Everyone does BIM, so what’s so special

Everyone is doing it so it must be catching on right? That is what you would think reading the latest market trends and analysis. Yet here is where I throw a monkey wrench in that theory; most of the reports out about firms BIM capabilities address one, licenses owned and two, total revenue of BIM projects. So tell me wise ones if I own one million licenses of BIM software does that mean my firm is a BIM god and no other firms should apply? Of course not it just means I have a boat load of licenses but it doesn't tell if I have the people with the right skill sets for those licenses. Secondly if I am at a ten billion dollar a year firm and I say 85% of my jobs do BIM in some facet is that really 1.5 billion worth of BIM revenue? Of course not to many factors to be considered. For instance if a firm is only doing coordination the the "BIM revenue" is only the revenue effected by BIM. So a job valued at 100 million with the MEPFP contracts only valued at 30 million is only providing 30 million in BIM attributable revenue at the max not 100 million. Even that 30 million is questionable since in reality only the cost for coordination should be shown as BIM revenue. Another point here if a firm is doing 3D coordination they are doing BIM because that is what I've heard. While they may be using a small facet of BIM if that is all they are doing I question their true BIM capabilities.

What about design firms; all of their projects are done in BIM right? While many design firms use a BIM authoring platform the sad truth is only about 40% of firms design with true BIM elements. A majority of firms are still drawing walls at eight foot height and annotating the drawings, this is not BIM even though you used a BIM authoring platform. I have even had projects come across my desk where every light-switch and receptacle was modeled but it still wasn't BIM. Why because those modeled elements were just dumb 3D objects which to the unaware looks like there is a ton of data in the model. Sad truth is visually there is a ton of data but the data needed for downstream users, contractors and owners facilities management, really is not there; in fact there is very little useful information contained in the model.

Who else is left we covered briefly contractors and designers so that leaves....yep owners. How many times have I had an RFP come across my desk that said, "BIM will be used on this project" or "Every thing BIM related will be done on this project." Those are the two extremes but they still exist and the question is why. I'll offer that its similar to that old keep your kids off drugs commercial where the kid says, "I learned it from watching you." Too many times reports like I mentioned above, articles in trade magazines, and many other forums forego education for "Hollywood BIM" and BIM Wash because lets face it sleek and sexy sells. I have even spoken with owners who have said they found out what their competition was asking for and just started adding things they heard of to the list to, "Have more than them." I have even heard we want BIM because its not a fad everyone is doing it. When asked what they wanted exactly and what they were going to use it for the answer was, "Just the typical BIM stuff nothing fancy and this will be for our facilities managers." One problem was after talking to the facilities guys they could care less about a model but they did want the data.

So who is to blame for the current state of BIM? Designers? Contractors? Owners? Maybe business development? No, no, no, not even close; it is everyone who contributes to BIM in one shape or facet. So what can we do? How can we change the path of BIM? First we need to get rid of the confusion and buzzwords because they cause confusion within the AEC industry about what BIM truly is. BIM is not just a dumb 3D model or how many software licenses a firm has. No one knows, contrary to popular belief, every facet of BIM you just can't its to expansive. Some say they truly understand BIM but I don't see the benefit of looking at the downstream capabilities thus keeping the walls up  that BIM was supposed to tear down. These mind sets give BIM a bad name as the true value of BIM is not realized and is devalued in the minds of many of the parties.

Don't think no one is truly doing BIM or that there are not owners out there with clearly defined BIM goals; because that is not the case. I have found many firms and people  implementing BIM because the see the benefits and the reality that BIM is not a fad. I do see frustration in firms that are satisfied with the status quo in implementation but their marketing says they are the "Tip of the spear in BIM." BIM people need support from bottom up and top down in order to be successful. This means staffing support, clearly defined contract requirements, clearly defined deliverables, educated owners, and educated marketing staff.

So if everybody does BIM why is everyone selling it as a differentiator? Is it because BIM is new even though its been around since the late nineties? Is it because people don't understand BIM and are awed by pretty pictures forgetting beauty is only skin deep? Is it because people who speak BIM are more intelligent than others in the industry? These are a couple thoughts to get the discussion rolling. Let's see if anything I have said hits a nerve. We welcome discourse at Epic BIM because we see the way to the future in BIM is through structured discourse. This is a no holds barred forum but that does not give you license to be disrespectful to anyone one here, whether a commenter or contributor.


  1. Jeff Lannon

    As far as education is concerned what I'm seeing are Companies that do not want to invest in the training and education of new talent. Its 5 yrs exp and produce or nothing.Unless this changes the current trend of accepting the minimum and the shortage of truly qualified talent will amplify.

  2. John,
    I like where this is going. It is time for people to start to realize that understanding the differences in a companies BIM capabilities takes some education.

    This goes back to the BIM Gap (See August Post). There are not nearly enough individuals getting educated in the BIM process. That's why useless research can still be used to rank companies BIM capabilities.

    When everyone gets serious about BIM then the transgressions you mention above will no longer be an issue. But this has to come from the top down. The individuals who steer the direction of their companies processes have to stop being satisfied with the bare minimum. Only having just enough BIM to sell yourself is lazy, unethical, and is representative of the worst kind of leadership: the kind that is not really interested in providing the best product for their clients.

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