People often cite several statistics to criticize the architecture/engineering/construction industry, as well as a matching set of acronyms to solve industry problems. For instance:
•Sustainability: 38 percent of carbon emissions in the United States are from buildings, rather than cars (Source: U.S. Green Building Council).
•Productivity: Construction is the only non-farm industry that has decreased productivity since 1964 (Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Labor Statistics).
•Waste: 37 percent of materials in the construction industry become waste (Source: Movement for Innovation Industry Reports and Economist magazine).
•Software capability: Lack of integration between software costs the industry up to $15.8 billion per year (Source: National Institute of Standards & Technology).
The acronyms that will "fix" everything:
•Building information modeling (BIM)is a digital representation of a building, composed of intelligent 3D objects with defined properties and relationships to other objects. As a result, BIM is a visual representation of a building as well as a database.
•Virtual design and construction (VDC) refers to the process of different stakeholders using various BIM software tools collaboratively during design, construction and commissioning stages of a project. In short, BIM refers to the digital model, and VDC refers to the process.
•Integrated project delivery (IPD) is a unique contractual relationship designed to optimize the use of BIM and VDC. IPD pushes the envelope of collaboration and transforms individual behaviors through specific provisions, which align separate team member goals with the interests of the project and institution.
Obviously, it takes more than a sprinkle of BIM on a project. To truly get the benefits, education institutions need to develop a cohesive strategy around project delivery transformation, which fully integrates BIM, VDC and IPD as standard practice.
Leveraging VDC or using an IPD contract on a project increases reliability if teams do it right. Imagine getting the scope and quality you want, on time and for the original budget promised. Reduced change orders, RFIs and improved reliability aren’t unique benefits to institutional projects—any project that carries out VDC properly will see those.
However, there are benefits that are unique to education institutions—ones that accrue over time.
The continual project development at an institution is an opportunity for continuous improvement. Institutions can leverage their long-term ownership of projects to experience even more benefit from project delivery transformation when they consider building maintenance. After all, according to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), 75 percent of a building’s life-cycle budget is spent on operations and maintenance. For example, Pennsylvania State University estimates $2.2 million potential annual savings in maintenance costs by integrating BIM with facilitates management.
Problems of "Hollywood" BIM
The key to achieving profound benefit is actual process change: It requires internal change.
Unfortunately, many education institutions rely on consultants and contractors to drive VDC or IPD utilization on projects. Worse, many of them are more "Hollywood" BIM than actual BIM. Hollywood BIM looks beautiful and helps firms win projects, but functionally doesn’t help the project or process at all. For example, a beautifully rendered logistics plan can show cranes whirling around in circles—the town, the superintendent and subcontractors never see or use these.
Because some firms also tend to exaggerate their expertise in order to win projects, it may be challenging to determine if a consultant or contractor has a true BIM capability. A number of factors need to be considered: technical capability, experience with BIM, flexibility with technology and willingness to collaborate.
A Rational Path
The solution: Institutions need to take matters into their own hands. This is easier said than done, especially when budgets are tight. But this is an investment in long-term savings, and there are efficient ways to move forward with project delivery transformation.
One way is to start with establishing a baseline body of knowledge, so that schools can build a foundation to support BIM adoption. A number of conferences and training sessions, including the BIMForum conference, offer introductory classes as well as advanced presentations.
Next step: strategic planning. Schools should determine their campus project transformation goals. Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Then, schools should define a path to their goals: discuss training, standards, resources, performance and projects.
Finally,it’s time to act. Deploy the plan on pilot projects. Track and document progress, successes and even failures. Study them, adjust and continue.
Institutions face unique challenges in process delivery transformation. Policies, guidelines and procedures must be rigid enough to provide a true "standard," but flexible enough to support adoption across a variety of project size and type—and a wider spectrum of executive personalities. However, there also is a unique value proposition: continuous improvement over the course of multiple projects and significant financial return over time.