Makers need to make their mark

Meeting the government’s 2016 target for BIM adoption will require a culture change, says Tony Ryan – and one sector needs to lead the way

Hindsight is a marvellous thing. It is all too easy for us to sit here today and judge the businesses that failed to grasp the significance of the online revolution a decade ago, and have now sunk without a trace.

But while accepting that hindsight often makes the right decisions appear clearer than they did at the time, we must also acknowledge when the signs of impending business revolution are present, but not heeded.
If we are not careful, BIM could be the next revolution that makes the reputations of some in our industry, while wiping out the unprepared.

But notwithstanding the obvious benefits of widespread BIM use, there is still reluctance from some to embrace the opportunities it offers. While BIM adoption has increased, it has still yet to reach the critical mass that encourages even the most cautious of firms to peep over the parapet.

The reasons for this are complex, but are mainly to do with the sense of uncertainty that still exists around BIM in practice. BIM in theory is wonderful, and some of the software providers are doing excellent work to build valuable platforms, but the whole system relies on third party data that is still sporadically supplied at best. We need a culture change, a decisive shift towards BIM, and I believe that manufacturers will play a vital role in making this happen.

At face value, BIM is everybody’s responsibility. Fundamentally a collaborative way of working, it allows architects, specifiers, contractors, owners, occupiers and even demolition companies to share vital information throughout the entire lifecycle of a building much more efficiently than in the past. In that case, you might suggest that it is the responsibility of all of these groups to drive increased adoption of BIM.

That’s true, to a point. But while each of these groups have reasons to use BIM, from saving money to ensuring health and safety, increasing energy efficiency to reducing installation times, none of them have the power to drive it through from the start of the process.Architects can clamour for BIM-friendly products, and occupiers can request comprehensive ‘user guides’ to their buildings, but neither group can ensure that the files contain the level of information needed to make it work most effectively. They create the demand, but who creates the supply? That responsibility lies with manufacturers.

Kingspan Insulated Panels has taken that responsibility to heart. We believe that it is up to manufacturers to take the BIM-friendly leap, and make the necessary investment to support their customers. Our work with the partly government-funded 4BIM project, exploring BIM’s role across the supply chain, has highlighted the important part manufacturers must play to support the development of BIM use in building design, planning, construction, occupation and even end of life decommissioning.

Manufacturer-created BIM files (like the ones we’ve released for some of our most popular products) save time, reduce the risk of incorrect data and help reduce clashes or errors in the design and installation phases. When the files are created and used in conjunction with support from the relevant manufacturers’technical services departments, it’s possible to create a one-stop shop for architects, designers, contractors and end users.

We recognise that it’s still early days. There are many competing software providers, not all of which are compatible with one another, and nobody wants to invest in the BIM equivalent of Betamax, an expensive lesson in obsolescence. But the only way to drive adoption forward, and ensure that more collaborative software systems are developed and used, is to help BIM to reach critical mass.

From our perspective, that means releasing BIM files for all our core products in all the major software formats; AutodeskRevit, NemetschekVectorworks, Bentley AECOsim, GraphisoftArchiCADand IFC. And although the upfront cost of becoming BIM friendly may be a barrier now, it will become a necessary business investment as more architects embrace the technology and expect comprehensive offerings from all suppliers. Leave out BIM, and the chances are you’ll be left behind.

With our industry on the verge of such a fundamental change, there’s an opportunity for manufacturers, architects and specifiers to work together to determine better ways of working to make the most of BIM. That’s why, with one eye on the future, we’re exploring ways to offer parametric IFCs and ‘made-to-order’ BIM files to suit the demand of the market as it evolves.

The demand for BIM is there, while the latent potential is enormous. If we get BIM right (and with modest investment from manufacturers, we will), architects and specifiers need never go back to the drawing board again. The onus is on us, as manufacturers, to drive the cultural change that’s required to make BIM a no brainer for everyone in the industry, before 2016 arrives.

Tony Ryan is divisional building technology manager for Kingspan Insulated Panels