Digital Value Pyramid

Why use BIM ?

I’ve had something of a (mild-mannered) rant on this blog about the tendency in BIM circles to focus just on the technology, and not the business of BIM.

This includes posts such as BIM: But I’ve got 3D gogglesBeware the technology magpieBIM: A workhorse, not a show pony, BIM: Making Money & BIM: Forget clash detection, think cash ($$$) detection

‘Because you can’

The general theme across the above posts is that technology is certainly part of the solution, but should not determine strategy alone.

In other words, ‘because you can’ is not good enough- there  has to be a specific and measurable benefit.

I’ve seen plenty of construction projects where the only people who genuinely utilise the model are the author (designer) and the resident BIM geek.

Ask the safety, commercial or quality person- they are too busy with their bits of paper, highlighters, spreadsheets and Powerpoints.

There might be a great deal of money spent on modelling or hardware/software- yet no defined BIM purpose, objective or measure of success exists. This is a recipe for failure.

Ask the question

The answer that you get to the question “why use BIM ?” is most often:
• “we can do clash detection”, or
• “we can do 4D”
• “we can produce renders and visualisations”, or
• “we can look at the model in virtual reality”, or
• “the client wants (or has specified) BIM”

It is rarely:
• “we will optimise the design so it is cheaper and quicker to build”, or
• “we will utilise the model in safety reviews and inductions, to make a measurable improvement to site safety”, or
“we will utilise the model to identify project risks & opportunities”

The Digital Value Pyramid

To illustrate this, I’m going to represent all the things you can do with BIM as a pyramid.

The top represents the highest value to the project- and this will vary for each project. The green triangles represent the oft-quoted uses of BIM- but to my mind at least, these can be some way from the top.

The red triangles represent the areas that might be the highest value to you (depending on the project)

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Of course, aspects such as AR/VR or ‘reality capture’ (photogrammetry or point cloud scanning) are just a means to an end. By themselves, they have no value, but need to be applied for a specific purpose. However, these are quite often touted as benefits of BIM in isolation.

Even purposes such ‘clash detection‘ can be a bit vague- the objective needs to be beyond just being a design that is possible to construct (preventing the pipe clashing from the beam), but to optimise the design so that it is cheaper or faster or easier to construct.


Focus at the top of this pyramid and do it not ‘because you can’, but ‘because you should’ or even ‘because you must’