Owners need to step up for BIM

The construction and real estate industries are facing immense challenges to deliver high quality projects within tight budgets, alongside a growing demand for sustainable design and production processes. With the current cap on capital expenditure and the need to improve the environment, governments around the world have realised the importance of improving the performance of these industries, which is very difficult to achieve by maintaining old work practices.

Therefore, during the past 10 years, more and more governments have established strategies to drive the use of advanced technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), which has a proven record of reducing cost of construction by at least 10% and delivering more sustainable, better quality projects.

Properly implemented, BIM can deliver major performance improvements in construction programme efficiency, design quality, constructability, waste reduction, environmental performance and capital and operational cost management.

The use of BIM is increasing worldwide. For example, the UK government set up a BIM task group and agreed on a BIM strategy in March 2011. This was followed by the Cabinet Office publishing the Government Construction Strategy in May 2011. Subsequently, a four-year programme was set out, requiring the use of collaborative 3D BIM and a 20% reduction in capital expenditure by 2016. Similar attempts have been witnessed in the US, Norway, Finland, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Australia.

Most recently, Dubai Municipality mandated BIM for large projects from January 2014. BIM deployment is likely to accelerate further in the UAE, with increasing awareness among the clients and proven benefits on projects.

Adopting collaborative work practices supported by flexible legal contracts will enable project teams to effectively use BIM to maximise benefits to clients. However, this is not an easy task. Focusing on technology alone may not lead organisations, especially property developers and client organisations, to reap the full benefits of BIM. The benefits of BIM ultimately accrue to property owners and client organisations, but the value of information in BIM models is not always clear to them, as they seldom engage with the BIM process or understand the technicalities involved.

BIM implementation and deployment in the UAE is mainly advocated by BIM software vendors, project consultants and large contractors, driven by their own business agendas, which more often results in non-collaborative practices or conflicts of interest while developing BIM models.

For example, a consultant’s BIM model is hardly ever transferred to a contractor to integrate construction information and enrich the BIM model used by the owner for operation and maintenance tasks. On the contrary, the process of BIM development is rebooted with change in responsibility at tender stage, or even worse out sourced overseas.

These non-collaborative practices eradicate most of the intelligence in BIM models, making them less valuable for the clients for any future use, despite this being a selling point. Consultants and contractors will always be reluctant to share the details of these failures, due to a perceived risk of reputation damage and losing future business opportunities.

If client organisations want more useful and fit-for-purpose BIM models, they need to step up and take a leading role in BIM deployment. clients need to establish a clear roadmap to transfer them from their traditional work practices to BIM-based processes and reap the most benefit from BIM.

My fear is that without proper client engagement and education, BIM can backfire and lead executives to believe that this will not work – the typical “this is not for me” syndrome.

Dr Muhammad Tariq Shafiq is a BIM manager at Imirati Engineering & Consultants (IEC), Abu Dhabi.


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