BIM Collaboration Process
It’s hard to overstate the significance of BIM as the next step for many industries these days (construction-related businesses, of course). The original concept was based on the three parts of the name – Building, Information, Modeling – and was impressive enough on its own for the construction industry that is generally slow to evolve. However, the broader definition of BIM aims to radically transform and improve the overall business performance for every participant of the process.
The truth is, BIM is not done evolving, making it even more interesting from a long-term adoption perspective. Nowadays BIM can refer to both a specific technology aspect (that is limited in its purpose), and an overarching idea that affects the construction project lifecycle, as well as the other phases of the process in general, including governance, standards, people, and so on.
One thing that is permanent for all definitions of BIM is the model-centric nature of it – since a lot of the benefits that BIM provides are derived from the unique, model-centric approach.
At this point, it should be obvious that BIM is much more than just another piece of software (even though choosing the correct BIM solution for your specific use case is incredibly important). It affects other areas, such as:
- Data Management and Collaboration. Collaboration is one of the biggest benefits of BIM as a process and platform in general since a good BIM solution allows one to share relevant and accurate information with different groups of people, such as designers, managers, stakeholders, etc. The existence of a somewhat unified data standard makes it even easier to transfer data to different stages of project development and guarantee accurate, up-to-date data – from conceptualization to the regular maintenance and post-construction.
- Governance: The existence of a collaborative platform implies easier access to various governance-related instruments for the management department (in other words – organizational frameworks), which transform into more effective deployment, compliance, performance and upkeep.
- Workflows with model-centric structure: The change in workflow-specific operations is quite significant since modeling workflows and deliverable standards make it easier to share specific data about models, and their usage for other lifecycle phases.
- Analysis of the asset models and general structures: Analysis capabilities are also an integral part of many project stages since it can automatically point out clash detection errors, among other things. The analysis also applies to the BIM “dimensions”, from the classic 2D and 3D to more BIM-specific 4D (3D + time), 5D (4D + cost), and some others that are not yet as popular (6D, 7D, etc.)
Benefits and shortcomings of BIM
Since BIM is still a relatively new solution and concept in many regions, in its current game-changing form, there’s still a lot of people that don’t use all of the advantages that BIM is capable of providing. Let’s look over some of the pros and cons that come from BIM when looking at it as a complex collaboration system:
- Better collaboration: Since BIM is a collaboration platform, it’s only fair to expect the improvement in all of the collaboration-related processes. The accuracy of time and cost predictions increases significantly with BIM, and there are also other related collaboration benefits like the ability to have a timescale that everyone can see when working on a project, and so on.
- The ability to simulate real-life scenarios: The technological progress that BIM provides allows companies to run predictions based on simulations that are as close to real-life as it gets. This development makes the decision-making process that much shorter, showing you the consequences of each change in real-time.
- A significant decrease in the number of reworks: The collaboration aspect of BIM is also crucial for the reduction of the number of reworks due to all of the participants of the process, including the client, having access to an actual real-model of the project, with the ability to suggest changes before the construction process begins. This is a great way to find out various clash problems on the design stage, and before the actual construction.
It’s true that BIM offers a plethora of different benefits to users, but there are still a few factors that prevent it from growing to its full potential:
- No concrete unification rules: One of the biggest factors of BIM – communication and collaboration – is that it suffers greatly from the lack of a unified classification system that would ease the interaction with different file standards. Different standards have different information about specific objects that may or may not impact the effectiveness of the process in general. This is why the development of a single unified standard would make BIM even more effective than it is now.
- The lack of knowledge about BIM in the industry: Even though BIM has existed in one way or another since the 70s, its rise in popularity happened recently, and a lot of the industry players are still wary about it, despite the apparent advantages that should eventually cover all of the implementation costs. It’s true that both time and costs of training your entire staff to work with BIM can be a significant investment, which is a common problem for the majority of newer technologies in general. Luckily enough, many companies reap nearly instant benefits when BIM is properly implemented in their environment and culture.
BIM collaboration process
BIM collaboration process can be described as an identification process of different construction phases for a single project. Another part of this definition is the understanding of the process of data and information sharing between different construction phases. In this context it’s also possible to draw a line between the definitions of “data” and “information”:
- The former is the actual data that is generated by the software throughout different phases of the project;
- The latter represents the process of informing different users about specific events in the context of different phases of the project.
It would be fair to define the BIM collaboration process as quite complex, with different parts of it that have to interact with one another for everything to operate properly (permissions, data creating, information sharing, data replication, software tools, etc.). To bring some order to that complex process it’s possible to define several specific components that heavily affect the income of the BIM collaboration process:
- Data interoperability. This primarily deals with figuring out ways of bringing different data formats into one combined project; it might also work with data migration if there’s a need for it.
- Data creation and sharing. Data management solution development, data sharing workflows and other processes that deal with defining and organizing various data types.
- Communication and interaction. This refers to dealing with the communication process, delivering relevant information to the users, like project status, design data artefacts, and so on. It works with email notifications, social media tools, dashboards, etc.
- Information sharing. Defines different stages when information is shared with the same design discipline or with other disciplines, as well as status information, version information, and more.
BIM collaboration assessment
Figuring out if you have any collaboration issues is not as complicated as it might seem. There’s a list of general problems that occur when you have complex teams, multiple model types, or other issues with BIM collaboration in general, including troubles with:
- Structures within workflows
- Project teams and quick access
- Releasing the information in time, and so on.
Your collaboration solution might be considered perfect if you have none of these problems, and you may not have to invest in improving your BIM collaboration efforts. On the other hand, having these problems means that you need a proper BIM collaboration solution, or you might want to look at investing in upgrading your current one.