12 BIM myths

Every industry is growing faster and faster, but construction resists. Digitalization here, prefabrication there, but apart from the smartphone, it has remained essentially unchanged for 50 years, and this is not just a Hungarian phenomenon. This is also largely the case worldwide.

But now we have the holy grail of the industry, the enlightened executive’s horn of plenty, which can change the way the industry works, changing efficiency, so that design is 50% faster, construction is 20% cheaper, operations are 30-50% more efficient, there is less conflict, waste, waste, CO2 emissions, sustainability and finally world peace, right after German quality.

The problem is that not many people in the industry understand BIM and it’s like witchcraft in the Middle Ages. We tend to call everything BIM that we don’t understand.

Now, let’s look at the most common BIM misconceptions and what’s true about them.

1. BIM is a very complicated 3D model

Of course, tennis is basically ping-pong, except that you’re standing on the table.

BIM stands for building information modeling and undoubtedly starts with building a virtual model in computer software.

But it’s about as good as copying a Google Maps map of Budapest
on a hard drive that no one can access.

BIM is about efficiency in design, construction, and operation.

The exciting thing is not whether the designer can design a house or model it.

BIM starts to get exciting when software can create an easy and fast collaboration between designers.

They build in one model at a time, and if one section
moves a wall, pillar, or machine, it will move
the plans of the other sections at the same time.

Or if we do not produce drawings, but the drawings are automatically generated from the model. So if you modify geometry or a parameter in a design, the model and the drawings will modify themselves that minute.

Or if we connect a mobile app to this model, which syncs it all up to the cloud and shares the live model, the plans, and all the information content with each actor involved in the design and construction in a simple viewer.

Or if this viewer software makes plan reading unnecessary because it displays the contents of the plan in 3D through the camera image of the construction workers’ phones and shows what and where he should build.

Or if in another application you can mark in the BIM model what is broken and the operator can see with a few clicks exactly which pump is broken and link to a video on how to fix it.

So BIM is not about 3D models. The basis of BIM is the 3D model and the essence of what software is connected to this, what information is uploaded, and how much value it creates.

2. BIM is a software

BIM is often thought of as hi-tech design software that you simply install on your computer and learn to design with it. Of course, that is not the case either.

BIM is not a piece of software.

Az egyik leggyakoribb BIM tévhit, hogy a BIM csak egy szoftver.

BIM is a collection of many tools and processes in an ecosystem of hundreds of software tools.

You can design and build models in a lot of software.

In the world of architectural design, two pieces of software are the most widely used. One is the Autodesk Revit software, with around 1 300 000 users worldwide, and the other is the Nemetschek Group’s ArchiCAD software, with 130 000 users. The latter is strongly overrepresented in Hungary compared to the big average, as it was Hungarian software for decades until the acquisition of the developer in 2007.

3. Revit is better than ArchiCAD

And the giraffe is obviously better than the rabbit because one is tall and the other is fast. So it’s a tricky question, but let’s see their strengths.

Revit is an all-in-one design software – for the architect, structural engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical designer, etc. can work in it at the same time – and that makes it suitable for designing large and complex buildings very efficiently. In return, it is very complex, difficult to manage, and requires a fairly consistent engineering mindset.

ArchiCAD, on the other hand, is a very easy-to-use, intuitive architectural software, but its bottleneck is that it only contains an architect’s toolbox, so other disciplines cannot work with it. They therefore usually design in 3rd party software (engineers most often in Revit), which is then cured into a common model in a rather cumbersome export-convert-painfully-data-losing-import-merge process and some fourth coordination software.

I love them both and they both have their place in the world, but as I see it, one is a sailboat on Lake Balaton and the other is a cruise ship. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so the most important thing is to always start planning with the most appropriate tool for the job.

4. Clash-free model is the key

A few years ago I thought the same. Then we built our first really complex BIM model, with 2-3 months of work by 40-50 engineers in 6-8 software packages. It was painful.

We worked on it day and night for months, and when we put it together, it was so complicated and heavy that we could hardly open it. Then we ran a clash detection on it and we had over 10 million!!! clashes or failure. Then we spent months fixing it and finally it was done. We submitted a pretty good plan, when a contractor came to build the house and changed a lot of things in the plan, and even tried to accommodate the client during construction. Now, there was no way we could manage these improvisations with this unwieldy, cumbersome model.

As a result, the defects were discovered on site and the additional works increased the construction costs by more than 20%. As is, unfortunately, the case with almost all major investments in Hungary.

And then I realized that clash detection shouldn’t be the basis of operation – it’s just feedback.

So what’s the point? Well, the ability of the design team to quickly track changes to the BIM model during construction, so that no further design errors, uncoordinated disciplines, or in other words, clashes, occur.

This means a flexible design team for a simple house and an automated software ecosystem for a complex one.

And if you can do that, run a clash detection before the delivery. Just to be sure.

5. BIM is expensive

To put a lot of effort to build a complicated model, which makes life difficult for the designers, then doesn’t help the construction and ends up differentiating from what had been built, or, if the operator can’t open it, really expensive. Even if the current trend or the boss, the marketers, or whoever calls it BIM.

But is it worth a few percent of the construction fee to use a well-automated design workflow that enables fast and efficient design, eliminates design errors, and thus eliminates the extra work that often equals many times the design fee at the end of the day, weeks of delays and hassle?

Is it worth a few percent if the designer can simulate the operation of the building and artificial intelligence can optimize the operation and use of materials, which is often many times the design fee, and according to international studies, can even bring back the entire construction cost over the lifetime of the building?

Is it worth a few percent if the locksmith doesn’t have to read a plan and can see where to weld the pipe through the camera on his mobile phone? Is that why he does not make a construction error, which then the other disciplines would have to go around and claim for additional work, which at the end of the day is many times the design fee?

Is it worth a few percent if you have an up-to-date 3D information model of your building that your prospective buyer or tenant can look at and is willing to pay up to 10-20% more, which can be several times the BIM fee?

And would it reduce the cost if the BIM model could be linked to facility management software that identifies devices with QR codes or NFC tags and registers via Bluetooth beacon whether the operator is managing the fault within an hour? Does it help to know everything about a fan-coil in two clicks and then do preventive maintenance in task hunting once it’s there?

I’m uncertain.

I think it’s not worth spending on these expensive, predictable things. It is better to stick to firefighting because there is no cost for it today. And if there’s a problem, someone will sort it out. For someone it’s worth…

Am I right?

6. BIM is slow

One of the strangest misconceptions we have come across. The point of a good BIM-based design workflow is that designers, contractors, and operators can work together very efficiently in BIM-based software.

Processes take virtually hours instead of weeks or days.

So it may take longer to build the basic model, but at the end of the day, you’ll still have a ready-to-go model design package sooner than its paper counterpart. If we look at design alone, in our experience it takes on average half as long for a project to go from concept to the ready-to-construct stage.

7. If we do it in BIM, the building will be good

Designing a building in BIM does not make it good. A building is good if it has a good designer who has a flair for transforming the client’s needs into a building, a space. Plus a sense of style, experience, luck, and more.

BIM makes the house
efficient, not good.

The concept design will turn into a detailed design more quickly, it will contain fewer errors, so there will be less extra work, fewer delays, and fewer conflicts. It will be easier for the contractor and the client to understand the design, the house will consume less energy, it will require less building materials and it will be much easier to operate.

So the utility value of the house will be good from the work of the architect or designer, and the total lifecycle cost will be reduced by 20-40% by the BIM workflow if we dedicate +2-3% at the beginning.

8. BIM is only good for ‘big’ projects

Another misconception is that BIM can only be used in large and complex projects – again, this is not the case.

It can be used on any project, the only thing that makes it simpler, or that will not make it common on small projects, is its cost-effectiveness.

A simple project, such as a warehouse, can be put together in your head and drawn by the average designer with a pencil and a ruler. And even if this happens to fail, and a gas pipe runs through a pillar, the contractor will correct the design flaw without question.

To do all this in BIM would require a much more specialized designer, more software to build, specify the model, and coordinate with the mechanical designer to model one pipe, in short, much more work. So it’s not competitive.

BIM becomes effective when there are
many expensive systems to coordinate.

When a project starts to get big or complicated. There’s no way to coordinate it in your head, and there’s a very heavy price to pay for trying to figure out how best to do it by trial and error.

Despite this, we have many innovative clients who are happy to finance the cost of BIM because they believe that building information modeling is worthwhile even for a small project, such as this project where we specifically used closed BIM methodology to redesign a not very large community office building for a small business client.

The dimensions of BIM or LOD/LOI, the level of innovation of the collaborating disciplines? Well, that’s for another post.

9. BIM is too complex

One of the most common misconceptions is that “BIM is too complicated”. You can take it that way, but BIM is actually a serious oxymoron. It is based on a very simple, logical idea.

We use a central data model, which in practice means that if I rewrite the size of the door in the design brief, it is updated in 10 seconds on the drawings of all the architects and designers, and in a few minutes on the tablets of all the contractors.

It was invented by Charles M. Eastman in 1974, but that’s what a computer looked like back then:

Photo credit: BibLus

The reason we’re talking about this now is that the internet has become accessible in the construction field, and you can now easily manage a large information model with a smartphone.

Let’s say it’s true that building a usable BIM model and putting together a software ecosystem based on it requires very complex knowledge indeed, but that’s the problem for the new generation of designers.

All actors in the project can access the information stored in the model through a simple-to-use user interface or mobile app, which can be learned in a few hours.

Ask your architect or consult your doctor or pharmacist about this.

10. BIM is just a passing fad

Now that’s the toughest claim of all. I pondered whether to address this point or refute it by throwing in a few punchy diagrams that reflected the facts.

Let’s keep it simple for now: the world’s leading countries in the construction industry adapted BIM for their significant projects years ago and many have made its use mandatory for all public projects (this is already in the pipeline in Hungary).

It is essential to coordinate planning, minimize unnecessary work and reduce waste/loss, save costs, and minimize stress, as much in our interest as to increase efficiency and profit. With the exponential development of digital technology, BIM-related companies are simply gaining a huge competitive advantage.

These are not passing interests, BIM is not an expensive fashion… and bears are not toys.

Photo credit: LevelS3d

11. BIM is only good for design and construction

Many people believe that BIM is only useful in the design and construction phase.

They are known to have a “classical” approach to a building project and to be the ones who believe that the architect’s role and responsibility end with the delivery of the design.

However, this is a big mistake. In Construction 4.0, the architect actually creates a digital copy of the building. And this digital twin stores all the history, and characteristic information, make construction easy and facilitates operation – in short, it gives you a continuous task throughout the life of the building. From then on, all parties involved in the project benefit, from designers to contractors, operators to tenants.

BIM applies throughout the lifecycle of a building, at every stage, and any architect or client who does not think so is making a huge mistake.

12. A new team is needed to implement BIM

The thing about BIM is that once a decision maker understands it, they usually start pushing it hard because BIM is good. But as soon as you get to the people who should really be using it – and it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about architects, contractors, or operators – you run into a phenomenon called human distruction.

Into the resistance. Into fear of the new. Because if you’re good at something, you don’t usually want to try something new, because you end up not knowing it as well as you do now.

But this is just as unacceptable as when a hospital gets a new CT scanner, which it doesn’t use because the radiologist is so used to the KGST X-ray machine.

So the technology is good, available and you have to understand that.

You don’t always need a new team to make the transition, but
you can’t introduce it with an
“old dog doesn’t learn new tricks” mentality.

In principle, any team can be trained to implement BIM, and existing project managers, engineers, and their team members can be taught how to integrate the new methodology.

At the same time, experience has shown that it is better to start building a separate pilot team of colleagues who are open to it and recruit new ones, as it is easier to adapt if you don’t have bad habits and habits.

Implementing BIM is a challenge in the life of any organization. How to combine the experience of old colleagues with the technological knowledge of new ones.

One thing we can be sure of, the answer is outside our comfort zone.

Csaba Melovics

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