The BIM revolution must begin with manufacturers

Tony Ryan: Divisional Building Technology Manager at Kingspan Insulated Panels

Everywhere you look, people are talking about BIM. In fact, it’s fair to say that awareness of BIM and its forthcoming impact on the construction industry is very high. That’s hardly surprising; when the UK government announced the use of BIM would be mandatory for all public sector projects from 2016, it created a powerful incentive for AEC professionals working in the UK to get educated on BIM, and fast. But it does raise the question; how do we get from high awareness to high adoption of BIM, and whose responsibility is it to drive this change?

At face value, BIM is everybody’s responsibility. Fundamentally a collaborative way of working, it allows architects, specifiers, contractors, owners, occupiers and even demolition companies to share vital information throughout the entire lifecycle of a building much more efficiently than in the past. In that case, you might suggest that it is the responsibility of all of these groups to drive increased adoption of BIM.

That’s true, to a point. But while each of these groups have reasons to use BIM, from saving money to ensuring health and safety, increasing energy efficiency to reducing installation times, none of them have the power to drive it through from the start of the process. Architects can clamour for BIM-friendly products, and occupiers can request comprehensive ‘user guides’ to their buildings, but neither group can ensure that the files contain the level of information needed to make it work most effectively. They create the demand, but who creates the supply? That responsibility lies with manufacturers.

Here at Kingspan Insulated Panels, we’ve taken that responsibility to heart. We believe that it is up to manufacturers to take the BIM-friendly leap, and make the necessary investment to support their customers. Our work with the UK government part-funded 4BIM project, exploring BIM’s role across the supply chain, has highlighted the important part manufacturers must play to support the development of BIM use in building design, planning, construction, occupation and even end of life decommissioning.

Manufacturer-created BIM files (like the ones we’ve just released for some of our most popular products) save time, reduce the risk of incorrect data and help reduce clashes or errors in the design and installation phases. When the files are created and used in conjunction with support from the relevant manufacturers’ technical services departments, it’s possible to create a one-stop shop for architects, designers, contractors and end users.

We recognise that it’s still early days. There are a number of competing software providers, not all of which are compatible with one another, and nobody wants to invest in the BIM equivalent of Betamax, an expensive lesson in obsolescence. But the only way to drive adoption forward, and ensure that more collaborative software systems are developed and used, is to help BIM to reach critical mass.

From our perspective, that means releasing BIM files for all our core products in all the major software formats; Autodesk Revit, Nemetschek Vectorworks, Bentley AECOsim, Graphisoft ArchiCAD and IFC. And although the upfront cost of becoming BIM friendly may be a barrier now, it will become a necessary business investment as more architects embrace the technology and expect comprehensive offerings from all suppliers. Leave out BIM, and the chances are you’ll be left behind.

With our industry on the verge of such a fundamental change, there’s an opportunity for manufacturers, architects and specifiers to work together to determine better ways of working to make the most of BIM. That’s why, with one eye on the future, we’re exploring ways to offer parametric IFCs and ‘made-to-order’ BIM files to suit the demand of the market as it evolves.

The demand for BIM is there, while the latent potential is enormous. If we get BIM right (and with modest investment from manufacturers, we will), architects and specifiers need never go back to the drawing board again.

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