The BIM to Field Alliance was founded in order to provide architects, engineers, contractors, sub-contractors, and building owners a comprehensive, trustworthy, and collaborative single-source for information regarding the notion of extending BIM data to the field.

BIM for the Construction Business Owner

Posted by hellomarc in Misc    03/10/2011

Funny thing about some words…

An article about BIM…

Written for the Construction Business Owners

By Marc Goldman

The word “building” is a funny word. By reading this article, I can practically guarantee your initial understanding of it will be the physical assembly of parts that you work on 200+ days a year.   Your definition is the noun form of the word. As it happens, the word “building” is also a verb, which is a term meaning the act of assembling. Two related but different definitions that we use on a daily basis in our work and we don’t stumble over which definition we are referring. Another word (or at least an acronym) that has both a noun and verb definition is BIM – yes, it has the word “building” inside. But unlike the word “building”, the term/acronym  BIM is a dynamic term.

Like the word “building”, the term “BIM” has multiple meanings; and both “building” and “BIM” initially imply the noun. Sure, BIM has been a passion for a considerable number of us involved in the building industry for several years; but we continue to educate many on the process of BIM vs. the BIM file. Perhaps it is the software vendors who win the product battle when the industry adopts their file type as a standard. Or, maybe it’s the fault of the early adopters whose initial forays into BIM were presented as 3D renderings of 3D BIM Files. This made for some great marketing and probably led to some better design. But it also failed to tell the story of BIM as a verb. It is my opinion that we have over-emphasized the noun definition of BIM – we dwell on the creation of a BIM model, file, rendering or other output, without focusing on the process, or journey of the BIM workflow.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all geeked-out on the idea of a set of digital files that allow us to view a highly detailed and complex building from any visual or data-oriented perspective. A single (perhaps distributed) model which can be used for visualization, documentation, analysis, simulation, construction management and operations is the final goal which industry and academia have been pointing us to for decades. 

However, the models have been built and they continue to be built at a growing pace, and we have our clients, the Owners asking themselves, and us: “What do we do with the BIM model now that we have it?” They are asking what verb we apply to the noun. 

The approach is backwards. It should begin by looking for problems to solve as opposed to justifying the creation of using a BIM model. Instead, we should be start by identifying problems and improving current process by employing BIM-centric workflows.   Of course, our efforts should result in enriching (or at least not deterring any other uses) of the BIM dataset.  We should still work toward creating a BIM model that is useful to the owner at project handover. But we must work towards BIM deliverables with the goal of improving our processes. Without understanding the many benefits of implementing BIM workflows (the verb), the adoption of BIM will be unnecessarily delayed and you, your team, company, project and client will fail to realize the personal and professional benefits.

The benefits of BIM workflows for You, the reader. 

You are an owner, or an executive of a construction company in the midst of the worst economic hardship this industry has seen in generations. You are leading your company at a time when competition is fierce – 5 to 10 times the number of bidders for projects compared to just a couple years ago. Margins are squeezed by the need to compete on price. Expectations are greater for a higher level of service, and you see the quality of marketing increasing during bids. And in some markets, you’ve seen projects where BIM and Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) is required.

For those of you who have adopted BIM & VDC, congratulations! You can skip ahead to the next section. You are likely already seeing some return on your investment as you are improving both speed & accuracy of pre-construction workflows. Perhaps your BIM-enabled business lends itself to automation, and you’ve connected BIM data to fabrication. If so, you are likely producing higher quality deliverables due to the comfort, safety and predictability of a factory approach to component pre-assembly.

Or, you have taken BIM to the field and you’ve automated worklists, punchlists, materials management and more with a connection to the BIM model.  With your BIM / VDC experience, you are able to promote your services more aggressively, by bidding on projects that once seemed out of reach. BIM allows you to manage some of your ongoing processes and deliver new and improved work products as well.  You and your client have more visibility into the project, resulting in a well-informed and hopefully long-term client. You are weathering the economic crisis, and perhaps even growing.

Perhaps these BIM benefits sound attractive, but do not yet describe your business. If you fall into the category of “not yet adopted BIM”, it’s not too late. Despite the message you might have heard, BIM has not passed you by, yet. There is still an opportunity to figure out what BIM benefits you can realize for your business. There are a wide range of sources and resources to help you determine how to implement BIM workflows that benefit you, the reader – the owner.

The benefits of BIM workflows for your Team And Company.

As business owners and leaders, your passion and motivation is attributed to more than just the paycheck. You likely have a long tenure and deep interest in the company’s lasting success.  You want to work with people who have the passion you have; this requires creating an environment where your team members feel as though they are on a winning team.  

BIM by it’s very nature is a team effort, and winning companies are adopting BIM processes. Today’s successful construction companies are BIM-ready, and BIM-centric companies. These companies and teams have been forced to evolve, or sometimes create new methods and workflow as BIM best practices are a moving target. Recognizing there is still a lack of standards in many areas of BIM, some teams have developed best practices and work processes that address interoperability and collaboration. 

These teams have impressive metrics and statistics, which they present at industry events and publish in industry publications. Some of these teams are those you’ve seen in ENR lists; others are companies who you hadn’t heard of until this year. Now, you see these companies contributing to news-worthy construction projects and mentioned in case studies and articles about BIM. Regardless of your familiarity with the company, these are the organizations that have positioned themselves for the future, and they are the teams your players want to work with, work for, and spin-off and emulate. 

If your goal includes keeping your company viable and profitable in the long term, consider the impact BIM and VDC might have on your team and your company.

The benefits of BIM workflows for the Project and the Client

As I write this article, we are nearly 2 years into a recession (yeah, I know they say it ended) where 20% – 40% unemployment are the numbers discussed for segments of the design and construction industry. This situation can’t go on forever – industry analysts predict that commercial construction will begin to stabilize somewhere in the third to fourth quarter 2011 and then begin a slow assent in what the economist are labeling “the new normal”. Given this, those organizations who design, build and deliver most efficiently in end the will reap the rewards of an ever smaller, but growing market. 

Many of the owners who have continued to build during the past 2 years are requiring BIM data and processes to be utilized as part of their contracts. They don’t all have a clear understanding of what BIM means, and they might not have an immediate use for the data modeled and delivered. But they understand, at an ever growing pace, receiving a “digital double” will help them in a wide range owner-specific business processes. For some, the vision of the model applies to facilities management, others asset tracking, others lease management or property and tax purposes. Your ability to work and contribute to the BIM workflows and models creation helps you serve your clients’ various uses of BIM.

Some of the most innovative uses of BIM for Owners comes from the Retail industry. Crate&Barrel and Target, two distinctly different retailers, recently presented their perspective and their uses of BIM data. Originating at building design, BIM is used by Brand Management to ensure the design meets corporate standards: Target’s brand is more recognizable; Crate&Barrel’s brand is less obvious but arguably delivers a stronger architectural statement.  Throughout design and into construction, BIM models are created, aggregated and analyzed, improving both owners’ ability to manage the project and ensure the doors are ready to open ahead of schedule and under budget. As stores are re-configured, merchandising models are created demonstrating optimal signage, product positioning and store traffic flow.

Are these two companies the “standard of practice”, or are have they risen above the average and are they setting the standard for the future?    

Regardless of the answer, they are using BIM to serve their business needs. Their needs are generally unrelated to often discussed BIM purposes such as clash-detection, construction sequencing or quantity take-offs. These clients, and many others, use BIM to manage, differentiate and grow their companies. BIM is a strategic element of these clients success. As the owner of a construction business, you must position yourself to serve these clients in creative & profitable ways. Adopting BIM, and promoting your BIM expertise will allow you to move beyond business as usual, and win projects where the client expectations exceed your competitors’ ability to deliver.

Your company serves your clients by improving the processes, shortening the cycles, uncovering issues earlier, removing the risk of delays and overruns. BIM delivers these benefits and you deliver the benefits to your clients.

The benefits of BIM workflows for the Industry

The number of “scholarly articles” on the declining rate of productivity of the United States Construction Industry surprised me. : 493,000 with 15,000 published in 2010, 400 specific to “Building Information Modeling”. Enough has been written, with plenty of suggestions for improvement.   One might wonder how something so well understood remains so unproductive.

We know we work in an industry of great fragmentation where similar information is exchanges, processed, massaged and output. Drawings are re-drawn, lists are re-entered, quantities are re-counted and materials are ripped out and replaced unnecessarily. The examples of unproductive workflows are all contributors to a declining productivity. What’s needed is an acceptance of new workflows that contribute to the individual, the team, the company and the client’s typical and specific business goals. What’s needed is BIM. 

BIM is certainly not the panacea to all that ills the construction industry; but many of the BIM workflows do address many elements of the unproductive environment.

But BIM can be more to the Industry than workflows, differentiators and career-advancing techniques. BIM can be part of the “brand” which the construction industry conveys. Modeling, 3D-4D-5D, Virtual Design & Construction, Laser scanning, Animating, pre-fabricating and more. These are the things that attract the next generation of workers. We are in an industry that we love, many representing the third or fourth generation in their family business. It is important that the Construction Industry attract the best and the brightest of all generations; and it is imperative we are attractive to a younger workforce than the rapidly increasing average age.

We are at an exciting time in the building industry. Some are taking a wait and see approach. And some of us are doing more than waiting. We are instead experimenting and pushing our teams, our industry and ourselves. 

I welcome you to join me, and many others for an exciting ride (the verb, not the noun).


Mr. Marc Goldman has a twenty-year track record of forming, building, launching and managing profitable technology-based product and service businesses in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry. Most recently, Marc successfully led the global BIM business development efforts for Pinnacle InfoTech, Inc. & Satellier Inc. His prior work history includes eight years in senior product development and management positions with Autodesk, a leading provider of BIM development tools. He is responsible for guiding The Blue Book Building and Construction Network in its continued development of web-based information products and applications for the AEC Community.

About The Blue Book Building and Construction Network…

The Blue Book Network has been connecting the commercial construction industry since 1913. Building from a database of over 1,000,000 classified company listings in 560 classifications – The Blue Book Network today provides digital information and communication solutions designed to enhance the daily workflow of the entire construction industry.

Post a Comment

More BIMtoField Posts   View All

  •  Denver’s Innovative Asian Tropics Exhibit

    Denver’s Innovative Asian Tropics Exhibit

    The $50 million 10-acre Asian Tropics conservation center exhibit at the Denver Zoo in Denver, CO, will be one of the most advanced, sustainable zoo habitats in the world, featuring...


  • BIM for the Construction Business Owner

    BIM for the Construction Business Owner

    Funny thing about some words… An article about BIM… Written for the Construction Business Owners By Marc Goldman The word “building” is...


  • Resources for the BIM World

    Resources for the BIM World

    Building Information Modeling (BIM) has become a very hot topic in the construction industry over the last five years. It would appear that the flames became exponentially hotter year after...




      After many years of development, Building Information Modelling (BIM) is starting to achieve significant penetration into the building sector of the construction industry.Laing O’Rourke’s engineering team have around 40...


  • 3D Modeling: What it really means

    3D Modeling: What it really means

      Managing risk has now become easierMost people have heard of 3D Modelling and Building Information Modelling (BIM) but far fewer understand that these tools transform the development process and...


  • BIM:  A Look Ahead To

    BIM: A Look Ahead To

    I’ve spent $50,000 on a BIM model for design and preconstruction—now what?It’s a question that comes up with increasing frequency as progressive contractors invest in modeling projects of all sizes...