Editors note: Chris is a Architectural designer at the UK based Architectural practice of Ellis Belk Associates ltd. and has over seen the BIM process of many large projects over his years as a professional in the AEC industry. He takes personal interest in the direction of BIM and is passionate about education and training in BIM to equip the future of our industry with valuable and desirable skills. You can connect with him on twitter (@cvedesigns) where he often shares his thoughts on BIM as well as those around him.
Yes. I’m one of the many individuals in the UK AEC Industry faced with the term ‘Building Information Modeling’, referred to by most as BIM. Working for the UK Architectural practice, Ellis Belk Associates, my role as an Architectural designer sees me in direct contact with BIM on a daily basis and I take a personal interest in the direction BIM is taking, developing and furthering my own understanding and skill base at every given opportunity.
Firstly I guess I should summarize my thoughts on BIM (as it is our present and future). With that being said the UK needs to provide better education for the implementation of BIM if we want to see it reach it’s full potential. This would require not only Government, but professional bodies and teaching associates to collaborate effectively, providing a ‘meet in the middle’ approach to BIM education as well as further T&D for professionals.
So what’s my story and how did I get to where I am today (I hear you all asking!)
The way to BIM is not entirely paved with glory. At any stage of a career BIM is a daunting task; it’s taken will power, discipline and a lot of self-education and up-skilling to get to where I am today. Not to mention having to have a Google search page open at all times to understand the massive amount of terminology used industry wide. Starting as an inexperienced trainee who had a love for buildings, passion for design and a desire to grow within the industry I was thrown into College where CAD was put in front of me for the first time. The result? By the end of the year (2000) I was CAD proficient across 2D and 3D levels. Yet the term ‘BIM’ was still aloof, and I had only ever heard of it in reference to Revit- who were relative unknowns at the time, and as we now know were on track to become the most popular parametric modeling platform in the coming years.
As my career progressed I moved from CAD technician and space planner, where I learned the lessons of implementing design under the restrictions of time, quality and cost. While too, here the term BIM remained elusive and experimentation with new technologies, training or mind-sets was certainly not accounted for during my early professional experience, and it was expected that in order to justify these developments a 100% satisfactory rate had to be proven. I’m pretty sure people can agree with this, and understand the troubles in bank rolling ideas.
From day one I was able to see the potential BIM possessed (note I didn’t say software). Being able to reduce time spent on projects and increase knowledge from project inception is paramount in any profession. Even though the authoring software was lacking in areas; it still, if used correctly had time saving benefits as well as producing high quality work. I needed to learn more. With me being extremely determined and stubborn I started to teach and train myself outside of work. This seemed to be the only way possible at the time to obtain experience in the field; to this day I have no recollection of any professional bodies within the U.K. that had come to terms with BIM and were teaching others. I had to navigate towards the USA & New Zealand for this information (as they had seemed to initially adopt BIM easier than the UK).
After a few weeks of theory I started to get more confident with the process and the authoring software. However I was still in the dark about the correct process needed to apply the theory I had attained. At this time I needed help and support so I brought my experience to my mentor Vince, who in-turn jumped on the BIM boat with me. Thanks to our enthusiasm, a lot of sugar and late nights we successfully came to grips with the mindset of Building Information Modeling. It took a variety of trial and error processes to understand the best workflow for modeling and In order to acquire the right data output. Thankfully now British Standards have been updated and publically available to ensure a better understanding of BIM across the board. That being said, I still believe experience and knowledge share got me to where I am today. As it stands today I am implementing BIM mindset and management, efficiency training with Autodesk Revit and designing a rewarding boat building facility with full collaboration from specialist contractors. And my comment to those still fighting BIM is to stop fighting. Accept it and enjoy the ride.
What is BIM- in my opinion (everyone’s is different)
Applying accurate project information upfront to obtain reliable design information, reduce errors; visualize your building in many forms while reducing the time required to output this information. With this mindset in place technology can enhance this output, making the design phase a more efficient process.
Getting that mindset into a practice at first is difficult to say the least; it relies on re-thinking your design work protocols and analyzing your output. I’m quite lucky to have acquired over six years experience with BIM and to this day I’m still learning better workflows. Many people get misconstrued that BIM is about technology and modeling software; this in itself is causing an inaccurate view of how BIM works in the field. It must be remembered that the mindset is 80% theory and 20% technology. Yes we use the technology every day of our lives but knowing how to integrate that process is the key to success.
One of the most frustrating things that I have learnt over the years is the manufacturing industry are way off point/behind in coming to terms with BIM. I see a critical need for manufacturers to get on board and provide full support to their clients; this is the step the U.K needs now in order to grow. Think about the amount of time that could be saved by specifying the correct materials, product and visual aspect at the start of a project. Imagine being able to implement any product into a building model, which provided all correct amounts of data, from energy consumption to cost. It’s the very near future of the industry and some industry leaders have already moved into BIM.
Climbing the wall of BIM
From my personal experience when I was learning BIM all those years ago while working full time as an architectural technologist and studying part time towards my Architectural Technology degree, there was no mention of training in BIM throughout my degree. And still today, this is a problem; young professionals that we seek to employ are standing in front of a wall that is incredibly difficult to climb (the BIM wall). How can students, the unemployed and people looking for a professional change get ahead?
Most of my learning experiences have been through sharing with other individuals in a similar position to myself. I can’t count how many times I have jumped for joy upon discovering a post on a modeling problem that had previously stumped me. The key for our future generations adoption of BIM is a smart and integrated approach to learning; teaching the core principles but also include a detailed allowance for modern technologies and mind-sets. With accredited courses, teachers and content from a professional BIM body we can entrust our legacy to a younger and more efficient generation. And what a legacy; within the last year there has been huge BIM growth, with help from The BIM Task Group, NBS, UK Government, social networking and many other individuals who are helping make the transition to BIM more manageable.
Where is it going?
There are many opinions as to where BIM is being taken and how it’s being driven. One to be aware of is the BIM 2050 group. This group of talented individuals is trying to push us in the right direction, but it needs everyone’s help.
I can see 50 years down the line buildings being ordered digitally, manufacturing plants arriving at site and printing the materials to get underway. Everything is becoming more efficient, automated and reliable. As mentioned above imagine being able to implement any product or material into a building information model which provided all amounts of data, from energy consumption to cost. This step is where we need to be heading. This can only be achieved if on a global scale government, organizations, interest groups and individual professionals help along the way sharing openly with no waiting times, difficulties or cost.