October 21, 2013

BIM guidelines may be necessary for it to succeed

In order to properly adopt Building Information Modeling (BIM), the construction industry must determine how its various components can work together, heard the vertical building forum at the Canadian Construction Association's (CCA) recent board of directors meeting.

“That seems to be the grey area in using this technology. There are no clear expectations on what we all do in this process,” said Les LaRocque of Botting & Associates Alberta Ltd. at the meeting held in Moncton, N.B.

After Kees Cusveller of Graham Group of Companies gave a presentation about the execution of a BIM project, the discussion turned to how owners, general contractors and subcontractors use BIM, and how they can work together to get the most out of BIM and how they define their roles.

“It’s fine for you to buy into (BIM), but if your tin sub doesn’t buy into this or your HVAC supplier, we’re just back where we started with non-existent data. That is a concern and there’s been very few guidelines defining it,” said Cusveller.

He added that there could be a one-line specification defining BIM on a project, while there are a hundred lines talking about the installation of drywall.

“We have one line that talks about the most fundamental thing in the project. There’s a disconnect there as to what we’re doing or not doing as an industry.”

During the forum, and again in the general contractors committee meeting, the idea of a business BIM best practices guide was brought up.

The Institute for BIM in Canada (IBC) has developed a contract appendix, which is ready to publish within the next month.

“Anybody who participates in the BIM process, whether using the BIM model or is a contributor to the BIM model, would actually have that appendix attached to their contract,” explained Serge Masicotte, a CCA representative on the IBC steering committee.

Neil McFarlane of Alberta Infrastructure said owners are struggling with what they want out of the model.

“You have to whittle it down to exactly what you need and how you’re going to use it for maintaining the facility at the end of the day,” he said.

Tim Smith, executive vice-president of EllisDon, said sales are driving BIM.

“What’s happening now is general contractors, construction managers are responding to clients and we’re adapting,” he said.

“We’re now trying to drive things towards the trade contractors and we’re not getting any feedback from you guys, that I see,” he said to trade contractors at the meeting.

“You’re kind of following along, why not make it something that helps you and your production.”

Smith noted that the world is changing and that competitors coming into Canada from the United States or Europe are selling BIM to clients.

“To say ‘I don’t know if I’m going to use it, I don’t know why I need it,’ (is not enough). Figure out what you need for it to help your business. It’s happening.”

“The challenge is you and I aren’t talking about what BIM is and what it needs to be on that job ahead of time so we can properly allocate (resources),” said LaRocque.

Michael Caletti, president of Univex, said the mechanical and electrical trades still work with BIM even though they are two dimensional.

“You don’t have to (design in 3D), that’s the whole point. There are a lot of jobs that we do that can still design two dimensional and then convert it.”

In a project that is design-build, for example, he said BIM can’t happen fast enough for some trades.

“Architecturally you can do it and structurally you can do it because they are the first things to happen. But when you get into the M&E, in order for a BIM model to actually work, the architect and the structure has to be designed,” he said.

“You can’t wait for that long for mechanical and electrical to start.”

IBC steering committee member Bob Hildenbrandt provided an IBC update at the vertical building forum.

The first two BIM toolkits are ready to publish. They provide guidance to the parties involved in a BIM project through case studies.

The third toolkit is in the works and will focus on the construction management environment.

Comments are currently being collected on volume one of the practice manual and final approval for that document will be sought at the IBC’s upcoming November meeting.

IBC has established a Canadian chapter of Building Smart International (BSI), an international body that has established a guide to elaborate on the BIM process throughout the world.

IBC is currently considering how it will be involved with the group, balancing the cost with value and commitment.

The BSI executive committee and the IBC committee are scheduled to meet in Ottawa in early November.

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