Why BIM, Why Now?

BIM stands for building information modeling, a digital representation of every aspect of a building or facility. In Jeff Sample’s webinar titled “Why BIM, Why Now” he and three guests discuss BIM and why now is a perfect opportunity to start implementing BIM in your company. His first guest is Sal D’Ambrosia, Director of Construction Technology at WM Blanchard Co. He worked in the plumbing and mechanical trades for over 35 years and is currently located in New Jersey. The next guest is Jonathan Marsh, who is the CEO of SteelToe Consulting LLC. He consults with contractors on how to use BIM and technology to elevate their business. The last guest that Jeff introduces is Ralph Kreider, and he is the Project Solutions Manager at Harkins Builder Inc. Ralph wants to transform the industry from a paper-based industry to a digital-model-first based industry.

What is the current state of BIM in the industry?

The first discussion is directed at Sal, about the current state of BIM from his industry and perspective. Sal explains that he believes BIM is stagnant right now. They are beginning to see BIM in more contracts, but that’s the extent of it. He believes that trades are not utilizing the data in the model or utilizing the tools that BIM can provide.

With BIM, you have this data-filled model, but once taken onto the field, it gets flattened onto paper. This means that all of that information gets lost, which, in turn, gets misunderstood by the workers. Sal goes onto explain that now more than ever is the time to train specific people on Toolstation. Toolstation is a layout tool that is often used. Sal believes that people need to learn to utilize this tool now, so they can adapt to this new way rather than reverting to the old way.

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The topic gets directed toward Jonathan, where he gives his opinions on BIM. Jonathan entirely agrees with Sal that BIM got flat at some point. He believes that mechanicals started to leverage the model more and more, but a lot of the data is being pushed back. Now more than ever is a great time to be going digital. He brings up the point that at this current time, you don’t want to be passing along a physical drawing. Each person can have a little tablet that you can keep throughout the process, and be able to keep the model digital.

Jonathan believes that people want this hybrid workflow, where they can keep the old stuff, but also learn the new process. He thinks that they have to transition over to the latest software, otherwise there is always that option to go back to the old way, which just isn’t working as well.

Jeff gives it over to Ralph, and wants an opinion about BIM in the industry, from the GC side. Ralph discusses how BIM is generally all over the place. BIM is still dependent on the individual’s expertise and has yet to be democratized across the organizations. Ralph explains that BIM does not change the purpose, but merely changes how that purpose is achieved. We aren’t getting close to full potential and utilization because we aren’t making BIM available to everyone.


What would you tell someone just starting out in BIM?

Jeff asked Ralph, “if you had known something at the beginning of your journey with BIM, what would you have liked to know, and what can you tell people looking to start at the beginning.” Ralph says that it is going to be hard. It is going to take some time and effort and education from you and the team. He says not to expect everyone to buy into the whole process in general or expect people to change their minds. He explains that you must have a goal in mind. In the project execution and planning process, the goal is essential. Once you have that goal, the next step is to ensure that everyone on the team knows what you are doing and why you are doing it. This simple step can help everyone get on the same page.

Jonathan agreed with Ralph, stating that when first starting BIM, it is crucial to set up measures of progress. In those first six months, there are going to be huge gains. If you set up measures, then people can see the progress that is being made. When people see progress, they are more likely to buy into the whole thing. Jonathan believes that BIM isn’t just a checkbox, but instead, it is more of a journey to implement and utilize within the company every day.

Now is the time to learn BIM

One of the most significant issues with BIM that has been discussed so far is that workers aren’t entirely understanding it. When the workers don’t understand it, they won’t use it. The guests discuss how now more than ever is a great time to learn this tool. In the time of Covid, many people have time they didn’t use to, so take advantage and learn something new. Ralph explains that you should take as much time as you can for training to understand and be well-versed in BIM fully. Ralph says that they are accelerating their use of technology over at his company and taking the extra time to learn new concepts. Jonathan jumps in and tells everyone that with BIM, training is huge.

Right now, things are changing digitally. People are adapting to working from home and using more technology than they used to. This has become the new normal. He makes a point that we all want to be a part of the new digital normal, and keep this momentum going. Sal agrees with both Jonathan and Ralph and adds that we must make use of this time that we have. He explains that you could take a person who has been laying pipe for 20 years and teach him Revit in 6 months. All you need it time and motivation to make it happen. Webinars are also a great way to use this time to learn something new. There are so many out there that discuss great topics and dive deep into them.

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Jeff closes out the webinar by talking about what will happen when people begin to go back to work. He explains that when we get out of this, there is going to be a waterfall of construction. Things are going to be needed to get done faster and more efficiently. BIM can help with that. It is up to all of us out there no matter what portion we are a part of, to start this conversation, and begin this transition.