Friday, October 6, 2017

Today’s Global BIM is in worse shape than the one we started off 20 years ago (Note to myself: Brace for hate-mail)

‘What is BIM?’ – is probably the most off-putting intro question to anyone listening to a BIM presentation that a speaker can pull up, yet it comes up time after time at BIM conferences and lectures.
In a way, I understand why that is – audiences generally vary in their understanding of BIM to such extent, that speakers feel obliged to always start from the beginning.
And then, there is another troubling issue about the question – the answer is actually NOT that obvious, and it varies from application to application.

For example, while almost everyone publicly agrees that no-one software (not even Revit) equals BIM – all sorts of other descriptions are likely to float around, from simple ‘one word’ depiction to highly complicated bullet-pointed explanations.

I used to like the word ‘approach’ for it, being a ‘language’, ‘a set of tools and processes’.

These days, if pushed, I say that BIM is merely a combination of a specific set of ‘Attitude and Commitment’ which leaves people usually dumbfounded and me alone.

Regardless of its name (I know, the acronym has been only around since Autodesk had invented it) or what it means for people, there are reliable ways on measuring its effectiveness and ‘maturity’ in the current day BIM market.

Still, while numbers should always reflect real pictures, statistics and surveys generally are a bit flawed and subjective, leaning to the expectation of their compilers.

So, those that claim BIM to be in a pretty good shape and maturing according to preset programs across the board, are likely to have some vested interest in making it look better than it really is.

Others, like me, that state, that the real impact (positive) on the global AEC made by the last 2 decades of BIM-push has been negligible are, also most likely blinded by their disillusionment due to the failure of their own endeavors.

Nevertheless, I stay firm behind the statement, that regardless of the good work of many people, honest intentions and lots of money, BIM had made not much more than a little dent in the ineffectiveness, sluggishness and generally archaic ways that the global AEC is run.

Worse even from that fact, it did little to improve the processes (don’t believe me, go to weekly meetings of medium to large projects), it had done almost nothing to increase accountability and decrease corrupt practices that plague the industry.

Yes, people create BIM bunkers, walk around with lasers, VR headsets and iphone models, but these are few and far between, are often just a gimmick, and most definitely operate below the magic line of real decision (and money) makers of the industry.

If I publicly ask for anyone to name a Project Director of a largish project with BIM competency, I am sure people will throw lots of names in the basket, but my experience (on lots of large and very large projects) is that there are NO Project Directors, Commercial Managers, Lead Planners, Control Managers, Project Managers that can be trusted with anything even close to ‘real BIM’ (or very, very few).
Sure, many will happily ‘chew the fat’ on the topic, but all their experience would be second hand, through others doing it for them.

Going back to the title, I seem to remember that 20+ years ago, when I started on BIM (that still had no name for it) it was much more fun to be involved with the movement.
Skeptics will say, that was no BIM, just 3D, but the fact is that I used 3D for documenting full buildings from the first day I learned ArchiCAD (4.5), applied appropriate materials (meta data!) – and jumped on the first opportunity of doing 4D models when I came across, the then extremely buggy and highly temperamental Construction Simulation. Furthermore, persisted using it for years, in spite of a scary number of failed movie making attempts and sleepless nights.

I also recall, that the BIM people of that era were approaching ‘issues’ with more criticality than the somewhat blind enthusiasm and misguided loyalty (to various parties)  of those now in charge do.
I hate to say (but must), the average IQ of BIMmers seemed to be a notch or two higher as well, even though the numbers involved may have been quite a bit lower, than now.

Internet was in its very early stage and emails still clunky, but the ArchiCAD worldwide support group moderated by Djordje Grujic was legendary.
You could put up questions at night New Zealand time and have numerous answers by real (not just self-styled) gurus next morning.

Sure, it was not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows – the industry shunned us, happy to hire AutoCAD seamstresses by the dozens instead, many typing faster in lisp than talking in their own mother tongues, rather than even consider anything more than flatCAD.
CAD managers taunted us for file sizes and line types and fonts and RAM.
We were the weirdoes of the time, but we still felt we were the future.
I did, anyway.

Nowadays, I see no future for BIM, the way it is being pushed by flaky mandates, super-large companies ‘polished up global BIM policies’ and across the board reluctance to accept any criticism, reality checks or change of courses set by ‘standard makers’.
I say, I see no future for current BIM. But I do see future for something else helping the industry and maybe, just maybe able to bring the spark of the ‘early BIM times’ back to the oldies and the new wizzes of the industry.

I will explain it all at a presentation I will be holding on the 30th October 2017 at the Canadian University in Dubai.
Still working on a possible webcast, but if that does not happen, there will be a youtube video for those unable to come, but interested.


  1. I look forward to seeing your presentation!

  2. It would be nice to hear on what BIM should be able to do. Hope it becomes a webcast.

  3. The AEC industry is generally male dominated. It is this sex that are famous for buying a flat packed component based item from, say, Ikea, proceeding to assembly before reading the instructions and then wondering why they have bits leftover!

  4. Zolna, all I can say is that you must be associated with the wrong group of people. Sure, there are some who are not as experienced, and can cost time and money. But it is the seasoned and experienced ones in the team who can read into the situation, and become the solution rather than allowing problems to continue. The collaborative efforts of everyone can overcome all situations and challenges, with the right attitudes. I can say that the most ideal BIM coordination solution is not what most GC's are practicing, and that is to model and coordinate all systems with one team. But I would say my overall experiences with BIM coordination teams has been very positive and successful.

    1. Greg, what I try to question in my post is the relationship (impact?) of even ‘extremely good BIM bubbles’ with the overall industry. I.e. I know, I work in the Middle East where people like to say that ‘usual’ things do not apply – but there are two facts that contradict to this, one, most really big projects happen here and most really big (international consultancies, contractors and generally top management people) manage those project, with people that come from supposedly ‘mature BIM countries’. So you’d imagine that they would ‘sing the BIM mantra’ if they believed in it, no matter where they practiced.

  5. Working in the Middle East for the last 18 years and BIMming for the last 22, I understand very well what Zolna wants to say. It might also be our shared geographical origin, The tendency of the people from that area, based on quite a few centuries of wars and other nice happenings, is to look at the problems and solutions first, because good things that work take care of themselves.

    There is no doubt that it works in bubbles - nowadays larger and more software varied than 20 years ago - and even larger systems and projects. Look at Cross Rail for example. BUT: IT DOES NOT WORK ON THE INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE, that is, if anything, even more polarized, adverse and litiguous after the advent of BIM, understanding it as yet another activity, contractual item and deliverable envelope that the stakeholders can fight about... It is not that. It should be the technology platform.

  6. Hope it turns into a video we can watch later.
    Much appreciated Zolna.

  7. Please let us know about any webcast or YouTube video.

  8. My fellow Archidian, now you got my attention.

  9. whoever wants to see Zolna perform, 30th October, Canadian University Dubai, 18:00...