Collaboration is defined as: “the action of working with someone to produce or create something.” This is two or more people working together to achieve a common goal. The activities can be done together or separately, but the separation between the two is usually dynamic in nature. This means the exchange of information takes place on a regular basis in order to know the real-time effects of the work on each particular subgroup.
Coordination is defined as: “the organization of the different elements of a complex body or activity so as to enable them to work together effectively.” Coordination is again two or more people working to achieve a common goal. In this particular instance, these activities are 'siloed' into smaller, distinct groups. When these groups are complete and ready, they are then brought together to fit into a new assembly or whole.
Recently on this blog, the definition of BIM has been discussed. As Connor previously posted, BIM takes on many forms. BIM has been described as a process, a workflow, a methodology, so on and so forth. Each will have their own definition of what BIM is to them. A successful BIM workflow requires collaboration AND coordination. Not only does one need to coordinate with each trade involved on the project, but there needs to be a true collaborative effort to see how the work in each silo affects the other.
In true EpicBIM fashion, I propose we kick the silos over and connect them into a pipeline. This pipeline becomes a method of exchanging and sharing information – not only in the vertical manner of the silo, but also horizontally. This allows for the dynamic exchange of how the changing of one of the elements affects the other. Is this a radical way of thinking? I don’t think so. In fact, I feel many of us who read this blog regularly feel this same way.
When BIM is effectively deployed on a project, it becomes the information hub of the project. BIM becomes the place where all of the information is combined, where these individual silos are put together, exchanged and compared as to how they interact with each other.
During my career, I have found that many in the AEC community fail to truly collaborate AND coordinate during different parts of the design and construction process. Some projects do a good job of coordinating the work before being put in place. Others do a good job of collaborating, but fail miserably in the coordination of the work. The projects that I have been on where everyone collaborated and coordinated, ended up being very successful. When one silo fails to participate in the process, it creates a blockage in the pipeline and things can get sideways quickly.
Recently, I have been exposed to some who strongly feel BIM has no place in the AEC community. Some still believe BIM is all about pretty pictures – the Hollywood BIM that is sold to many. This leads to a mentality of everyone doing their own thing – each silo continuing its vertical progression – then coordinating the end product. With no collaborative effort, we cannot see how the pushing of one item is pulling on another.
This leads to one questioning, “Why is that duct being routed that way?” The simple (coordinated) answer would be, “to avoid a clash with that pipe.” The collaborative and coordinated answer would be, “because the submittals for that Air Handler requires it to be at that location, and that particular size. The submittal also states that the pipe requires a certain amount of insulation and requires a straight run distance of 36 inches before allowing any bends in the pipe.” One answer can be rather open ended, while the other clearly answers the question.
To sum up, I feel we need to create a new definition of what BIM is. This is my attempt at a definition – all feedback is welcome in helping further refine the definition below.
BIM: A methodology of coordination and collaboration between all parties involved in a project; a dynamic way of viewing the cause and effect relationship of each element that makes up the whole of the project.