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BIM Challenges Revolve Around the Teams


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While the use of building information modeling (BIM) continues to grow in the AEC sector, it has some problems that won’t go away simply by adjusting BIM processes or tools. Instead, it’s going to take fundamental shifts in how project teams are put together.

Dodge Data and Analytics teamed up with Bentley to survey top users of BIM. The report, “SmartMarket Brief: BIM Advancements Number 1,” covered BIM success factors, construction modeling, and information mobility. Survey respondents included architects, engineers, and contractors who shared their perspectives on BIM, and how they measure success when using BIM. They also weighed in on the obstacles to BIM success. At the top of the list, they singled out “low levels of collaboration among team members” as the most dangerous obstacle to successfully using BIM.

Is owner involvement necessary?

Closely related, and the second biggest obstacle was “a low level of team interest and support.” Both factors are sometimes intensified by a third human factor ––“lack of owner advocacy.” Of the six obstacles cited by survey respondents, half relate to the attitudes and interests that people have about BIM. So, to get the most success with BIM you have to address these issues long before detailed project planning begins.

While owner advocacy helps any project with a model-based approach to delivery, it turns out that owner advocacy is not a critical element in BIM success. 

The owner is a powerful advocate for project delivery processes like BIM. But, while owner advocacy helps any project with a model-based approach to delivery, it turns out that owner advocacy is not a critical element in BIM success. Survey respondents reported that even though owner advocacy was infrequently present, it had a relatively low impact on BIM success. However, there’s no denying that when owner advocacy is present, it helps to dispel lack of team interest, and low levels of collaboration. 

That’s because of the owner’s influence over the processes and procedures used on a project. At its very heart, BIM is a collaborative undertaking that requires all parties to get actively engaged. If the owner doesn’t supply the incentives and create the environment for success with BIM, then efforts to use it are hampered. When the owner is not actively engaged, it takes more effort to build momentum. 

Building the Right Team

When it comes to gaining team interest and support for BIM use, it helps to start with people who are already predisposed to using BIM. Making BIM an element of the project in advance of bidding puts everyone on notice that processes are model-based. When bidders know that BIM is an aspect of project delivery, they know engagement is essential. Vetting the list of potential bidders is also needed so that the resulting team has the best chance for success. People know they get the chance to bid based on how well others perceive them as team players. So, overcoming the human obstacles to successfully use BIM also rests on thoroughly vetting team members. 

The Other Challenges

There are two obstacles to BIM success that have a high negative impact, and that survey respondents report less frequently. Those obstacles are “no planning for BIM,” and “platform challenges.” Taken with the lack of  “integrated project meetings,” they round out the top six obstacles to successfully using BIM on projects. 

What’s interesting about these three though, is that along with “lack of owner advocacy,” they have the greatest net effect on BIM project success. Platform challenges, and no BIM planning, no integrated project meetings, or no owner advocacy, have the highest negative impacts, while projects with their opposites have the greatest positive outcomes. 

This study also found that positive outcomes were felt differently by the three types of survey respondents. Positive outcomes from BIM included:

  • Fewer RFIs

  • Reduced Material Waste

  • Shorter Schedule

  • Lower Final Construction Cost

  • Fewer Safety Incidents

Outcomes Depend on Who You Are

Engineers were mostly higher than the average of all responses in rating the positive outcomes from using BIM. This made them the most positive group about BIM in the survey. They reported the greatest positive outcomes related to reduced material waste and fewer safety incidents. Architects were lower than the average in their assessment of positive outcomes achieved with BIM. They reported 11% below average results in “lower final construction costs,” and 5% below average results in fewer RFIs. 

Contractors were closest to average in rating the positive outcomes from using BIM. Contractors were the only group reporting higher than average results in achieving lower final construction costs. And, they reported above average responses for fewer RFIs and fewer safety incidents. 

This study makes it clear that the right mix of participants is the greatest assurance of a successful BIM project. It also shows that project participants have very different experiences with the positive outcomes generally associated with BIM. Taking those differences into account when establishing BIM protocols can go a long way toward building successful BIM teams.