Last edited 08 Jul 2016

The BIM Hub interview

In May 2016, Designing Buildings Wiki co-founder Gregor Harvie was interviewed by The BIM Hub about the launch of the new Step-by-Step guide to BIM.

You can see the original interview here.

BIM Hub (BH): What was the genesis of this resource, how did it come about?

Designing Buildings Wiki (DBW): A lot of existing BIM guidance has been written by experts immersed in the subject, and it is intended for other BIM specialists. But if BIM is to become 'normal' throughout the industry, everyone is going to have to understand it. Even if you are not using the software yourself, you are going to need to understand the objectives of BIM and the workflows necessary to achieve those objectives.

Digital data strategists PCSG also noticed this knowledge gap during their work helping companies adopt BIM. So together, we set about trying to explain BIM in plain English, and that evolved into this substantial guide.

BH: What are the principal frustrations or mistakes that companies tend to make when trying to implement BIM?

DBW: BIM needs to be seen less as a technical subject and more as a management issue. People should forget about software when they talk about BIM. It's not about software, it's about ensuring the right information is available at the right time so that the right decisions are made.

BH: ...and more specifically, when trying to incorporate the PAS standards?

DBW: One of the difficulties with the PAS standards is they are written from the perspective of a big, experienced, repeat client – i.e. the government. They focus on projects where there is one procurement process, one supplier, one Employer's Information Requirements, one BIM Execution Plan and so on. But the wider industry involves inexperienced clients, following more traditional procurement routes and appointing a whole range of advisers, consultants, contractors and specialist suppliers at different stages.

This means the Employer's Information Requirements will evolve during the procurement processes, there will be multiple BIM Execution Plans, a complex Common Data Environment, and so on.

We had to do a lot of work when we were writing the guide to allow for different sorts of project whilst still keeping to the spirit of the PAS standards.

BH: Please provide a snapshot of BIM adoption today, as you see it.

DBW: The industry has come a long way in a short period of time, and huge credit should be given to the BIM Task Group for pushing the agenda forward and ensuring a wide range of standards and tools are in place. We now need to move beyond the specialists and early adopters and get everyone in on the act.

At the moment a lot of people feel excluded by BIM because they don't know how to operate the software, but I think if they saw it more as an information management process, a type of quality assurance, they would be more comfortable about getting involved.

BH: What are your personal expectations for BIM going forward?

DBW: I think the workflows need to be simplified otherwise BIM will become the realm of designers and contractors rather than clients. In particular, it's a bit of a big ask to expect inexperienced clients to prepare Employer's Information Requirements in their current format. Either they need to become more performance based, or standard templates will have to be made available.

BH: If you could do one thing to streamline or improve the overall process, what would it be?

DBW: Imagine a headmaster or headmistress who needs to commission a new building. They have never built anything before and they don't have much time available. How are they supposed to optimise their use of BIM? They have probably never heard of BIM.

The answer is that they are going to need help. And not the help of their architect, or contractor, they will need someone independent, a bit like a client design advisor but for BIM. They will need someone to hold their hands, find out what is best for them, and make sure their needs don't get watered down or driven off course as the project team is appointed.

BH: What research projects, or the like are, on the horizon?

DBW: There are almost endless possibilities for BIM. Digital Built Britain sets out a very ambitious strategy for the next ten years and the transition to Level 3. That is exciting for some, but overwhelming for others. I think what we really need is a period of consolidation. We should stay where we are at Level 2 for a while, or there is a danger that parts of the industry will get permanently left behind.

BH: Many thanks. In closing, please provide a brief overview of your career to date.

DBW: I'm an architect whose passionate about improving best practice. In 2012 I founded Designing Buildings Wiki with project manager David Trench. It is a free platform for finding and sharing construction industry knowledge, and is now one of the most popular industry websites, used by more than 10,000 people a day.