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Our take on Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Abdallah Baydounby Abdallah Baydoun | In Opinion, Primaned Blog |

It has been some time now that we have heard about Building Information Modeling (BIM) and how it will take the construction industry by storm. Has this happened? Certainly not yet, for several reasons that are not all necessarily related to BIM itself. Will it happen? I believe yes, simply because the BIM vision will help the construction industry on various levels. In this blog post, I will briefly explain about BIM, the problem and how can Project Controls add value to BIM based projects. You also might want to read about the future and BIM in our previous blog.

BIM

For those who do not know what BIM is, it is a platform where information models and data sets are created and managed in a shared digital space known as a common data environment or CDE. This data is composed of graphical (e.g. 3D model) and non-graphical information (e.g. specifications, schedule, costs, etc) which grows as the project progresses and is only complete when the project is handed over to its client.

But what is the essence of BIM and how is that related to Project Controls?

In essence, the philosophy of BIM revolves around creating integrated information models which stimulate collaboration among the various project teams. This should ultimately lead to successful project delivery and create maximal value to all stakeholders through the project’s complete lifecycle.

Now let’s look at Project Controls, for a detailed explanation of what is Primaned Belgium’s perception of Project Controls you might want to look at one of our previous blog posts, Project Controls – a definition. As a short resumé, Project Controls covers the aspects of project management that estimates, models, analyses, predicts, measures, reports and visualizes project data. Moreover, Project Controls becomes especially powerful when integrating the information from the various knowledge areas (e.g. time, scope, resources, cost, risks et cetera). But what is the essence of this complex discipline? It is to generate insights in the project that will support and influence decision making so that projects will be successfully delivered and  maximal value to all stakeholders will be created.

So, can you spot the similarity?

Yes, I knew you would! Both focus on achieving successful project delivery through integration and aim at creating maximal value to all stakeholders!

But is that all? In fact, if you do more research on BIM and Project Controls separately (which I would definitely recommend), you would notice that they share common ideals, namely:

  1. Both require integrated information models.
  2. Both strive for transparency and collaboration.
  3. Both tackle uncertainty for successful project delivery.
  4. Both see the necessity of common data structures and environments.

The problem:

As you noticed, the philosophies are very much aligned however unfortunately, the practices are not. At the moment, or at least in Belgium, BIM is very much residing in the engineering department with focus on the graphical information. While this is surely important and adds a lot of value to the project, still the full potential of BIM is not being utilized. Owners are spending millions to engage with the BIM philosophy but only end up with a lengthy engineering stage to achieve the perfect 3D model. Yes, we are detecting all clashes, yes we are assuring that the latest design status is used among all project team members, yes we are making the design more sustainable by modeling light, energy et cetera, but what about the management of time, cost and scope?

The good news: Project Controls to the rescue!

While BIM professionals have a very different mindset than the typical Project Controls professional, both are complementary and needed to achieve the potential of implementing BIM to the fullest. Specifically, BIM professionals have a bottom-up approach, they tackle uncertainty by adding more modeling details, while within Project Controls a more top-down, transversal and objective-driven approach towards project delivery is advocated.

At Primaned, we do believe in BIM as one of the trends with a big future in construction projects, but we think that in order to succeed in delivering the expected value, BIM needs to be influenced from the Project Controls community. Don’t tell me, you didn’t expect a sales pitch somewhere, did you?

This is what Primaned as Project Controls professionals can add to BIM oriented projects:

  • Increased focus on the project objectives, i.e. the triple constraints (time, cost and scope). Bottom-line, to convince owners of the feasibility of applying BIM into their projects, you need to help generate extra value to the project and business case, otherwise why would they engage in extra investments?
  • Projects are in definition unique endeavours with a strict timeline. BIM tends to get stuck in the details then lose track of the high-level timeline and the integration of engineering, procurement, construction, et cetera. Project controls professionals can add the required focus on the high-level project flow of the project.
  • BIM and Project Controls are both about common data structures (PBS, WBS, CBS), but Project Controls is more mature in managing & integrating time, cost, risk and resources. BIM models tend to oversimplify these aspects, while scheduling, cost control and risk management are all professions on their own. Their integration is very challenging.
  • BIM addresses uncertainty by more modelling. Project Controls can add a more dynamic way of dealing with risks, uncertainties and contingencies. Don’t forget that most projects fail because of external risks and uncertainties, that are not going to be solved by 3D modelling but rather by analytics.
  • Project Controls will also add techniques, KPI’s and reports that triggers taking actions and ultimately leads to increasing the value delivered in BIM based projects. This is done by engaging a dynamic analytics and visualization process for a lot of the non-graphical information.

We, Project Controls professionals, are confident that by applying Project Controls and BIM, the best of both worlds can be combined to generate maximal value to any project.

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