Tuesday, March 10, 2009

BIMwash, the new snake oil?

I'd like to take a moment and try and define a new term.


A portmanteau (a word that contains two words and combines their meanings) of BIM (building information modeling) and whitewash ( a thin paint-like coating that washes away slowly in the rain.)

More and more projects are requiring BIM. Sometimes the Design firm is requiring BIM from the GC and subs. Sometimes the Owner is requiring that everyone use Building Information Modeling. This is GREAT! I mean this is what we have been preaching and railing about.

Here's the rub though. BIM has become a BUZZWORD. Not to the extent that "Green" has, but a buzzword still. Now that everyone's talking about this thing called BIM, folks are starting to sit up and take notice. Heck man, there's money to be made here. We can do this BIM thing. We already model in 3D (sorta.) This (insert any BIM authoring software) looks pretty similar. We can't get left behind on this. RFPs (requests for proposals) are coming in asking for BIM. Let's go!

So XYZ Design (or Engineering, Builders, etc etc.) gets a couple seats of software, spend some time learning how to use it, and get it set up so they can plot documents to their standards. Yahoooo, we're on the BIM-train. Let everyone know, WE DO BIM!
Whoa, hold the phone, Buster. What do you mean you "Do BIM?"

Ummm, we use "Brand A" Software and... produce a BIM.

What's your deliverable?

Duh, the industry standard 2D CD's. You can't get away from that. Oh, and we can show you exactly what your building looks like with renderings and walk-throughs.

So, since Contractors, Subs, Design firms, even Owners all have their own ideas of what is BIM, are they wrong?

Yeah, I think they are.

I'm not going to rant and rave about what is and isn't BIM. Just Google it, there is plenty of discussion. What I will say is, there are plenty of firms out there that have jumped "on board" and are "Doing the BIM."

Educate yourselves. Have a serious discussion at your firm. What is BIM to you?

Everyone wants to get something different out of this. The Designer wants to validate design and communicate design intent in a new and easy to understand way. The Contractor wants to query the model and take off accurate Quantity of Materials and investigate "Buildability," dealing with interferences early in the process. And the Owner wants a BIM that they can use throughout the lifecycle of the building. Let the world know what you do or exactly what you want. Define it internally before you put it out before the public.

If you are about to issue a RFP that requires BIM, do yourself a favor and SPELL IT OUT. Define exactly what you are looking for. That way you have a better chance of getting what you want. And please, if all you want is rendering and walkthroughs, say that. Don't even use the term BIM.

If you are a Design, Engineering, or Construction firm, know what your strong points are. Know what you can and cannot deliver. Don't oversell your abilities. It will only come back to bite you.

And if you're just using the term because "everyone is doing it," STOP.

Don't be a BIMwasher... it's all likely to wash away in the rain...


Dave Baldacchino said...

Hehe nice, love it :) There's plenty of BIMwashing going on. Most of us are just getting to know our software of choice really well and create documents the same way as before, but improving our coordination in the process. Once we're REALLY asked to do an IPD job, then we'll be prepared. But so far (in my opinion), very few are doing real BIM. Design/Build firms are probably more likely to be part of that group.

Anonymous said...

Except Kimon Onuma who's a real evangelist and a star in my opinion. And probably a genius.

Anonymous said...

Kimon Onuma is a genius in my book! He's really pushing the envelope. A few years back I saw him demonstrate a model using ArchiCAD that was able to simulate explosions. The ArchiCAD model and his custom GDL objects to simulate explosions could then steer the design of the facility in a way that minimized the impact in a real situation.

David Butts said...

man, go back a couple of years...I still love this post...we've got older engineers, PMs and marketing folks that still don't know what building information modeling is...

later - David B.

Erik said...

Thanks David. We have some that can't even spell it. ;)

Unknown said...

Always remember BIM without the I is just BM. One my Project Managers said that. Cracked us all up, but he has a point. The Information properly formed, entered, contained and used in a BIM process is one of the core elements.

Erik said...

That's the truth. Just a big pile of ... CAD

Unknown said...

Remember if you take the I out of BIM, you are left with BM. One of our project managers said that. Cracked us all up, but he does have a point. The information, properly formed, inserted, contained and used in a BIM process is one of the core elements.
There are many firms that think if they can show a 3D model then that's BIM. sorry skippy, not quite. It is a process, a philosophy, a methodology. It includes not only planning, collaboration, but a useful dynamic deliverable and implementation to make use of it.
It's the big Magilla. It's a Gestalt ! It's LEAN, LEED, IPD and a bag of chips.
There is a lot of debate as several have noted. I don't expect that will subside anytime soon. It's good though; we need to explore, experiment, talk, argue, throw small rocks at each other to figure out how this thing is going to develop.
I see it like I see the question I get from people about what kind of computer they should buy. I ask them "what do you want to do with it ?" That should show you what to buy. BIM is sort of like that. What do we need to do with it on this project or that project defines what it means on each.