A buzzword in the realm of construction for many years now, building information modeling (BIM) has quickly become the norm. However, experts tell FM today that the adoption of BIM in the Middle East is yet to reach its full potential. According to the McGraw Hill Construction’s - SmartMarket Report 2014, BIM is transforming the design and construction process in Asia, North America, and Western Europe. Closer to home, Dubai Municipality pioneered the adoption of BIM in the UAE when it mandated the use of BIM for buildings at least 40 storeys tall. The new policy also covered projects that are 27,871 sq m or larger as well as all hospitals, universities, and other specialised buildings and structures delivered by international parties. Although the Dubai Municipality’s mandate to use BIM on large-scale projects is a move in the right direction, many experts felt that a stronger focus on BIM is needed at a national level.
Alexander Kolpakov, BIM Centre Director, UAE and Oman, AECOM, says that the BIM adoption is not centrally managed in the Middle East; however, he adds that the interest in BIM at all levels is contributing to its organic adoption. “At the highest level, we see government bodies and major developers mandating BIM. For example, in 2013, Dubai Municipality issued BIM mandate (circular 196) that specifies the use of BIM for certain types of project. In the past few years, major developers in the UAE have also announced that they are expecting their supply chain to apply BIM on their developments,” says Kolpakov. He goes on to add,
“The next level is the supply chain. Consultants and contractors are aware of the limitations associated with ‘traditional’ project delivery models and recognise the potential benefits that BIM can offer. Designers see improved quality of their design, contractors can better plan construction and identify coordination issues earlier, and estimators can produce more accurate cost estimates. And finally, at the user level, engineers and draftsmen realise efficiencies that technology brings and are willing to learn and apply new tools in their day-to-day work.”
While the adoption of BIM is gradually growing, Adrian Jarvis, General Manager, FSI (FM Solutions) Middle East, points out that what is still missing in the Middle East is early involvement and input from FM and operations with the model. “Unfortunately, we still see silos of data; there needs to be more understanding about the inputs and outputs and data structures required through the project life-cycle. We expect BIM strategies to become the de facto approach to projects and as the market matures in its understanding we expect discussion not around whether BIM should be used, but how to approach BIM and the level of detail required through into the operations phase,” adds Jarvis.
The very fact that many construction firms are asking how BIM will be executed shows that the industry has now accepted BIM as the most efficient technology used to help manage the full lifecycle of a building in the most efficient manner. A major limiting factor that’s restricting the widespread implementation of BIM across the region is awareness.
“Awareness of what a model is and that BIM is not a single piece of technology. There is currently an emphasis on the visual aspect of the building model, and whilst a picture speaks a thousand words, it is the information in the model which adds value. Gaining input from all stakeholders in a project and the data each requires will drive interoperability and value of the information,” says Jarvis, who adds that FSI is raising awareness by actively discussing BIM, and the operational data drop requirements for CAFM systems with consultants, building owners, FMs, and the construction organisations.
When it comes to advantages of using BIM, Kolpakov says that there having the right information at the right time is a major one, especially since it uses databases of information. He also says that there are a lot of inefficiencies in the traditional process arise from a lack or inaccessibility to the project information. “These inefficiencies would not exist if we properly manage and structure a database of information that everybody can contribute to and access. This is what ultimately BIM is trying to achieve — to build a common database that would serve as a single source of truth for everyone to refer to. This would lead to improved collaboration, communication, constructability and quality of design, as well as increased owners understanding of design and safety in construction, better construction planning and logistics, fewer risks and more informed decisions,” he adds.
Increased efficiency, productivity and quality are some of the other benefits. Suhail Arfath, Head Autodesk Consulting, Middle East, says that even more powerful than the productivity gains are the potential opportunities that BIM offers to help enable AEC professionals and owners design, visualise, simulate, and analyse the key physical and functional characteristics of a project digitally; before they even build it. “Using information within the model, everyone on the project team can make better, more-informed decisions across the entire project lifecycle of building and infrastructure projects. Planners can select optimum sites. Architects can produce more accurate designs with fewer errors, less waste, and closer alignment with the owner’s vision. Engineers can increase coordination with architects and other engineering disciplines, improving the reliability of their designs. Contractors can make sure that constructability issues are flagged early on when changes are less expensive to make. Ultimately, owners will be able to use the models far into the future as the basis of a comprehensive facilities and asset management program,” he adds.
The question arises on whether or not BIM has the potential for cost saving and many believe that there is no direct cost saving but different companies would see different benefits and savings from it. Kolpakov says, “It should be expected that the first projects completed via BIM would probably not provide significant cost savings and not be completed faster than traditional projects. When measuring cost savings initial investment in training, software and hardware should be considered. The benefits will be realised after the learning curve is passed and the team is familiar with the new process and software.”
Adding to which, Arfath says that majority of savings from BIM can be expected to be achieved by tighter information flow with project designs agreeing with each other by the time essential tasks are commenced. “The cost savings are not necessarily Won the upfront budget, but the whole project costs including the variety of extra issues that cause cost overruns,” he says while adding, “BIM is not going to solve every problem that has a cost impact, but experience has shown that improving information quality and increasing unity through collaboration can make projects more predictable. The future of BIM is not a constant round of cost savings, but what we should expect are reduced risks, fewer disruptions, greater opportunity for innovation and increased budget certainty. The big win is that project data can be used more effectively during the construction process and over the life of a building where even greater post-occupancy costs and carbon savings can be achieved.”
BIM is an intelligent model–based process that provides a clearer insight needed in creating and managing building and infrastructure projects. The use of the software results in the creation of a reliable digital representation of the building available for design decision making, high-quality construction. It also provides users with up-to-date and reliable information on the project design, cost information, schedules, energy analysis, structural design, and quantity take off necessary for the construction projects. “Promising technologies like 3D laser scanning, energy performance models, data management and other are now being applied to take 3D Coordination/BIM to the next level,” states Arfath.
The adoption of BIM has enabled a number of technologies that are using the information and 3D models. BIM is also changing traditional roles and responsibilities in the industry, and the process of how one designs, builds, and operates assets. Kolpakov elaborates that new tools allow one to design, simulate construction and operation of the building on the computer screen or even in a virtual reality environment before any construction activities start on site. “By using virtual reality and augmented reality technologies designers, engineers and building operators can ‘walk’ through the designed asset wearing a virtual reality headset, immersing themselves in the design environment. New software tools allow designers to produce highly complex designs and contractors to build it faster. And planners and cost estimators are using BIM models for compiling bills of quantities and programs,” he adds.
The Middle East’s BIM market remains vibrant and continuously growing, which consolidates earlier predictions that the region will soon become a leader in BIM—an achievement that will be hugely beneficial for the region as a whole as it continues to upgrade and build new infrastructure, housing, and commercial buildings and establish itself as not just a consumer but a provider of modern industry methods and results worldwide.
Talking about the next evolutionary step following BIM platforms, Jarvis says, “Strategic definition prior to starting a new construction. Having a facilities manager involved with other stakeholders at the beginning of the construction process, not necessarily full time but adding value as part of the briefing process for the occupancy experience.”