Owners Don’t have to Know it All

As I read blogs by others I am inspired to share my own thoughts.Thanks to Antony McPhee for posting BIM for Free on Practical BIM in April.

Anthony discussed some of the fall out from owners prescribing precisely what, how, and when their teams ought to be doing something. I think that this occurs as an extreme reaction to the pressure owners feel to define EVERYTHING when they're asked to define their BIM requirements or expectations. CAUTION! Owners, when you do this you may not like the results... it will most certainly and at the very least result in frustration and more drastically it could result in increased fees to account for the handicap your teams feel by being told to do what they presumably already do quite well, but to do it in a manner that they are unfamiliar with.

For instance, an owner may need information to feed their computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or they may wish to retain current native model files for use in future work (As-Built Models) but they may not need to have costing models or phasing models as a deliverable. While it could be argued that those uses of the BIM would help their service/commodity providers to do their jobs better and make their lives easier, it is not necessarily a deliverable to the owner. The owner doesn't need to dictate these additional and superfluous requirements unless they wish to use that data and more importantly are prepared to pay for it.

I would imagine that many owners must feel incredibly overwhelmed as soon as they decide to integrate BIM into their facilities. With all this said, I thought a short message to owners might be in order:

Dear Owners,

I suspect that you hire your team for a reason. You hire them for their expertise and their ability to take the necessary incremental steps to provide you with the right outcome. When it comes to defining BIM for your project, don’t think you must define the HOW, just provide the WHAT.

Yes, designers and contractors provide you with a commodity. They give you tangible deliverables of drawings, virtual models, specs, manuals, and even whole built buildings. This is true. But the real value is in the quality of service and the level of expertise they bring to bear as partners both in design, and in construction.

If you hire a team that is well versed in their areas, they will know the value of BIM and will be able to participate with others in a way that will get you what you want. So, please don’t think you need to know it all, just know that all you need is a well-defined set of expectations and deliverables, and to be clear in communicating what you want. The rest will take care of itself.


Your Project Team


  1. Thanks Dennis!

    There are so many things in this world to know that it is impossible to know it all (and that's not unique to BIM.) Not only is this relevant to owners, but to designers and contractors alike. It's imperative for the team members to realize when they are outside of their "wheelhouse" and be willing and able to identify those with the right expertise to bring on board.

    First and foremost, I encourage anyone on the team who doesn't understand something to ask the question. Nodding, and pretending you understand helps no one.

  2. Rachel,

    This is a GREAT post…!

    It is also very timely for me. I was at a function last night with many owners on the Hospital and Higher Ed side, and we were talking about BIM and their long term use. BTW… John Grady should have been there when the topic of COBie came up. Out of the 50 people in the room, not a single one knew what it meant, but yet it has been asked for on multiple contract deliverables. One of the panelist actually looked it up… I thought that was super funny. But more importantly shows that owners don't even know what they are paying for sometimes and have been 'Sold' to ask for things they don't even use.

    I bring this up, because it really drives home your point. They don't have to know it all, or feel embarrassed to say they don't. Their jobs are to know their day to day profession not that of the 'Specialist' they hire.

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