Monday, 30 January 2017

Impact of BIM on project contracts

STUART JORDAN* discusses the scope of building information modelling (BIM) and its impact on the contracting structure.

Most articles about BIM, however, are written by people who are selling it. There’s nothing wrong with that. Lawyers write columns for the same reason. Nevertheless, most articles about BIM tend to concentrate on the hoped-for advantages in the build and operational phases. Yes – it’s another ‘pay-more-now-and-save-a-lot-more-later’ deal. Coverage of the subject is mostly not about the impact of BIM on the contracting structure.BUILDING information modelling (BIM) is spreading across the Gulf and it is surely here to stay; governments are ordering or encouraging the use of BIM. Dubai Municipality last year mandated its use.
What’s surprising about BIM is the divided reaction to it. A lot of that reaction – good and bad – is about its effect on legal relationships in the project team. Some see BIM as a tool to change those relationships. Others see danger in moving from a contractual set-up between designers, contractors and owners which is understood and generally clear. We should take a balanced look both at the claims for BIM and the concerns.
A third section of the industry has not taken any notice of it. A senior representative of Dubai Municipality last year estimated that only 10 per cent of the industry is fully aware of the full scope of BIM.
A quick refresher about BIM: the official definitions are too confusing for the non-technicals to look at. It is essentially smarter software than was previously available. It creates a platform in which each element of the design can (to varying extents) recognise and coordinate with the other elements. All designers will contribute their design information and the platform will integrate it. Design clashes, inefficiencies and missing pieces are identified and flagged by the system immediately. Additionally, the software is capable of generating cost and programme/schedule information; it can direct decisions on sequencing of activities, long lead ordering and general buildability. Newer variations can do the same for operation and management of the built asset – flag problems and inefficiencies, and provide information on pricing and organising these tasks.
On that summary, BIM looks like good news and it is getting better. There are, however, different levels to BIM, which unlock different advantages. You get what you pay for, and what the project participants can handle in terms of their systems. There is no official definition of the various levels but we can summarise four reasonably well-recognised levels as follows:
1. Design in 2D, submitted on paper. This is the most basic current practice – not really BIM at all;
2. Design in 2D or 3D submitted into a common management tool;
3. Design in 3D carrying data, submitted by designers independently into a “managed 3D environment”; and
4. A fully-collaborative web-based single model.
The claimed benefits of BIM really accrue at Levels Two and Three, when design carries data and the model can coordinate, troubleshoot and produce cost and programme/schedule information. These are also the levels at which the main concerns arise in relation to contractual responsibilities. We can look at both.

The technical claims for the benefits of BIM are easy to see. I am not able to judge them in technical terms but there is now a lot of real-world evidence about the advantages in terms of savings in time and cost through the building phase. We’ll soon start seeing a lot more data about the operational phase as well.
More interesting to me are the wider claims from supporters about how BIM is changing attitudes towards a collaborative approach. This is the elusive ‘partnering’ agenda and the proponents of partnering are trying hard to co-opt BIM as the technical embodiment of their philosophy. This includes the claim that BIM was actually created in order to support partnering, as opposed to it just being a really useful and practical technological advance in its own right.
Whatever drove the development of BIM, some partnering enthusiasts consider it mostly to be a tool of true collaboration including the sharing of risk. The irony of this is that BIM of course can detect and identify authorship of defective design immediately. BIM is very good at finding and allocating individual fault. That doesn’t disqualify it as collaborative. Construction is a deeply collaborative exercise. I guess it depends on one’s definition of collaboration.
It is true that the proper use of BIM, in particular at either of the higher levels, is going to require certain good practices. The best of them is surely the giving of sufficient time in the preconstruction phase to development of design. Alongside that, cost plans and programme/schedules can be developed in greater detail; value engineering, sequencing, key package market testing and a lot of other good things can be done, which will eliminate certain risks, take our provisional sums and make the build phase run more smoothly. Crucially, this approach requires the design team and the contractor to be involved from earlier stages than might otherwise be done.
None of this is new. It simply follows the old advice: “Write the script for the play before you go onstage”. More progressive project teams across the Gulf have been moving already towards early designer and early contractor involvement, negotiated tenders and two-stage tendering, involving the formalised participation of preferred contractors in these pre-construction tasks. BIM of course is built to support this approach but it didn’t create it. We should also remember that it is generally more expensive upfront to allow longer time for pre-construction tasks and to have full early engagement from designers and contractors. The hard cost is a lot more than the BIM software.

Some of the concerns about BIM, of course, mirror some of the claims from its supporters. The first is the partnering agenda. The main opposition to partnering is the risk of removing the clear lines of legal responsibility which we work hard to create between designers, contractors and managers of works. This concern is naturally amplified when BIM supporters talk about how the future is all about collaboration and shared risk.
Going one step further, some sceptics have argued that the collaborative approach is a cloak for old-fashioned risk dumping onto main contractors and subcontractors. The theory is that the contractors will be presented with the BIM model, loaded with the design and will be required “collaboratively” to adopt responsibility for this design (each piece and the whole) and/or for the model itself – especially the ability of the model to detect design clash and inefficiencies.
Other, more specific, legal worries are:
• This usurps the role of the lead designer;
• It affects the duties to review and to warn of deficiencies observed in others’ designs; and
• A designer working off someone else’s defective design
will become responsible for further errors.
The answer, of course, is to make sure it doesn’t work that way, and this is achieved through proper and careful integration of the BIM process into the contractual set-up. Various BIM protocols have been drawn up, for inclusion in construction contracts and design appointments. They should work with existing lines of responsibility and contracts should clarify the status of the BIM within the wider contract procedures. Just as examples, it should be clear that:
• The BIM model is separate from the design loaded onto it. Separate consultants (if not the seller) are responsible for the performance of the BIM model itself – the purchased system. If it doesn’t work as it should or is not managed properly, that is the responsibility of the person who produced it or managed it. This is not the fault of the design team or contractor.
• The BIM manager is, therefore, not the lead designer – or doesn’t have to be. Nor does the BIM manager set the design brief. His job is to facilitate the input of design from the team and to make sure the platform works as it should.
• The agreed position on ownership of design information and the terms of licensing of it for use by others (not just the project owner but other designers and managers working with it) are preserved.
• Basic professional standards as to competent design – and review of the connected design from other designers – are expressed.
BIM protocols generally express themselves as superseding other contract terms, in the case of conflict. It isn’t a good idea to leave it at that. Care needs to be taken to think about the processes which are taken over by the BIM (design submission, review, response, etc) and make proper room for the protocol in the contract.
Both the wider claims for BIM and the worries about it are overblown. It is the future.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The future of construction: Meet BIM

As more architects and builders embrace the benefits of building information modeling, the days of old-fashioned CAD and marked-up drawings are numbered.

A view into the U.K. library's BIM model, which saved time and cost while also showing the public its proposed designs. (Manchester U.K. City Council)

"Ultimately, we are going to have to work slightly differently."
That's the understatement of the decade, made by a cost consultant working on the renovation of the Central Library in Manchester, England. As reported in Building magazine, the associate from Davis Langdon didn't use BIM -- building information modeling -- like everyone else on the project. Instead, he requested drawings from the architects and marked them up, the old-fashioned way.
In the case of Central Library, as in tens of thousands of other projects worldwide since, BIM was shown to be a pricey retooling that ultimately paid off by shaving time and costs.
Unlike plain-vanilla CAD, BIM software creates a three-dimensional (3D) model full of smart objects embedded with information. BIM makes it easier to integrate architecture with engineering work, avoid "clashes" of building elements, instantly output lists of materials and labor, and automate valuable tasks like simulating the effects of sunlight an interior space.
As for the cost consultant? BIM is about to eat his lunch, I'm afraid.
The fact is, BIM can do much of the estimator's work. In addition to its built-in database about practically every material and product, BIM software can track the cost consequences of every design change in real time -- live, as they say -- and even take the client on a "walkthrough" of the revised design via full-color, 3D animation.
Sound good? In fact, recent changes in the construction kingdom portend a full industry shift to BIM. Soon it will be in every architect's toolbox, as these six key trends suggest:

1. BIM has become national policy.
The British design and building industry is particularly well aware of BIM's big implications, according to expert Phil Bernstein, an architect and technologist with Autodesk, which acquired the BIM platform Revit exactly 11 years ago this month.
"BIM is a central theme in the U.K. government construction strategy designed to reduce carbon and costs as a part of overall economic development," Bernstein said.
Perhaps this should be filed in the "We'll-Try-Anything" category of escaping a deep economic mess. But David Philp, the country's cabinet-level head of BIM implementation, contends that technologies like BIM will render many of today's construction jobs "unrecognizable" by 2050. Another leading Brit, Keith Howells of the big engineering firm Mott Macdonald, equated BIM with the Excel spreadsheet, warning, "If you're not using BIM in five years time, you'll probably be out of business."

David Philp is England's cabinet-level BIM czar. (Courtesy HM Government/BIS)

2. Like Excel, BIM is good business.
A new analysis from McGraw-Hill Construction, The Business Value of BIM in North America*, shows that BIM adoption in that region expanded from 17 percent in 2007 to 71 percent in 2012, "demonstrating impressive growth despite the recent economic pressures."
It is likely that some contraction in design and build firms helped fatten up those numbers. But still ... don't you wish you had invested in BIM when those housing bubbles popped?
Construction is an international market, of course, and companies such as GraphisoftBentley and Autodesk see even faster BIM growth coming in China, Japan and Brazil -- exceeding the 70 percent adoption rate in America.
3. Builders use BIM more than architects.
Here's another strange fact from the McGraw-Hill study: The adoption rate of BIM among builders actually exceeds that of architects.
This phenomenon was first reported last fall, when research showed that 74 percent of contractors roll with BIM, with architects trailing at about 70 percent.
This is important news: Architects will need BIM skills to work with some builders, making it a prerequisite for certain projects. But it also suggests a potential loss of leadership by the design team as contractors take control of "the model" -- for good or for bad.

More than mere pictures of building products, these BIM objects have embedded data and can be dropped right into a building project

4. The cloud is BIM's next big thing.
What's next for the technology itself? The shift from desktop to the cloud and mobile will transform BIM and upend the world of architecture once again. Among the changes that you can expect: Cloud computing will support BIM with detailed analytical tools, zapping answers to directly to client meetings and construction sites in real time.
"When BIM data is cloud-based, it becomes accessible for CPU-intensive analytical processes that can leverage the representation to create simulations," Bernstein explained. "Imagine an energy analysis routine running virtually in a parallel with a designer's copy of Revit, giving her real-time feedback on her scheme as it unfolds?"
With that idea in mind, BIM software developer Graphisoft last week released the public beta version of its EcoDesigner STAR, which places energy analysis in the heart of the architect's familiar BIM work environment.
Down the line, projects teams will use smartphones and tablet computers to query huge BIM models -- a "significant shift from traditional desktop-based workflows," Bernstein said. That "likely portends an age where that same information drives computer-controlled fabrication equipment that creates buildings that are assembled, not stick-built."

A fabrication model for a new building in Dubai. (Courtesy HOK)

5. BIM can protect us from superstorms.
For decades, low-bid contracting has been the law of the land, required for all federal and state building projects. With the rise of BIM, Bernstein and others have argued that construction deals can now be based instead on project outcomes.
"With today's building technologies, project teams can simulate the behavior of proposed designs and test digital prototypes for resilience before they are ever constructed,"Bernstein wrote for Fast Company, explaining how BIM could inspire designs that reduce storm-related building damage.
The influence could extend beyond durability and resiliency. Compliance with safety rules, toxicity levels, and even energy regulations could be outcome-based, taking construction contracts to a high level of specificity.
"Architects are taking more and more responsibility for the energy performance of their designs," said Laszlo Vertesi, vice president of development for Graphisoft, in explaining the benefit of Eco Designer STAR. The product enables architects to use ArchiCAD's BIM directly as a building energy model, or BEM, replete with performance reports to meet the scrutiny of agency officials and green building advocates.

From BIM model to big building: HOK

6. Owners might demand it.
I've been hearing this since the advent of BIM technology over a decade ago, but it has never happened. Yet.
Experts such as Patrick MacLeamy, CEO of HOK and chairman of buildingSMART International, point out that top building owners and developers are starting to ask for BIM models as part of their project deals, another factor that is forcing broader adoption.
"Over the next 10 years, building owners will demand ever-increasing usage of BIM as a precondition, ushering in a new era of accuracy, quality and sophistication for the building industry," MacLeamy predicted.
BIM vendors like Vertesi and Bernstein agree. "Mid-term, expect growing engagement by building owners to use models as data assets for facilities management," Bernstein said. "This creates opportunity for designers and builders to provide those datasets as part of the delivery of buildings, and owners an opportunity to use more than old prints of drawings and guesswork to run their valuable assets."

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Building Information Modeling (BIM) Benefits

Building Information Modeling (BIM) Benefits

BIM creates efficiency and users will get several benefits. You will realize some of the greatest value of BIM through its potential to cut down on rework, such as re-keying information into models or making changes in the field. As users become more proficient, the opportunities to improve productivity are more pronounced. The top benefits of BIM are:
BIM Reduces Rework.
The highest rated business benefit among experts. Four in five experts say it brings high to very high value, compared to 23% of beginners.
2. BIM Improves Productivity.
Ranked by architects as the top way to improve their return on investment in the technology.
3. BIM Reduces Conflicts and Changes During Construction.
Are among the top rated ways engineers say BIM adds value to their project.
4. Clash Detection and Avoiding Rework.
Owners claim that BIM usage saves time and money.

BIM Business Benefits

Within their own practices, BIM users see numerous opportunities to recognize its value. Since BIM is an emerging process that has started to capture the attention of the building community at large, users are eager to bank its buzz. Marketing and the ability to promote new BIM-related services are among the top benefits reported. The sense that BIM creates an overall better product is also very beneficial.
Productivity issues, such as reducing rework and errors, ranked higher than benefits related directly to time savings and cost reduction. This reflects the fact that users of all levels could see BIM as helping them work better, but cost savings are more likely to be realized by experienced users. The top rated business benefits are:
1) BIM Marketing
New business to new clients. BIM open doors for companies in the construction environment. As more clients begin to require BIM on jobs, team members need to have BIM skills to capture that business. On the flip side, companies can also introduce the technology to new clients who aren’t requiring BIM and use it as a marketing feature to get a leg up in their bid to land a job. All team members—other than owners who are also clients—rate this as a top benefit. This is particularly true for less experienced users who are promoting this new skill. Experts believe it is important but less than some other top benefits.
2) Project Outcome
Half of owners (48%) say that BIM’s impact on the overall project outcome is a high benefit for them. Owners who are less experienced with BIM see this as their top benefit, while expert owners rank it slightly lower. The internal value of this to the other build-team members is experienced as reduced problems, improved client relationships, and more personal satisfaction.
3) Reduced Errors
Reduced errors and omissions in construction documents. Virtual design and construction with BIM create the potential to identify problems earlier in the building process. Half of all users (47%) see this as a significant benefit, particularly contractors. More experienced users recognize its value compared to others.
4) BIM New Services
BIM is a way to bring new offerings to an old business. Many users (47%) say adding BIM to their toolbox brings a high level of benefit to their practices. Naturally, this is more important to more recent adopters of the technology. Contractors, who as a group had adopted BIM later than many in the design community, are far more likely to see this as significantly beneficial.
5) Reducing Rework
Fixing problems early means fewer issues in the plans and ultimately fewer hassles in the field. A majority of contractors (57%) see the potential of BIM to reduce rework as a huge benefit. This is the highest-ranked benefit reported by expert users (77%), compared to fewer beginners that see it in other ways. (23%).

BIM Benefits Per Profession

All of the professionals who form part of the design and construction process will get benefits from BIM, but who gets more value?
The evolution of BIM started with architects, and many still see its value emerging from its use in the design phases. Most in the design community, along with many contractors (43%) and owners (41%), say that architects experience a high level of value.
Structural Engineers
Nearly half of all users recognized, that structural engineers can garner a high level of value from BIM. Such elements as steel columns, beams and trusses are frequently modeled by users. Contractors are the most likely (47%) to see structural engineers realizing significant benefits.
Construction Managers and General Contractors
Money is largely spent and saved during construction. Reducing rework can help keep budgets in line. Owners are the most likely (57%) to see a CM or GC gaining high value on a project, most likely because that savings could be passed on.
As BIM reduces conflicts and creates confidence in building plans, many team members see opportunities for value in fabrication. Accurate fabrication of materials reduces waste while the pre-assembly can save time. Contractors (56%) are far more likely to see fabricators experiencing a higher value than architects (23%), engineers (38%) or owners (30%).
MEP Engineers
There is a range of opportunities for MEP engineers to use BIM. Modeling larger elements such as duct systems and air handlers are approachable options, while smaller elements such as electrical switches and outlets might prove more challenging. Notably, very few engineers (22%)collectively see MEP engineers reaping high value. Nearly half of contractors (45%) believe MEP engineers see significant value.
Owners ultimately experience all value collectively gained on a project. More than half (52%) of owners say they experience high value, but less than 30% of all other users believed this. This could be because other team members recognize that owners have yet to see much value from BIM for use in operations and maintenance. Still, most owners believe they can bank on the value of BIM during design and construction.
Specialty Contractors
Although specialty contractors are charged with executing the complexities of a project, few team members (23%) believe they are experiencing a high value from BIM. Generally, subcontractors are smaller firms relative to general contractors and the costs of adopting BIM would be more pronounced. As BIM users employ a wide range of software applications, subcontractors may face interoperability issues and suffer added expenses to work within various models.
Building Product Manufacturers
Very few (11%) of build team members see building product manufacturers gaining high value from BIM. This could reflect team members’ belief that BPM's are not supplying sufficient BIM-related information yet.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Modeling Safety: BIM and Construction Research May Help Prevent Injuries and Save Lives

Modeling Safety: BIM and Construction Research May Help Prevent Injuries and Save Lives


New York City is famous for many things.
Take, for example, its shopping, which infuses Fifth Avenue with treasure hunters foraging for jewelry, apparel, fragrances, and footwear. There’s its entertainment, which captivates throngs of people anxious to smile their way through a Broadway show or shout their way through a Yankees game. There are its attractions, which draw tourists to the Statue of Liberty and Central Park like bees to an open soda can. And, of course, there’s its food, which feeds millions of bellies every day with thin-crust pizza, yeasty bagels, and pushcart hot dogs.
But it’s not just about shopping, entertainment, or food. New York City is also famous for its iconic buildings. Looking skyward at the Empire State Building, the New York Life Building, the Chrysler Building, or any of their towering siblings, it seems as though they’ve been there forever—like mountains, only steel instead of stone. It’s easy to take for granted that they haven’t. In fact, most are less than a century old.
construction_research_building_safetyInstead of Mother Nature, these buildings owe their existence to men with calloused hands and sore backs. Men like those in the famous black-and-white photograph Lunch Atop a Skyscraper, which captures 11 workers enjoying lunch on a girder 840 feet above the street during construction of the RCA Building in 1932. In New York and across the country, these men and the buildings they built are symbols of American exceptionalism.
But they’re also symbols of American recklessness: Because workers of that era had neither hard hats nor harnesses, during the skyscraper boom of the early 20th century, it was said that crew foremen could expect one man to die for every $1 million spent on a skyscraper. Five men died during construction of the Empire State Building, for instance, and a whopping 27 died during construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, the “skyscraper” of bridges.
However, in 2012, New York City became the first U.S. municipality to approve a “3D Site Safety Plans Program,” which uses building information modeling (BIM) software to allow the construction industry to create and electronically file site safety plans. As a result of the program, the New York City Department of Buildings can virtually tour sites, see step‐by‐step how a building will be built, visualize buildings’ complexities and challenges, and check for basic code compliance prior to manual review.
Although it’s too early for results, the program is expected to help New York reduce injuries and fatalities in construction, which remains not only one of the largest and most important industries in the U.S., but also one of the most dangerous, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In 2013, it counted 828 construction fatalities—more than any other industry in the U.S. More than half (57.7 percent) of those were caused by what the industry calls the “Fatal Four”: falling (36.5 percent), being struck by an object (10.1 percent), being electrocuted (8.6 percent), and getting caught in or between objects (2.5 percent).
construction_research_framing_safety“The United States is number one in terms of safety regulations, and workers here are very well protected compared to many other countries,” says Dr. Yong Cho, an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “However, there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’ construction safety, so even with safety regulations, three people die every working day in the United States, and 60 to 90 people get injured.”
Work-related injuries and deaths can be just as harmful to companies as they are to workers. “Safety is very important,” Cho continues. “Not only can it cost lives, but it also can cost money, delay construction, and cost the contractor their brand name and reputation.”
Like the New York City Department of Buildings, Cho and two of his PhD students, Kyungki Kim and JeeWoong Park, believe BIM is a solution that can fill what they deem to be a critical safety gap on construction sites across the country and around the world, saving both lives and bottom lines.
construction_research_scaffolding_safety“BIM is used in projects from the very beginning to do construction planning,” explains Cho, who notes that project teams use BIM software like Autodesk Building Design Suite to generate and manage digital representations of their construction plans for the purpose of optimizing and coordinating building specs, schedules, resources, processes, and performance. “Unfortunately, people view safety as separate from construction planning—project managers and safety experts don’t work together—so safety is not included. If it were, safety issues could be identified automatically and addressed in preconstruction planning.”
To test their construction research and hypothesis—that integrating construction hazards into BIM software can improve construction safety—Cho and his students have commenced two research projects designed to demonstrate BIM’s safety benefits.
The first, executed by Cho with Kim, explores the development of a BIM-safety integration framework, utilizing rule-based safety-checking algorithms to automatically identify safety hazards in construction plans and communicate them to members of the project team. The rules would be developed based on interviews with construction and safety experts and would take into account factors such as the number and size of work crews, the spatial movements of workers within jobsites, and the existence of temporary structures like scaffolding, which currently are absent from most construction plans.
Example of new construction research to identify potential hazards. Courtesy Dr. Yong Cho and Kyungki Kim.
Integrated into BIM software, Cho and Kim argue, this information would allow project managers and safety engineers to test the impact of different spatial workflows and scaffolding types on safety, and to make preconstruction decisions that minimize hazards and maximize protection.
Cho’s second research project, conducted with Park, explores the benefits of an iBeacon-based safety tracking system. Cho and Park propose that construction superintendents outfit their construction sites with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)–based iBeacons and motion sensors, which will enable them to use workers’ mobile devices to determine and track their location on a jobsite. By leveraging that location information (as well as safety data) within a mobile BIM environment, workers could receive real-time alerts on their mobile devices when they’re near a potential safety hazard—reducing accidents by increasing awareness.
Example of iBeacon-based technology research. Courtesy Dr. Yong Cho and JeeWoong Park.
Although they’re still in their nascent stages, both research projects could ultimately deliver life- and cost-saving benefits to the construction industry so that buildings of the future can be just as majestic as those of the past—but much less tragic.
“As researchers, our goal is to validate technology and demonstrate its potential benefits,” Cho says. “We believe that integrating construction safety into BIM can reduce construction injuries and fatalities . . . so we’re working with software developers like Autodesk to create products that will do that in the future.”


Will Russia Become the North Star of BIM Technology?

Kim O'Connell

As seen this past summer in Rio, the Olympics puts a bright global spotlight on both the world’s greatest athletes and the host city’s newly built sports complexes and infrastructure.
The same thing happened when the Winter Olympics came to Sochi, Russia, in 2014. The country pulled out all the stops in the development of the 40,000-seat Fisht Olympic Stadium, which is now being converted from a closed stadium to an open-air arena for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
bim in russia spartak stadium
One of the FIFA World Cup 2018 venues, Spartak Stadium, in Moscow, Russia. Courtesy AECOM.
Designed by Populous and BuroHappold Engineering, Fisht operates with help from BIM technology services provided by SODIS Lab, one of several Russian firms embracing this increasingly in-demand technology.
Today, Russia’s Ministry of Construction is seeking to position the country as a leader in BIM design and export its services around the world. Companies worldwide are using BIM as an effective means to communicate a range of building data—such as dimensions, features, functionality, and cost—among project collaborators near and far.
With BIM technology, “employees don’t need to be at the construction site or where documentation preparation is carried out,” says Andrey Belyuchenko, director of the department of urban planning and architecture activities for the Ministry of Construction in Moscow. “This is an undeniable advantage of the technology and, consequently, the ability to export BIM services. The number and volume of international projects in which Russian companies are involved is growing dynamically.”
bim technology Fisht Olympic Stadium Sochi
BIM model of the original closed-roof Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia. Courtesy SODIS Lab.
While several Russian firms are working with BIM on high-profile projects—including the 100-floor Akhmat Tower in Grozny, Russia and the mixed-use Lakhta Center in Saint Petersburg—there are still issues standing in the way of the country achieving its global vision. Chief among these are cost, education, regulatory barriers, and the lack of an internationally recognized BIM standard.
“Many companies are afraid of the costs related to implementation of the technology: the purchase of software and more powerful equipment, and staff training,” Belyuchenko says. “Implementation of BIM requires significant restructuring of many business processes . . . [including] new roles and positions, such as BIM managers and BIM coordinators. And here in Russia, companies face a lack of staff with knowledge and experience in using BIM.”
While implementing BIM within firms is certainly a big hurdle to clear, convincing clients to make the leap can be even more challenging. “The main difficulty lies in the need of changing minds of market participants,” Belyuchenko says. “A number of companies prefer to use conservative methods in their work, even if they are ineffective. But the state needs new technologies and efficient construction, so it sets the new rules.”
bim technology akhmat tower
Akhmat Tower under construction in Grozny, Russia. Due to be completed in 2020. Courtesy Gorproject.
To that end, the Ministry of Construction plans to establish a phased system, making BIM mandatory for all building projects as soon as next year. “We plan to establish a quota,” Belyuchenko says. “Let’s say 20 percent of federal contracts must be carried out using BIM next year. Later, the order will extend to local contracts. And if in 2018 a structure is designed using BIM, then in 2019, the construction of the structure will also be deployed with BIM. In five years, about 50 percent of public procurement at all levels of the Russian budget system can be switched to BIM.”
To support this, Russia will need to adopt an internationally recognized BIM standard, which will establish a common language for how information is conveyed. The Ministry has established an expert board and working group of BIM consultants who are looking at standards created by other countries, such as the UK, to develop one that would be an attractive model for Russia. Autodesk provided a BIM standard template for Russia that included general terminology, rules of quality assurance, and guidance on modeling milestones for a given project.
“The UK today is a leader in BIM,” Belyuchenko says. “It has become not only a pioneer but also achieved great performance. So their experiences—as well as those in European and Asian countries—should be studied and used. That’s why we are using the UK’s BIM standard as a model.”
bim technology Laktha Center
Lakhta Center in Saint Petersburg, Russia, to be completed in 2018. Courtesy Gorproect.
As Russia’s BIM standard solidifies, smaller local contractors and subcontractors will need to catch up in developing BIM capability and absorbing the costs. Fortunately, in addition to the phased BIM mandate, which allows time for firms to acquire software and training, the Ministry is working to increase educational opportunities.
One such resource will feature best practices, training courses, and other useful information gleaned from the global marketplace. And a number of universities, including the Moscow State University of Civil Engineering, have already begun offering BIM courses.
Politically and economically, Russia has faced negative opinions on the world stage. But the widespread adoption of a BIM standard and top-down support for its use in global building projects could present the nation in a different light to potential clients, while boosting the Russian economy.
“Strengthening our position at the international arena—and the expansion of BIM-services export—will allow us bring it to a new level,” Belyuchenko says. “This, in turn, will affect the perception of people. In the eyes of the international community, we will be a country that uses advanced technology for both internal growth and external collaboration.”
It’s an Olympic-level aspiration, to be sure. Stay tuned, as Russia’s BIM star is likely to get brighter.