contractors reporting information about the systems and components that were installed back to models. The focus among contractors has been to use the models to extract quantity take-offs and carry out cost estimations. On a smaller scale, it is also possible to see models being used for some construction planning. An interesting side note is that one of the most popular augmented reality applications for construction, the Augin app, was developed by a Brazilian company, and it is currently used in over 170 countries.
The use of BIM by the national operations and maintenance industry has yet to be explored. Although some use can be seen in the operation of assets with a higher level of complexity, as is the case with hospitals, clients still have to be educated on the benefits that well-structured data can have in the long term operations of their assets and their business strategy. This represents a business opportunity for national and international firms offering BIM services.
Moreover, clients have the advantage of a low initial investment as best practices and standards are relatively well established in this field.
Software, hardware and network: the technology side of BIM
Brazil might not be recognised internationally as the most technology-savvy country. Yet, Brazilians are naturally interested in technological developments and often feature among the early adopters of new technologies. Just to give a recent example, the country was one of the first to adopt widespread use of WhatsApp as a messaging app and currently comes in second in the ranking of countries with most users (the first being India).
This culture is reflected in the construction industry. Practices were quick to transition from the drawing board to computer-aided drafting a few decades ago. However, recently, professionals have had a hard time implementing technologies due to the recent devaluation of the Brazilian currency. This means that it is more difficult for organisations to afford software licences or update the piece of hardware in which they run as these assets are imported and have their prices regulated by dollar quotations. However, on the plus side, once they can afford these resources, there is little resistance to technology adoption. There is almost nobody left who hankers for the days when projects were developed on a drawing board.
Finally, although the quality of infrastructure is not evenly distributed across the territory (it is a big country!), big urban centres such as Sao Paulo, Rio and Minas Gerais have reliable services and a range of providers. Overall, it is fair to say that the network infrastructure is good enough to support the development of BIM-enabled projects without major disruptions.
The challenges and opportunities in each of the aforementioned dimensions are part of my experience with BIM adoption in a developing economy. Although we should be wary of generalising these impressions, I am sure that many BIM specialists across the world are going through a similar experience. Ultimately, in a developing economy, BIM has the potential to improve the quality and predictability of publicly funded projects, as well as leaving an auditing track, which leads to more transparency in the management of public resources. Hopefully, this will increase the value of every penny that comes out of taxpayers pockets as the management of these resources becomes increasingly efficient.
If you would like to know more about BIM in Brazil, please contact [email protected].
1. Succar, Bilal (2010). Building Information Modelling Maturity Matrix. In Handbook of Research on Building Information Modelling and Construction Informatics: Concepts and Technologies (pp. 65-103). DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-928-1.ch004.
2. Sienge and Grand Thorton (2020). Mapeamento de maturidade BIM Brasil. Available at: https://www.sienge.com.br/bim-o-guia-completo/ (accessed 28/07/2021)
3. AutoDoc Tecnologia (2021). Webinar BIM, Brasil e mundo – Desmistificando o BIM: Esclarecendo mitos sobre a implantação. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=RC4CdiDiyAU&feature=youtu.be
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