Sasha Reed, Vice President of Strategic Development at Bluebeam Inc, reflects on the BIM Level 2 mandate, explains why it's a risky proposition for many of the groups required to use it, and why the industry must ensure that whatever means are used to deliver on its promise, everyone benefits equally.
In my travels to the UK, I’ve had many discussions on the success of the BIM Level 2 mandate. And in my discussions I have noticed that “success”, generally defined as “achieving your goal”, received different responses based on differing goals. Whether it was the UK government’s goal, the building owner’s goal, or the contractor and subcontractor’s goals, every one of these groups’ views “success” differently. Some defined it as industry-wide compliance, while others see saved time and increased profits as the goal.
So who is succeeding, and on what terms? And what will it take for everyone to experience the benefits of that success?
Let’s start looking at this question by agreeing that the UK BIM mandate will be a success when the building owners, architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors and facility managers all benefit from implementing the change.
There’s no way actual success can be defined as one group profiting while another group suffers.
The truth is, implementing BIM, a system designed to root out and minimise risk, is in fact a risky proposition for many of the groups who are required to implement it. This is because the risk BIM seeks to eliminate has value, especially upfront, and that valuation is often left out of the equation. Let’s face it: there is money to be made from taking on that risk.
So I think we need to face the real, underlying challenge head-on, which is to redefine the true value of a project over its total lifespan so everyone can benefit from the increased efficiencies BIM introduces.
The total value of BIM is realised over the lifetime of a building – 30+ years. All the relatively short-term value saved upfront by sharing data and modeling information during the construction phase gets lumped into the long-term F&M value, which both yield significant savings.
This clearly benefits the building’s owner, should they hold onto the asset or choose to sell at a higher price based on projected long-term profits. But the owners aren’t the only ones looking to define success through greater profit.
What about the architects and the engineers? The contractors and the subcontractors? How is the BIM mandate going to make them more successful?
For these players, the successful implementation of the BIM mandate can’t be defined as simply sharing data on the jobsite for the benefit of others. As much as we all want to “do the right thing”, the economics of construction are such that compliance means less risk and fewer billable hours. The benefits of working harder on more projects to make the same money doesn’t really seem like progress.
In order for everyone involved to embrace the mandate and take on the mammoth job of implementing new technologies and workflows, the teams taking on the bulk of the work have to be able to experience their fair share of the profits. If the efficiencies create profit over a 30+ year timeframe, then the way building projects are financed needs to change in order to ensure everyone experiences the benefits. Valuing a construction project over the building’s entire lifecycle with the long-term benefits of BIM built into the equation would result in increased capital being made available upfront to replace the real-world risk and profit BIM eliminates.
More money available during the construction phase would reflect the increased value realised over the entire building’s lifespan. BIM implementation could then be rewarded by replacing the profits associated with assuming risk under the old model with profits earned through compliance with the new BIM model.
People need incentives to make changes. It’s human nature. Mandates by themselves may deliver simple compliance, although implementation can be painful and the benefits are often obscured. Bonuses related to boosted performance work, but you can easily end up with uneven results as groups of highly skilled companies emerge that outpace the competition. The combination of both has to be the way forward, leveraging mandates and bonuses together to level the playing field by rewarding increases in productivity on projects that have been appropriately valued.
Ultimately, people will believe in what works for them. As Fred Mills, Director for The B1M said to me once, “Real change is like jumping off a cliff and then trying to build your wings on the way down.” It’s our job as industry professionals to ensure whatever means and methods are used to deliver on the promise of BIM, everyone benefits equally. And that’s a definition of success we can all agree on.
Sasha connects with design and construction industry leaders to promote collaborative, digital ecosystems using the open file format, PDF. Sasha is known industry-wide as a “conversation facilitator” for her work hosting roundtables, creating platforms and authoring content on StrXur and the BD+C Magazine Digital COM Blog to foster ideas that advance the industry.