We need to empower SMC firms, says UAE BIM’s AbouAlfa

Ahmed AbouAlfa, founder, UAE BIM Association, on bringing BIM documents and guidelines in line with international standards

Ahmed AbouAlfa, founder, UAE BIM Association (UBA) says that it is creating a common BIM/VDC language that can be easily reached and followed by construction professionals and firms, adding that the focus will be on knowledge transfer across the region and on empowering small and medium construction (SMC) firms.

“We need to empower SMC firms, otherwise they will be omitted from the market. We need to bring them to our awareness sessions to give them the comfort level that they need to transform from their traditional approach to BIM/VDC. This is so that they won’t lose their place in the market.”

Elaborating on VDC, AbouAlfa says, “It’s is a new term for a lot of people; it’s about managing a complex structure. With BIM, it’s a 3D model, but by adding time aspect to it, it will become 4D and construction updates and processes can be simulated. By integrating cost, it will become 5D; similarly, by integrating facility aspects and management it will transform to 6D, while the addition of sustainability criteria will make it 7D. To summarise, BIM involves 3D modelling and data input of physical assets. VDC on the other hand, utilises BIM models to plan, manage, and simulate the construction process from beginning to end.”

AbouAlfa explains that the main idea behind BIM is digitisation, the pathway to smart cities and the Dubai Smart City Vision.

“For this, we need to start from the core, which is using the same common data environment. It is the single source of information that is used to manage documents, 3D models and other elements for the whole project team. Combining common data environment with digitisation will give a single source of truth. With this, all the information required for a smart building is in the same place, and smart buildings beside each other, with smart infrastructure, makes smart districts. When you have smart districts in place, there will be smart cities, which is our end goal.”

To this end, UBA will introduce the DAECO (digital architecture, engineering, construction and operation) framework, which will integrate project management principles and all its stages within BIM and VDC for better management, exchange and usage of information.

AbouAlfa explains, “The DAECO framework will align with existing international practices, guidelines and standards and will be consolidated into one robust package. The first framework stream will be DAECO management guidelines, which will include industry best practices and information exchange requirements that can be used widely by all tiers of companies within the UAE.

“The second framework stream will be the UAE DAECO handbook, which will include information about new technologies, platforms and software that are widely used in the AECO industry. It will also discuss different uses and business models for the market’s supply chain.”

He notes that the UBA has had favourable meetings in the Middle East and globally with other hubs focused on BIM implementation. “We had an amazing meeting with the Ministry of Commerce and Investment in Saudi Arabia, and they are willing to make the BIM mandate from their side. They are responsible for the Society of Engineers and the Union of Contractors in KSA.

“The EU BIM Task Group based in Europe and co-founded by the European Union is another organisation that UBA will be collaborating with, and they have officially invited us to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on BIM and VDC implementation. This will happen end of March in Paris.”

To begin with, UBA will hold key activities to ensure that its message is well received, understood and spread among students and junior engineers in the first round, while the next round will focus on supporting construction professionals during their digital transformation journey, states AbouAlfa.

“In my opinion, BIM hasn’t been successfully implemented in an ideal way in majority of the projects, which is why we need to bring the few stories and case studies where we have successful BIM implementation to the market. Understandably, BIM is not mature enough and there will be hiccups during its implementation, but shortly it will be made mandatory.

“So we have to educate clients, government entities and semi-government entities with such stories of BIM implementation, so that it provides them with a learning curve and the comfort zone to work in the BIM/VDC environment, and to also have the mandate in place to understand what BIM/VDC is and what BIM implementation means,” he concludes.

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