Shattered heaven, or the reality of BIM

A clockwise arrow illustrates the BIM building life cycle: at the beginning is the designer and the design process, and at the end is the operator/client and the finished building. The goals and functions obviously start with the latter, as they know what KPIs they want to use the building for. But do they really know, and if so, what are they doing for them?

The article is based on a business talk between Dr. Attila Breznay, business strategist and coach, and Csaba Livják, founder and CEO of BuildEXT. The whole conversation can be listened to on this page or on the most popular podcast apps.

Swinging myself

In an ideal world, everyone involved in an architect’s project understands the whole system perfectly and speaks the same language as everyone else. The client and the operator are aware of the possibilities of BIM, have thought about it, know and can define their own expectations, and share them with all stakeholders. From this, the designer understands the purpose and function of the building, refines it, and adds his own professional knowledge to create a well-rounded project.

One of the best-known illustrations of the digital lifecycle of buildings (BIM lifecycle) When BIM workflow accompanies the project it is present at every stage of the building's life cycle, from design to demolition.
One of the best-known illustrations of the digital lifecycle of buildings (BIM lifecycle)

The picture is nice, the practice is far from it.

I can see it’s slipping away

The devil usually sticks his nose out at the first design delivery – the client and the architect first realize during the conversation that

BIM is not just a technology.

And it’s not just a question of the ecosystem, workflow, mindset, or talented designer, project manager, or conscious client.

But all of these at the same time and many other factors.

You could say, ahh, it’s all a matter of the right brief… and indeed, it is essential for a good BIM project. As for anything else.

What distinguishes the methodology from “conventional” or “classical” design is that a very serious paradigm shift has to be made by all the actors involved in order to avoid a BIM project that started out as a bright idea, but after the PNR (critical point), it turns into a complete disaster. The actors simply have to break with their habits, with their previous approach, in order to keep the scope, otherwise, we end up like the lumberjack in the joke.

In addition, we are talking about a complex method, of which there is still very little practical experience in Hungary on the part of clients, operators, and even designers. The most obvious reason for this is that, until 2020, there were simply few real BIM projects, and even fewer that succeeded.

That’s why today you can’t expect the contractor, the client, or the future operator to define exactly what, when, and with what level of detail they want to receive in BIM – because it’s the space-time dimension-hopping spaceship of architecture.

Under-definition of LOD (Level of Detail) can cause many conflicts in the project

Aren’t you right for me?

The truth is that there are only a few domestic design firms that can understand and translate BIM objectives into projects. But obviously, you need a well-prepared team of architects, because the intended functions of the building, the optimization of the running costs, and the “flexibility” of the building can be achieved by different approaches and by burning budgets that vary by orders of magnitude.

It is then that the role of the designer with practical
experience is truly valued by incorporating the lessons learned
from previous projects to help the client to
clarify the BIM objectives.

For example, a very good BIM goal is that at the end of the project, the 3D model can be integrated into the facility management software, i.e. it should contain all the information needed for operation and maintenance. The resulting digital twin will then start interacting with your house using iOT tools, saving you money.

However, for this to happen, it is necessary that the project that started out as BIM remains BIM throughout, and does not fail without a well-defined BEP (BIM Execution Plan) or proper multi-disciplinary collaboration, or being disrupted by some half-thought-out visualization requirement, or because of the contractor thinking without the designer. Or if, for example, the operator decides in the meantime that he wants to integrate the model into the FM software used by the parent company, the designer should be aware of this so that the model is uploaded with the appropriate depth of information.

The design office should therefore not only apply BIM to the design phase but should consider the complete lifecycle.

Shattered heaven

Staying with our example, the good operation is based on an “as built” model with the right depth of information to match reality.

The quality of the designs produced using the BIM methodology is significantly better than if we had designed using traditional methods. We build from data, so the design delivery can be handed over to the contractor without any conflicts, and on this basis, we can also expect the construction to be done according to the building information model, i.e. the digital design should match the actual design at the end of the project.

However, in the vast majority of projects,
the contractors change a lot of things
from the design, so that a building
is rarely built as planned.

To have the right operational model, we need to scan the changes and transfer them to the digital replica – and at this point, you can see why BIM requires a different approach from all stakeholders.

In the “close to BIM” (no, far not closed BIM that is a very good thing) method in practice today, the contractor does not, or only partially, give back to the designer what changes he has made in the field compared to the plan, and the designer simply does not have an interest in taking the model out again and making these changes.

And despite high technology and BIM-based design, the practice has failed the process. Gone is the thinking behind the FM software, and we are left with a distorted “mirror, an expensive 3D model stuffed with false information.

This practice has shattered the BIM approach: the contractor has not shifted the paradigm and, like the lumberjack, instead of learning how to use it, he cuts the wood with the chainsaw switched off.

Now is exactly what happens

What would have happened if there had been a construction support BIM department in the office? Then you have a project management system based on real-time quality control, which continuously extracts and visualizes information from the building information model using AR or VR, which feeds back changes even on the same day, and uses this information to coordinate the building’s construction organization, the ordering of materials and much more.

And at the moment our project is
coming together as a very
efficient BIM ecosystem.

Where can errors or discrepancies occur? Anywhere. The most classic example is the installation of ceiling-mounted sprinklers to extinguish fires. Most of the contractors bolt the system to the ceiling without question or consultation, not considering that there are many more pipes and other things that other contractors need to attach.

Sergey knocked over the first domino, which meant that all the plans for the following sections had to be changed. And this is the better case.

The worst case is when the designer is unaware of this, and the next contractor in line, and the one after him, takes a tool to fix his own system on site, ignoring the plans and the others.

Redesign during construction is done, there is nothing to see here.

And without an as-built model, the possibility of efficient operation is lost at this point.

The question is generally no longer why we should work in BIM. It’s how much we lose if we don’t do it at all, or not quite in BIM.

Csaba Melovics

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