BIM: But I’ve got 3D goggles


Attribution: US Dept of Commerce,  HoloLens demo at Microsoft’s HM16 booth | U.S. Department of Commerce | Flickr

As I see it, the prize at the end of the BIM game is very simple:

a project that runs smoothly & safely and makes money for everyone involved.

On a design level- my litmus test is whether it still looks good and works properly in 10 years’ time (unfortunately, too many projects appearing in glossy architecture magazines fail this test)

A construction project, with quality documentation so everything fits together properly, budget and program are achieved (or improved upon), construction is efficient & safe and there are not any acrimonious legal disputes at the end between client, designers, contractor and subcontractors is an elusive beast.

Construction projects have a propensity to run way over budget and program. This is coupled with quite small profit margins even for successful projects; and almost unlimited losses when it goes bad as I explain in BIM: Making Money

In my posts Tech is the easy bitBeware the technology magpie & Success is not guaranteed I’ve covered the tendency to focus just on technology, and to assume business success will automatically follow.

I have had a number of discussions that go something like this:
(where I am the questioner. You could substitute ‘goggles’ with the latest thing)

Q: How is BIM going to make us money ?
A: Dunno, but I’ve got some really cool 3D goggles. People will try them and suddenly realise BIM is brilliant. Of course it will make money.

Q: What is your BIM business strategy i.e how are you going to develop capabilities, upskill staff, implement new processes etc.
A: Dunno, but I’ve got some really cool 3D goggles…….

Q: What are your opportunities and risks with BIM/digital engineering ?
A: We might be able to see some with these really cool 3D goggles …..?

Q: What is the impact of digital technologies on our employees and business partners such as consultants & subcontractors  ?
A: Er, not sure. Did I tell you I have some really cool 3D goggles ?

And so on.

Ask the right question

To my mind, the question to ask is:

Q: How will we apply this technology to benefit our business ?

So in the case of the goggles- the potential uses might be:

  • winning work
  • identifying design issues- either errors or potential improvements
  • detailed services coordination
  • ‘safety in design’ or constructibility reviews
  • value engineering or cost optimisation
  • analysis- such as natural lightning, disabled access, sight-lines, signage visibility etc
  • marketing & promotion

It might seem obvious, but many organisations believe they “do BIM” by having a few toys. Ask what their strategy, plan and approach is- you’ll get a blank response.

I like 3D goggles as much as the next BIM geek, but only if part of this broader strategy.

If there is no strategy and the main focus of a business or output of ‘BIM’ is on token efforts, gadgetry or superficial uses, then it is most likely a waste of time and money.