Say hello to my friend and colleague Dace Campbell. Dace will be joining us on Beyond Design from time to time. Here is a short biography on him. You will enjoy his post!
Spotlight of the Week: Guest Blogger Dace Campbell
Dace Campbell, AIA, LEED AP is a Customer Success Manager
at Autodesk and a nationally recognized expert and strategist in innovative tools and processes, including Building Information Modeling, Lean Construction, and Integrated Project Delivery. He is a licensed architect with almost 25 years of experience in design, construction, and computer visualization supporting collaborative, efficient design and construction.
BIM Adoption Trends and the Five Stages of Fame
Back in graduate school, right after I received my first international press for a project integrating virtual reality and architecture, my mentor advised me that there are five stages of fame that celebrities move through in the arc of their career:
- Who is John Doe?
- Get me John Doe!
- Get me someone like John Doe.
- Get me a young John Doe.
- Who was John Doe?
Over the years, my career thankfully never reached such lofty strata, but as an architect and contractor dedicated to implementing innovative tools and processes, I’ve witnessed first-hand the various ways BIM has been applied and adopted by dozens of firms. And while there is great variety to the ways BIM is adopted, a pattern seems to have emerged not unlike the stages of fame above. Let me elaborate:
Who is BIM?
Whether you’ve been involved in some form of 3-D modeling for decades, or whether you’re a more recent adopter, almost everyone in AEC has had their first exposure to BIM. Most firms got started with BIM by dipping their toe in the water – some willingly, and some dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st
century by a client, owner, or project partner who saw a better way. Often there’s a pilot project, then two, then a handful, while a firm tries desperately to swallow their investment and hope they don’t sink the company investing their precious resources in the wrong tool or process. Efficiencies and optimizations aren’t a concern, yet. Most firms just aim to get through it alive, and hope for a glimmer of some of the benefits they’ve heard about.
Get me BIM!
Thankfully, most firms move quickly past the first phase, having seen enough benefits to implement and adopt BIM as a part of their professional practice. Many firms in design and construction alike have started down the path towards adoption, and immediately after their first successes most will typically gravitate towards managing their market perception as a player. That is, most firms establish a foothold with “Hollywood BIM,” where flashy graphics dominate in business development and project pursuits. Firms attempt to establish the perception that they do BIM, just as well or better than their competitors. A decade ago, early BIM adopters could rest on this approach for a while, late adopters today are finding less success. Thankfully, nearly everyone realizes that this is a temporary adoption phase: if BIM is just sizzle and no steak, there won’t be much meat on the table for anyone for long.
Get me someone like BIM.
Today many firms have moved past pilot studies and Hollywood BIM, graduating into specialists. Design and construction firms alike often set up BIM departments or specialty groups within their practice to support projects and operations teams. It’s natural when adopting a new solution to treat it as different, and nurture it with the care and resources needed to establish, grow, endure lessons learned, and develop and promote best practices. Some BIM departments are considered cost centers, while others are set up in pursuit of profit. In either case, it’s difficult to manage a practice with specialists who access BIM data as the “high priests” behind the keyboard on behalf of project teams doing the “real work” in AEC. After a time, most firms realize that the BIM specialist/department approach is expensive to implement, and neither scalable nor sustainable. A popular goal of 100% BIM adoption on projects – and fully realizing a firm’s return on investment in BIM – remains elusive.
Get me a young BIM
Some of the leaders and early adopters, but not nearly enough of total firms today, graduate beyond BIM as a specialty, and strive to operationalize, or democratize, BIM into project teams. BIM departments are dissolved, specialist modelers previously toiling away in the corner on behalf of project teams evolve into coaches, mentors, and trainers – they figure out the hard, technical aspects of BIM, and democratize it to the masses in consumable portions. Operations and support staff learn to use the tools and adjust their behavior and processes accordingly, to seamlessly integrate BIM into their everyday workflow. This is not unlike what happened to quality or safety in construction firms who used to have specialists, but have evolved to realize these are everyone’s responsibility. Firm culture shifts. BIM for the sake of itself begins to dissolve into modified workflows better adapted, integrated, and supported by rich data access and exchange. The right processes and tools are widely adopted, BIM is integrated with the back office, and dashboards for tracking project status become reliable tools for managing the business. Design and construction professionals simply use BIM as an integral part of what they’ve previously done; only now they do it better. This stage is where firms truly reap the benefits promised by BIM, for designers, builders, and owners alike.
Who was BIM?
In 2013, it’s safe to say we’re far from this final “sunset” stage of celebrity. The adoption curve is still climbing, and will do so for a while. But this, too, shall pass: not long ago PMs had administrative support staff type, proofread, and mail, and fax their correspondence, but democratizing and integrating email has clearly changed that practice for the better. Once BIM is truly and fully integrated into every facet of professional practice, once we’ve adopted a BIM-enabled 21st
-century mind set towards project delivery, will it simply “go away”? Some would argue it will become utterly invisible to professional practice, while others predict it will simply evolve into the next great thing. In any case, we’ve got a long way to go before BIM stamps its footprints on the design and construction walk of fame, and retires from the silver screen.
Until then, which stage of adoption is your firm at? What can you
do to help graduate your firm forward into the next phase?