BIM – are we really the trailing edge?

Hello and welcome to my series of BIM posts. BSRIA have kindly invited me as a guest author, and I’d very much like to hear your views.

But first…an introduction. I am Gary Ross and I’m an Associate Director at Capita Symonds, working in their Building Services section. I cover five offices, driving BIM and smart working across them, as well as linking in with my multi-discipline counterparts across our business.  Most recently I worked for Autodesk, the developers of Revit MEP, and it is here that my passion now lies.

Are we really that far behind? Image Courtesy of Capita Symonds

‘Tail end Charlies’

I’ll go into what Revit means to Capita in a later post, but first I’d like to challenge the view that the Building Services industry are seen by many as the trailing edge of the construction industry – the “tail end Charlies” if you will. With any new technology we seem to be the last to pick it up, the least successful and the slowest to respond to change.

Why are building services behind the times?

Perhaps we don’t promote ourselves as an industry very well? A quick search of the new government Building Information Modelling (BIM) Working Party Strategy Paper reveals just one mention of the term ‘building services’.  Or is it that we really are behind the times generally? Is it just that the technology for Building Services actually lags behind the tools that our counterparts can use months or years earlier?

Do you think it’s a fair representation?

Is it just a case of disciplines bashing disciplines or is it a fair cop? If people say we are behind, are they over egging it for some reason or are they normally being reasonable?

How do you think we can go about improving our image?

Is it just a case of shouting louder? Do we have to radically change our ways or are there just a few tweaks needed?

7 Responses to BIM – are we really the trailing edge?

  1. Clare Sinclair says:

    Modern Building Services have just published an article (June 2011, p14 which seems to agree. John Adams of Autodesk suggests that ‘building-services engineers have been at the frontline of change […but] when it comes to methods of working, very little appears to have altered over the past two decades’.

    ‘If they are using a conventional CAD system, building-services engineers and designers visualise the 3D design in their mind and transfer it to a 2D drafted representation’

    A shame, as Adams believes that in many ways ‘the building-services community has most to gain from more collaborative working methods’. Surely there must be some positive examples?

  2. Nick Nisbet says:

    Positive example; The Building services for the British Library were coordinated by SVM in 3D with the building fabric by Colin StWilson and Patners in the 1980’s. Negative example: At handover all the information was flattened back down into 2D.

  3. Anne King says:

    Those are some pretty far reaching questions, Gary, and they do not only apply to BIM. In some ways it is good that the government report does not mention building services. After all BIM is about learning to work in an integrated way and work as one construction sector, and not in our separate disciplines.

    BIM will require the services designers to be involved much earlier in the process, and it is probably the services sector that has most to gain from the avoidance of clashes and from better planned construction work – both of which are made possible by BIM. Roll on BIM!

  4. Excellent comments thanks.
    Anne makes a great point that we, the services industry have arguable the most to gain from taking on better working methods; and as part of that, BIM. My question on that would be, (in an Anne Robinson style!) who’s the fat cat of BIM, and who’s the dog doing all the work?

    I really do think that everyone has something to gain, but it does depend on what you want from BIM and how much you’re prepared to put in.

    My experience says that if you dont really know what you should be getting from BIM, you will never find it. Also if you dont put in the effort, frankly you dont deserve it. If you just muddle along and expect it to come to you automatically, I can guarantee it will go the opposite direction. Blimey I sound like a marriage counsellor.

    So who’s actually going for it, setting targets, investing cash, destroying obstacles? Capita cetainly are, and frankly thats why I work for them as opposed to many other companies.

    Is your company doing the same? Do you have a BIM specific training budget and schedule? Are you pushing your staff to learn BIM, or are they coming to you?

    Do you have a BIM statement thats more than a marketing gimmick on your website? Are your PC’s really going to be ok for BIM? Are you employing the “right” staff?

    BIM is a challenge we will all face in the coming months, like it or not. How you rise to that challenge will be directly related to your longevity in the industry.

    On that cheerful note, I’ll leave you to your thoughts..


  5. Brendan Murray says:

    I think the profession suffers primarily because engineers tend to (largely) be a conservative bunch. A large percentage of us who grew up with detatched contact diagrams etc, still naturally think in 2D and spatial visualisation converts the flattended image in our minds eye. An important contributor is the provision of Building Services training at colleges etc. Only recently I volunteered via CIBSE to attend some excellent OND/HND student presentations at Vauxhall Community College is Liverpool. These students presentations demonstrated a good knowledge of BIM, which I can only assume is the norm nowadays. If my assumption is correct, we probably have a generation of Building Services engineers coming on line soon for whom BIM will be BAU!

  6. Rick Holland says:

    BIM seems to be gaining two definitions:
    1. Building Information Modelling
    2. Building Information Management

    * The existance of a 3D model is only implied by the first of these two definitions.
    * Service engineers have been building 3D software models for many years, without the need to call it BIM.
    * The software providers (IES, TAS, Hevacomp, etc) are only recently calling their products BIM.
    * I think the lack of clarity on the definition of BIM is one reason why service engineers are not renowned for using BIM.

  7. Nick N says:

    When the Singapore ‘ePlanCheck’ was created, there was no MEP BIM authoring applications with IFC export, so no MEP regulations were checkable . Now there is, but few represent the concept of a system or the concept of a connection. So coordidation is possible but little else: reporting and scheduling, o&m reports, analysis, regulation checking, and virtual commissioning are all impossible

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