Pontus Bengtson

By Lyn Drummond

7 March 2012 – Building information modelling has the power to revolutionise the construction industry impacting all sectors, including buildings, infrastructure and industry, a report by WSP has shown.

Partner and manager WSP, Sweden, Pontus Bengston, who spoke at the Green Cities conference in Sydney said the report, “10 Truths about BIM” was the result of research into how BIM is understood and being adopted by different sectors of the construction industry across the globe.

The overriding message from the research confirmed WSP’s own view that BIM is a great deal more than a new technology, Mr Bengston said.

“Throughout our business we are embracing BIM not just as a design tool, but as a completely new way of working which will change the way we do business in the construction industry.

“However, change is not embraced by everyone and for the benefits of BIM to be realised fully, the industry will need the support of governments in addition to the private sector and the broad cooperation of owners, designers, contractors and manufacturers.”

The message expressed through the 10 truths is:

  • BIM takes design to the next level. Technological developments open up new avenues for design, and BIM is no exception. The 3D function enables complex shapes and the software’s ability to handle sophisticated calculations will allow structural engineers to push the boundaries with ever more daring designs.
  • The ‘‘I’ is more important than the ‘‘B’’. Pretty pictures might impress, but it is as an information management tool that BIM software really shines. One reason for the slow take-up of BIM in the civil engineering sector is that the BIM community has so far focused on building to the detriment of information.
  • The colour of BIM is green. Using it properly will cut project time and thereby energy use, as well as cost. BIM will reduce the waste of materials during construction and building management and eventually assist in sustainable demolition. Energy modelling can also minimise energy use over a building’s life cycle.
  • BIM will destabilise the construction industry. Unlike CAD, which computerised a single activity while leaving macro processes largely intact, BIM will change everything. There’s no point attempting to implement BIM software throughout the industry with the expectation that things won’t change. They will.
  • Governments must actively participate. The benefits of working the BIM way only come with close collaboration. If one member of a project team is using BIM while the others continue doing things the old way, there will be limited benefit. To make the investment worthwhile someone has to help break the stalemate. That someone is often the government.
  • Companies must work as one. Firms and disciplines working separately, interacting only through the exchange of construction documents just won’t do any more. BIM both enables and requires tighter integration.
  • Both the software and the professionals must work together. But simply working together isn’t enough – habits and routines have to be aligned in order to make cooperation natural. The software will need to be developed to allow seamless integration, and so will the attitudes of professionals.
  • New contracts will emerge. Both digitalisation and close collaboration challenge the prevailing system of intellectual ownership. There are two possible development routes. One is increased specialisation where ownership resides with modelling specialists. The other is consolidation into giant firms, as companies work increasingly closely, solving ownership issues.
  • The software platform is at a crossroads. The fight for supremacy in the software world rages on. Depending on the outcome of current power struggles, the digital environment in the new construction industry will conform to one of three types: open standard, closed and proprietary standard, or no/several standards.
  • BIM will become the DNA of future construction. When the system is sufficiently streamlined we can start to focus on using it. Once the basic information infrastructure is in place and we’ve learned to work with it, numerous technologies, in use or in the pipeline, can be brought in.

The report was produced by Kairos Future, an international research and consulting firm based in Sweden. See report