BIM Evolution

In the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.
– Charles Darwin

BIM, the life-cycle management of the built environment supported by digital technology, requires a fundamental change in how the construction (Architects, Contractors, Engineers) and facility management (Owners, Service Providers, Building Product Manufactures, Oversight Groups, Building Users) sectors operate on a day-to-day basis.  

BIM, combined and  Cloud Computing are game changers.  They are disruptive technologies with integral business processes/practices that demand collaboration, transparency, and accurate/current information displayed via common terminology.

The traditional ad-hoc and adversarial business practices commonly associated with Construction and Facility Management are changing as we speak.    Design-bid-build and even Design-Build will rapidly go by the wayside in favor of the far more efficient processes of Integrated Project Delivery – IPD, and Job Order Contracting – JOC, and similar collaborative programs.  (JOC is a form of integrated project delivery specifically targeting facility renovation, repair, sustainability, and minor new construction).

There is no escaping the change.   Standardized data architectures (Ominclass, COBie, Uniformat, Masterformat) and cost databases (i.e. RSMeans), accesses an localized via cloud computing are even now beginning to be available.   While historically, the construction and facility management sectors have lagged their counterparts (automotive, aerospace, medical, …)  relative to technology and LEAN business practices, environmental and economic market drivers and government mandates are closing the gap.

The construction and life-cycle management of the built environment requires the integration off several knowledge domains, business “best-practices”, and technologies as portrayed below.   The efficient use of this BIG DATA is enabled by the BIM, Cloud Computing, and Integrated Project Delivery methods.


The greatest challenges to these positive changes are  the CULTURE of the Construction and the Facility Management Sectors.  Also, an embedded first-cost vs. life-cycle or total cost of ownership perspective.  An the unfortunate marketing spotlight upon the technology of 3D visualization vs. BIM.   Emphasis MUST be place upon the methods of how we work on a daily basis…locally and globally  − strategic planning, capitial reinvestment planning, designing collaborating, procuring, constructing, managing and operating.  All of these business processes have different impacts upon the “facility” infrastructure and  construction supply chain, building Owners, Stakeholders, etc., yet communication terms, definitions, must be transparent and consistently applied in order to gain  greater efficiencies.

Some facility life-cycle management are already in place for the federal government facility portfolio and its only a matter of time before these are expanded and extended into all other sectors.

BIM, not 3D visualization, but true BIM or Big BIM,  and Cloud Computing will connect information from every discipline together.  It will not necessarily be a single combined model.  In fact the latter has significant drawbacks.    Each knowledge domain has independent areas of expertise and requisite process that would be diluted and marginalized if managed within one model.   That said, appropriate “roll-up” information will be available to a higher level model.   (The issue of capability and productivity marginalization can be proven by looking a ERP and IWMS systems.  Integration of best-in-class technology and business practices is always support to systems that attempt to do everything, yet do not single thing well.)

Fundamental Changes to Project Delivery for Repair, Renovation, Sustainability, and New Construction Projects MUST include:

  • Qualifications Based or Best Value Selection
  • Some form of pricing transparency and standardization
  • Early and ongoing information-sharing among project stakeholders
  • Appropriate distribution of risk
  • Some form of financial incentive to drive performance / performance-based relationships

BIM Confusion Abounds… Why?

The following is a direct quote from the “BIM Experts” forum on Link in.    Is there any wonder that BIM has yet to become truly mainstream?

BIM Confusion

In my cruising through discussions and posts it has become apparent that BIM means different things to different people.
I’ve come to the view that BIM has been hijacked.
Building Information Modelling is just that: modelling information about a building.
It is not data management for FM, not life-cycle management, nothing to do with new procurement methods & contracts.
Now it is true once you are using BIM you can do those things. But they are not BIM, they are only possible uses of a BIM.

I’m not sure when or how this hijack happened, but it needs to be nipped in the bud.

My brain misfired upon reading this.   Virtually (no pun intended) every definition of BIM from professional groups to NIBS, to buildingSMART, on an international basis includes the term “life-cycle management” and/or “physical and functional” management of the built environment.   BIM includes all aspects of the built environment from cradle-t0-grave, 0r cradle-to-cradle, whichever you prefer.   Let’s get on with defining more important aspects of BIM…. common data architectures like OMNICLASS, and cloud-based open systems….integration of efficient project delivery methods (IPD, JOC, …)  so that BIM can be realized?

BIM and Big Data
BIM and Big Data
BIM and Big Data
BIM and Big Data


BIM Implementation – The Business Value of BIM in North America Multi-Year Trend Analysis and User Ratings (2007–2012)

The Emperor is still Naked!

At the end of the day, “The Emperor with no clothes” best describes the this BIM “SmartMarketReport”.   Having run surveys for over 30 years, the first thing you learn is that you must ask the right questions.   This report is evidence of what can happen if you don’t.

“McGraw-Hill Construction predicted that BIM would reach a tipping point in North America in 2008, even though industry-wide adoption at the time was only 28%. Now, in 2012, 71% of architects, engineers, contractors and owners report they have become engaged with BIM on their projects, a 75% growth surge over five years.”

If you believe that 71% of AECOs are engaged with BIM on their projects, I have some swampland for sale.    First and foremost, what is BIM?  BIM is the life-cycle management of the built environment support by digital technology.  What percentage of the market is doing that?  Less than 5%.  And more likely less than 1%.

It may be just me, but I am tired of the “hype” and nonsense associated with BIM, especially the emphasis upon 3D visualization.   Life-cycle management of the built environment requires collaboration, common lexicon/terms/information/cost data, efficient project delivery methods and so much more than pretty pictures.  Cloud Computing, combined with true BIM, or as some call Big BIM, and other market drivers will eventually cause a cultural and business shift in our sector.   Until it occurs, how many of you wish to continue to walk around naked?

If you are interested in how true BIM, Cloud Computing and efficient project delivery:  IFMA WorldWorkplace2012 Presentation.

BIM – Job Order Contracting – Integrated Project Delivery

Integrated design increasingly is recognized as a potential method to assure all performance criteria are considered and optimized in the design and construction of buildings. As indicated above, the participating disciplines must trust the validity of the information provided by other collaborators. – NIBS

It couldn’t be stated any clearer, though certainly could be broadened in context.  The efficient life-cycle management of the built environment, otherwise know as BIM, relies upon an integrated, collaborative process based upon accurate information and mutual trust.

Oddly, Integrated Project Delivery and Job Order Contracting both offer proven collaborative process supported by digital technology, yet are decades old.   Job Order Contracting, an integrated project delivery method specifically targeting facility renovation, repair, sustainability, and minor new construction projects has been practiced widely and to the highest degree by the United States Air Force.  While some may argue that JOC was developed by the Army, it is the USAF that recognized its value and deployed JOC (know as SABER in the USAF) in a widespread and robust manner.   Today, software (e4Clicks Project Estimator) and  robust cost databases (RSMeans – enhanced by 4Clicks Solutions, LLC) support almost all USAF bases in the US (over 90%) each and every day.  Thousands of contractors, AEs, and Government personnel engage in long term, mutually beneficial business relationships to complete virtually all projects in a quality manner on-time and on-budget.

The AECOO (Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Operations, and Owner) industry could learn a lot from this example.   Perhaps then, BIM might have a chance of greater success… sooner than later.

See the technology in action.

Job Order Contacting = Integrated Project Delivery for Renovation, Repair, Sustainability, and Minor New Construction

BIM Strategy- Why Everything, or Nothing Ever, Changes!

BIM is the life-cycle modeling and management of the built environment supported by digital technology.  Forget the 3D visualization distraction for a moment and let’s focus on the important component of the BIM acronym; the “I” for information.


As we all know from a quote commonly attributed to Peter Drucker… and I paraphrase ‘You can’t manage what you don’t measure’.   Most, if not all failures to implement BIM and/or facility life-cycle management are likely traceable to the fundamental failure to gather the requisite accurate and transparent information required  in order to make informed decisions.  (Note: I use the terms “facility” or “facilities” to include any built structure.)
First, a few clarifications and items to help frame this discussion:

  1.  BIM definition: “BIM is the life-cycle modeling and management of the built environment supported by digital technology.”
  2. While BIM can be applied to any situation, the focus of this discussion is upon – multi-facility portfolios, with extensive capital reinvestment, renovation, repair, maintenance, and sustainability requirements/projects.
  3. We are all faced with a significantly altered economic and environmental landscape: more to do, limited capital/cost cuts, more accountability and transparency, and the need to reduce our “carbon footprint”.
  4. Success in today’s world requires moving from a reactionary and needs-satisfaction mode to longer term strategies with associated options.  This is  a major shift in thinking for many, but especially for our business or “for-profit sectors”.
  5. Robust, proven processes with associated accurate transparent, and actionable information in support of fact-based decision-marking  are drivers for success.
  6. Creation of a business-based capital reinvestment  and asset management framework and decision-making capability are central requirements.
  7. Accurate, timely information is required for sound decision-making.
  8. Decisions regarding reinvestment into the built should be made in concert with the attainment and support of an organization’s mission.
  9. Technology is a tool to enable lower cost implementation of strategies and processes.  Technology’s role is to assure consistent, cost-efficient application of embedded business process, enabling faster deployment, automation of routine or complex mathematical processes, and associated decision-making and reporting capabilities.


Okay, so know let’s look a bit more about  why BIM is not fully understood, nor being rapidly accepted across the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Owner, Operations/Facility Management sector(s).

  1. Many, if not most organizations lack robust, consistent, and transparent planning policies and overall life-cycle management processes.
  2. Existing processes and construction delivery methods are largely antagonistic  and outdated, with divergent goals for involved parties.
  3. Stove-piped mandates with many players, and unused or misunderstood information.
  4. Lack of clear direction and leadership focus, process management, and desired, quantitative outcomes.
  5. Lack of appropriate tools to assist the life-cycle management process, inclusive of appropriate data validation and standardization.
  6. The appropriate use of consultants, especially in the areas of “change management”.
  7. Lack of understanding and adopting of newer and more efficient construction delivery methods (Integrated Project Delivery – IPD, Job Order Contracting – JOC), contracts, and supporting technology tools.

All aspects of BIM/faclity life-cycle managment, it’s organization, purpose, policies, assumptions, mandates, methods and scope must be discussed, agreed upon, and re-evaluated on a continuous, cyclical basis.  It’s important that process ownership resides with everyone in the organization with appropriate expertise applied and shared from multiple knowledge-domains.   Furthermore, that direct involvement and support of decision-makers and appropriate involvement of consultants and/or outsourcing is available.

BIM/life-cycle facility management requires fundamental changes in business practices.  Unfortuantely, change management is a tremendous chasm to bridge, and achieving any significant success using internal resource only is unlikely.  Just a few of the areas associated with implementing a BIM strategy are shown below.

BIM Process Framework

Anticipated outcomes must be linked to ALL decisions in terms of anticipated financial, functional and/or conditional improvements.

Proprietary (e.g., Excel) and COTS tools for are used for various aspects of facility life-cycle management – strategic planning, capital planning and management/financial modeling, construction delivery, maintenance management, spaces planning/untilization, building automation/security, project management, etc.  Relatively limited effort, focus, associated or investment is typically applied in consideration of integrating and rationalizing these various systems in terms of the validation and standardization of information across multiple knowledge domains.    The piecemeal/ad-hoc approach is a symptom of process and cultural issues with an organization and/or lack of attention to change management.   For example, a common  “excuse” relative to this issue of integrating disparate technologies and processes is that the involved technology is” incompatible”.    In today’s world, virtually any technology using current technology can communicate with another.  The real issues reside in the people and process that create the information.  The inherent “fear of change” and traditional lack of collaboration among various professional discipline are the fundamental issues to be address.   A good example is the continued use of proprietary spreadsheets for cost estimating and other somewhat complex domains.  The use of spreadsheets is well beyond their technologies ability.  Spreadsheets are single user and non-collaborative, have no concept of hierarchy, nor full audit capability.  In short, spreadsheets are inefficient and costly to maintain at best, and are costly relative to information reuse or updating.  Spreadsheet use cost estimating and cost control for facility portfolios is unfortunately both pervasive and untenable.

Similarly CAD-centric visualization tools, such as Revit and AutoCad [from Autodesk], SketchUp (graphical design), Archicad, Bentley, etc. are excellent data visualization tools however, should not be confused as a turnkey BIM life-cycle management solutions.   Relational database centric systems offer enhances data management, however, do not afford the flexibility of spreadsheets.  Newer cloud-based technologies and associated offer higher degrees of collaboration, transparency, and flexibility.

Sample Technology Timeline


Any attempt at life-cycle facility management – BIM will have little or no value unless based upon a collaborative evaluation of current and planned operations, conditions, and priorities.   The objective of BIM is to cost-effectivey meet infrastructure requirements in support of an organizations mission, and to mitigate any preventative and unplanned disruptions to operations and/or compromises the financial position of the organization.  This includes an asset management decision support capability the bases capital reinvestment upon financial and functional returns.  All projects compete for organizational resources and objective criteria must be established to enable maximum utilization of these finite resources.  Informed, goal focused decision support capability is a definitive source of opportunity for efficiency/productivity gains.

Cost awareness across the organization is an important starting point. Everyone in an organization must realize that capital reinvestment decisions are inter-related and impact long term operational expenses.
While uncertainty will certainly be present to some extent, virtually any facility life-cycle project or task can be modeled for decision-makers, and modeled over several timelines… 5 yr, 10yr, 50yr. etc.  The mindset that performance and process improvement is ongoing vs. static must be adopted.  This accounts for associate organizational “growth” or “shrinkage”, trends, regulatory impacts, etc.  The overall goal is to maximize any ability to adapt, renew, renovate, recycle, reuse, and/or grow/shrink physical resources.


“Everyone impacted by decisions made” is the short answer, including but not limited to  Owners, Architects, Planners, Contractors, Sub-Contractors, Business Product Manufacturers, Technology Providers, Consultants, Building Users, Oversight Groups.   From an Owner perspective, involved parties would include; Senior Management/HQ, Local Management, Planners, Capital Planners, Finance, Procurement, Project Managers, Building Users,


So, assuming one proceeds down the BIM life-cycle facility path, what are the reasonable expectations?  First, it’s important to understand that a phased approach is likely the best approach.   Think of BIM as a large pie, one that you are going to put together a piece at a time.   That said, you need the to be aware of the list of ingredients and how and when to put the ingredients together.

Secondly, BIM / life-cycle facility management is verb, a process, not a one time thing… like a project.  It’s primary gold is to improve upon the efficiency of impacts of the built environment, helping decision-makers compare and better select among available capital reinvestment alternatives.  All decisions should consider space, equipments, physical and functional conditions, current construction cost estimates and operational cost estimates over defined periods of time.  An ROI, Return-on-Investment business analysis is mandatory for all projects, inclusive of due consideration of any associated potential risks to the organization’s mission.  So called , “lean practices” are an important objective, as are simple to use decision support and monitoring tools such as “dashboards” and associated key performance indicators (KPIs).
Ongoing facility portfolio reassessment based on a routine and consistently conducted functional and physcial facility assessments associated with appropriate standardized and well vetted reference cost databases, cost models, and other tools such as GIS and BAS.

Efficient facility construction, renovation, repair, and sustainability process management methods such as IPD [integrated project delivery] and JOC [Job Order Contracting], which involve all stakeholders collaboratively from project concept and design, through construction and warranty periods are core components of BIM/facility-life cycle management.

Collaborative, Efficient Project Delivery Methods

Thus in summary, anyone involved in BIM, particularly owners would do well to establish clear leadership and organizational ownership of the associated business processes at all levels in the organization ( local, regional, and HQ) as well as defined inter-relationships and expectations of all collaborative partners (Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Consultants, Technology Providers, etc.).  Organizations also must
clearly articulate all associated business processes and workflows, and mandate their use, as well as the fact that all decisions must be outcome-based.  Full training and support must be available as all levels, including access to all requisite tools, software, information, etc.

Why BIM is failing.

3D visualization is not BIM.  BIM is the process of efficient life-cycle management supported by digital technology.  Until appropriate process and technologies are deployed BIM will not become mainstream and the architecture, engineering, construction, and building operations/facility management sectors will continue their trend of low productivity and waste.

The fact that construction delivery methods, associated procurement and contractual methods, and the existing culture of the “construction industry” are the sources of many if not most of its problems has been well know for quite some time.    More specifically, it is the endemic lack of collaboration, communication, and long term relationships built upon performance and trust are the fundamental cracks in the foundation of the AECO (architecture, engineering, construction., operations) sector.  Over twenty years ago, innovative construction delivery methods such as JOB ORDER CONTRACTING (JOC), a form of INTEGRATED PROJECT DELIVERY (IPD) came into being and have been practiced successfully for decades.  However, both JOC and IPD have failed to become mainstream.  JOC only now beginning to accelerate in its use due to the availability of easy-to-use technology to enable rapid and consistent deployment.  BIM requires a more robust linkage (as is the case with JOC) between construction delivery and life-cycle management process and technology, to achieve a similar gain in momentum.

Various reports, white papers, have been written on the subject (see below), all of which describe the AECOO sector as  ‘ineffective’, ‘adversarial’, ‘fragmented’, ‘incapable of delivering for its customers’ and ‘lacking respect for its employees’.  All call upon collaboration and partnering by all built-environment stakeholders as a requirement for efficient management practices.

Transparency, openness, co-operation, trust, honesty, commitment and mutual understanding among team members where all common terms in these prior reports, and are fundamental to JOB ORDER CONTRACTING.  As specifically noted in the Latham Report,

“Partnering includes the concepts of teamwork between supplier and client, and of total continuous improvement. It requires openness between the parties, ready acceptance of new ideas, trust and perceived mutual benefit…. We are confident that partnering can bring significant benefits by improving quality and timeliness of completion whilst reducing costs.” (para 6.45, p. 62)[2]
“Partnering arrangements are also beneficial between firms…. Such arrangements should have the principal objective of improving performance and reducing costs for clients. They should not become ‘cosy’. The construction process exists to satisfy the client. Good relationships based on mutual trust benefit clients.” (para 6.46, p. 62)

Job Order Contracting is a form of IPD targeting renovation, repair, sustainability and minor new construction.  Details of this efficient project delivery method and supporting digital technologies can be found in the references below.  


  1. Ward, Don and Crane, Alan (2003) “The story so far” in Jones, David, Savage, David and Westgate Rona, Partnering and Collaborative Working (Informa Professional, London), pp. 1-26.
  2. Latham, M. (1994), Constructing the Team, London: HMSO.
  3. Bennett, J. and Jayes, S. (1995) Trusting the Team, Reading: Centre for Strategic Studies in Construction, The University of Reading, with the partnering task force of the Reading Construction Forum.
  4. Construction Strategy, Cabinet Office – (accessed 30 January 2012)
  5. JOC White Paper –
  6. A Primer for Job Order Contracting

Definition of BIM – Building Information Modeling – Defintions from Various Sources

‘Building Information Modelling (BIM) is digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility creating a shared knowledge resource for information about it forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle, from earliest conception to demolition.”

“BIM provides a common environment for all information defining a building, facility or asset, together with its common parts and activities.This includes building shape, design and construction time, costs, physical performance, logistics and more. More importantly, the information relates to the intended objects (components) and processes, rather than relating to the appearance and presentation of documents and drawings.More traditional 2D or 3D drawings may well be outputs of BIM, however, instead of generating in the conventional way ie. as individual drawings, could all be produced directly from the model as a “view” of the required information.” – RICS

Building information modeling (BIM) is a process involving the generation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. The resulting building information models become shared knowledge resources to support decision-making about a facility from earliest conceptual stages, through design and construction, through its operational life and eventual demolition.” – Wikipedia 12/25/2011

“The future of BIM modeling is to expand the information model to include more of the life cycle phases (ie: real property commerce, maintenance and operations, environmental simulation, etc.), to standardize life cycle process definitions and associated exchanges of information, and to standardize information content so that meanings and granularity are clear and consistent.” – NIBS, 6/25/2012

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the process of generating and managing building data during its life cycle[1]. Typically it uses three-dimensional, real-time, dynamic building modeling software to increase productivity in building design and construction.[2] The process produces the Building Information Model (also abbreviated BIM), which encompasses building geometry, spatial relationships, geographic information, and quantities and properties of building components.” – Free Dictionary, 6/25/2011

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the process of generating and managing data about the building, during its life cycle. Typically BIM uses three-dimensional, real-time, dynamic building modelling software to increase productivity in the design and construction stages. ” – NBS, 6/25/2012

“A Building Information Model (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. As such it serves as ashared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle from inception onward. A basic premise of BIM is collaboration by different stakeholders at different phases of the life cycle of a facility to insert, extract, update or modify information in the BIM process to support and reflect the roles of that stakeholder. The BIM is a shared digital representation founded on open standards for interoperability.” – NIBS, buildingSMART, NIBS, 2006

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BIM Collaboration – Fact or Fiction?

BIM Collaboration – Fact or Fiction

As members of the AECOO1 Community and stewards of the build environment, it is our obligation to collaboratively address our industry-specific productivity and business process issues as well as the our lack of significant progress relative to addressing environmental impacts.

Truth be told, there is only one significant barrier to efficient AECOO practices and it is our existing culture of mistrust, lack of open communication, and reliance upon antagonistic construction delivery methods.

The design-bid-build construction delivery method and associated practices such of awarding contracts to the lowest bidder do little more than a fuel to the fires of waste, protracted project timelines, change orders, and legal disputes.

Also, focus upon symptoms such as lack of effective technology usage and associated interoperability issues, have done little to drive change.  That said, it may be technology that is the acts as the catalyst to tear down the walls of mistrust and silos of independent groups and activities.

Cloud computing and associated social networking have already begun to dramatically alter the world and stand ready to forcefully impact the AECOO community.

A simplified, however, powerful definition of BIM is “the efficient life-cycle management of the built environment supported by digital technology”.   Achievement of this goal requires the integration of multiple knowledge domains and associated processes, procedures, and activities, which to date have been managed in isolation.   While detailed knowledge of each domain will remain a challenge, sharing of critical information with multi-disciplinary impact can be achieved if communication barriers are removed.   Cloud computing, social networking, and the associated use of integrated project delivery methods2 will provide the basic foundation upon with BIM will be enabled.  An an actionable framework for professional AECOO collaboration, and increased productivity is on the horizon.   The timing and success, however, is totally dependent upon transformational changes regarding the ways in which AECOO professionals communicate and deliver their services.


1-Architerture, Engineering, Construction, Owners, Operations

2-Current examples include integrated project delivery (IPD) for new construction and job order contracting (JOC).  The latter is a form of IPD specifically targeting renovation, repair, sustainability, and minor new construction.




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BIM and The Role of a Construction Cost Estimator

Professional construction cost estimators are critical to any collaborative, transparent, and productive  BIM solution.   BIM, facilities life-cycle management supported by digital technology will create a high demand cost estimators with a thorough understanding of building systems and associated repair, renovation, sustainability and construction techniques, materials, equipment, and labor.   Experienced cost estimators who appropriately leverage technology and embrace collaboration will excel.  Navigating the current AEC sector-wide paradigm shift from antagonistic ad-hoc processes such as design-bid-build, excessive change-orders, and even modest attempts at improvement such as design-build, to collaborative, efficient project delivery methods such as integrated project delivery – IPD, and job order contracting – JOC will be a challenge for some, but a willing change for most.

A team approach, support by technologies such as domain-specific cloud-computing solutions (cost estimating, capital planning, maintenance/repair, …)  integrated with 3D visualization tools..aka Revit will become commonplace.  Owners, AEs, Contractors, Sub-Contractors, Oversight Groups, Business Product Manufacturers- BPMs, and the Community will all gain higher visibility into life-cycle needs and impacts of the built environment.

All who collaborate openly to exceed client’s expectations, and produce efficient, quality construction, renovation, repair, and sustainability on-time, and on-budget will thrive, while non-participants will fall by the wayside.

The AECOO’s (architecture, engineering, construction, owner, operations) legacy of fragmented, unproductive approaches,  ad hoc practices, and associated lack of trust will crumble, to be replaced by OPEN, transparent, and collaborative PROCESSES supported by robust technology.