Breaking BIM – the next generation

A new breed of construction millenials are taking advantage of the latest technology, says Hoare Lea’s Ben Roberts

What a year. Blackstar David Bowie departed Earth while everything was comparatively hunky-dory. We’ve sadly said goodbye to many great cultural icons in 2016 and, to cap it all, you now have to do BIM on all government-owned projects too. But there is hope for a better, friendlier, more collaborative, compassionate and holistic future, with a new breed of construction professional: millennials. These are people who started work after the dotcom boom, and who now comprise almost 50% of the workforce in the UK. They have brought to the construction industry a hunger for more exciting ways of designing, building and operating built environments.

In 2016, most businesses had some exposure to BIM and, generally, are now dealing with it at the core of their business. A few years ago, BIM was about technology and process, but a more fundamental aspect has come to the fore: culture.

While it is possible to learn ‘how to BIM’, you’ll struggle to keep up with the pace of change unless you grasp the underlying passions and attitudes that motivate the move towards faster access to information, and to outsourcing mundane tasks to a more appropriate resource (that’s computers, by the way). So how does one understand a different culture? A good place to start is the modern world.

While it is possible to learn ‘how to BIM’, you’d struggle to keep up with the pace of change unless you grasp the underlying passions and attitudes that motivate the move towards faster access to information

We are constantly exposed to open tools and decentralised movements, such as smartphones, tablets, online banking, Netflix, electric cars, social media, Airbnb, Uber, Google, eBay, self-service tills – even doors and stairs that do the work for us. But, somehow, we feel this can’t be applied to our working lives. Changing a generations-old culture is proving an uncomfortable experience, but the best way to survive is to look at how current tools can help us all to improve our lives, and work from there. Of course, some computer stuff is still the realm of programmatically gifted Star Trek enthusiasts – but it’s no longer an exclusive club.

A thread that has exploded in 2016 is immersive technology, which brings computer models to life. It’s a very clear and easy way to see around models without having to be a Revit guru.

This month, the CIBSE Digital Steering Group asked me to address an issue that is at the heart of this whole column series – removing the stigma of BIM and digital, and encouraging everybody to find out how they can benefit from computers/data, even if they ‘don’t do computers’.

Now that BIM is becoming the standard form of project delivery, I’m hearing fewer conversations about ‘why?’, ‘what’s the point?’ or ‘it’s just a fad’. We appear to have graduated to a reluctant acceptance of ‘how do we manage this thing then?’. There are some decent resources to guide you through this – check out the new CIBSE Digital Engineering series, now available online, and the upcoming CIBSE BIM Roadshow.

But if you’re still wondering ‘why?’, it’s because BIM is the first step towards an inevitable future of collaboration, where technology is a helpful part of our team, and processes are clear, simple and transferable.

Ben Roberts MCIBSE is BIM delivery leader at Hoare Lea and a member of the CIBSE BIM steering group