Opinion: How we can advance BIM standards

Craig Garrett, academies manager, Digital Advancement Academies, Bentley Systems, on creating a neutral environment for knowledge sharing and collaboration

88% of construction stakeholders believe that building information modelling (BIM) can enable better design insight and that it will be the catalyst for a fundamental change in how we manage, design and develop a construction project. Meanwhile, the construction industry in this region is plagued by several problems, such as delays and cost overruns; however, it has been predicted that adoption of BIM will enhance performance and profitability in the built environment.

A lot of BIM standards in the region come from the UK, but how mature is the market here in the Middle East?

“It’s a known fact that the maturity is less here in the Middle East, but that is not necessarily reflective of all organisations or the whole industry,” says Craig Garrett, academies manager, Digital Advancement Academies at Bentley Systems.

“What you may find is, there is a high level of BIM implementation and maturity in those organisations involved with complex projects that are pushing the boundaries, for example, Museum of the Future; it was commented that the bar was set very high on that project. This is because the client on that project was very knowledgeable and very sure of what they wanted the BIM requirements to be, but unfortunately that is not a true reflection of the whole industry.”

He emphasises that this is exactly what Bentley Systems is interested in doing with the Digital Advancement Academies, to reach that supply chain to educate them and raise that maturity so that everyone starts to get a bit more aware.

“One of the things we do at the academy is to engage a lot with academia, and from research we have understood that working with universities and students has proven to be very important. We are working with several universities here in Dubai as part of the academy to deliver sessions and network with students, graduates and young engineers in the region,” he explains.

“We have seven global connected academies which lets us reach industry experts anywhere in the world, which means we can get an industry expert from London to present at an academy here in Dubai, while we have an online audience in Singapore, all on the same session. We have had more than 4,000 people go through the London academy physically, let alone the connections we have got with different academies around the world digitally, and to me that is fantastic knowledge sharing and collaboration, which of course is the whole point.

“Moreover, quite often people who are involved in the design and build part of a project – contractors, consultants and architects – have no real understanding of the full lifecycle of BIM. A number of sessions we deliver here in the academy are on educating people about the bigger picture we need to consider.”

Garrett asserts that people who are doing this job have access to this information, but those stakeholders – clients and operators – can maximise their benefits from this level of understanding: that cost involved in construction is minuscule compared to the operation and maintenance required in the long run.

“With the sessions in the academy, we try to showcase the best practices in the industry, and for this, we get experts from the construction industry to share those stories and case studies that best showcase the adoption of technology and the benefits they have achieved with it. The academy provides a neutral space that people feel at ease to come into and share knowledge, understand and focus on the process and the ‘why’ – it’s the education part that focuses on the ‘why’ that we are interested in.”

Garrett observes that BIM is a concept that includes lots of different technologies as well as various applications and implementations, which sometimes makes it complicated to understand. But BIM, he says, is a word we need to swap for ‘digital’ – digital thinking is what we really should be using, as it better describes the process. He notes that previously people asked what BIM meant, but now the same question is being asked of digital twins.

“One of the things about digital twins is that live connection between the physical and the virtual, and how this data that you are receiving from the physical asset is directly linked to the virtual twin. This allows you to do analytics or processes on your virtual asset that you can transfer back to changes that can be made in the physical world. The context is that there is a live link together and this information of data that flows between the two.”

Garrett concludes: “Once there is a clear understanding of what BIM is and what it can do, then you can look towards the future, and digital twins is absolutely an integral part of that future.”

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