We attended Digital Construction Week in 2016, just after it became mandate for Public Sector Developments to be Level 2 BIM compliant.
'The Wedge' BIM maturity model, developed by Mark Bew and Mervyn Richards. Image permission kindly granted by BIM+
Here, we spoke with our clients, ranging from Quantity Surveyors, Project Managers, Project Directors and BIM Managers about the challenges they face in managing development projects - in particular, what they need to help them deliver on time and in budget. The feedback was fantastic and truly insightful, helping to guide our roadmap of development, which we have been following ever since.
A key finding was - as expected - that the solution to solving over-running projects was not a single silver bullet. Instead, it’s a combination of elements that enable the capability to closely manage developments, namely the application of digital visualisation tools, integrated platforms and good old-fashioned insight and know-how from practitioners.
Of course, we are not alone in this thinking. The recent Synchro Software Ltd 4D Digital Construction event in Holland in March showcased almost this exact type of approach, whereby the Synchro platform and the Building Information Model (BIM) are but one (vital) asset in the management of projects. Yet BIM still faces challenges to asserting its place within the construction lifecycle.
Just last month, Anne Kemp, chair of the UK BIM alliance spoke at the GEO Business geospatial conference in London, outlining that the key challenge is still to get BIM data 'out of files' and in front of people to be used. This - alongside recent criticism in the Construction press that BIM is all talk and no walk - is clear evidence that there are still challenges to overcome and some very senior naysayers who fail to see that BIM can be of any value to a project at all, let alone truly help with delivering projects over and above expectations.
Working with a number of the biggest construction and development companies in the UK such as Multiplex, Skanska, McLaren, Mace, and ISG to name but a few, we have a unique insight into how BIM plays a role in their day to day lives, and can really appreciate the challenges they face in balancing the project at hand, with incorporating new working methods and practices to create efficiencies both now and for the future. We understand that implicitly and work hard to make visualisation tools and services to help them do their jobs. After Digital Construction Week 2016, the logical extension of our Lobster Vision platform - where clients can view their project daily with time lapse cameras - was to provide a BIM integration with the ‘as built’ records. It quickly became evident that with our own platform we could provide three main benefits, that are unique to the particular integration we provide.
Access for all
Although BIM-enabled Lobster Vision doesn't have all the features you would expect from BIM specific software, a huge benefit of our BIM integration is that the model can be used and accessed by all. To put a BIM model in front of any individual - both those trained in BIM-specific software and those who are not - and with a simple click of a button allow them use and interact with it takes a significant step forward in socialising BIM. This helps embed the single model across the entire workforce on a project - from stakeholders to suppliers alike - and aid collaborative working during the entire duration of the build. The concept of providing comprehensive information to all parties at each and every stage to ensure your build progresses as planned is delivered here like nowhere else, taking the BIM model out of the hands of just those experienced in the use of BIM software, and into the hands of everyone.
One of our first clients to use this functionally used it primarily to help his own team understand the application of BIM in its purest sense. There were a few practitioners who were change resistant, but with the introduction the BIM model alongside the as-built record on Lobster Vision, it became a central trusted resource in his regular project catch-ups and reviews.
With BIM integration, you can see how the building will look a month or a year into the build, and how it will look in the environment when it’s complete - without having to commission expensive visualisations. Whist we don’t think this will replace the pre-visualisation process entirely (as we don’t typically have cameras on site until ground is broken), it is being used to see the model in situ, and with the overlay of key stages it has helped a number of clients engage with clarity.
A secondary benefit is this also performs an instant visual guide to when key stages of the development will be ready, without referring to Gantt charts, spreadsheets or logging into complex software platforms.
The ability to log-in remotely can help individuals and teams see exactly what stage the build is at (within the last ten minutes) compared to where it was expected to be. One of our clients whose project was delayed due to a supply chain problem used this functionality in a visit to a Chinese supplier to show exactly how their delay has affected the project. Equally, the same client frequently uses this functionality in reporting to the Executive Board, where brevity and clarity are required. Simple screen grabs of exactly what is happening cuts through all the noise and obfuscation to help demonstrate the truth in a way nothing else quite can.
Immediate side-by-side proof is a huge benefit to most, but understandably to some, this level of transparency is still somewhat nerve-wracking and is not always helpful. That’s why, like all of our services, we have built adaptability into it. Our BIM integration can be turned on and off for different users within a project, so it can be used only within designated project teams if required.
We are pleased that less than a year of launching our BIM integration - or BIMtegration as we now call it - that more and more clients are using our services because of this specific functionality and reaping the benefits for their individual projects. More importantly, it shows that little by little, the use of BIM in the management of projects and developments is trickling into the day-to-day activity of the Project Managers and Directors that use our service for monitoring projects. In our own small way, we hope we are helping drive the uptake of BIM and it only encourages us to further develop easy to use functionality incorporating BIM (and other digital tools) to help our clients do their jobs better.
Would you like to know more?
If you'd like a free telephone demo of our BIM integration, simply click the link below. It should only take 5-10 minutes of your time and can be arranged at a time suitable for you.