We don’t need BIM, do we?

IMAG0360 (1)We need BIM (Building Information Modelling/Management), don’t we?

Certainly from the attendance at the annual RICS BIM Conference, held on 12th February 2015, you would appreciate the significance of BIM and so be left in little doubt that we do indeed need BIM. This was the fourth RICS BIM conference and having participated in the previous events, it is evident the BIM journey has well and truly begun for many people in the industry. This term “BIM Journey” was used constantly throughout the day and it’s one I want to focus on in this post.

Where have we come from on this journey? Where is it going? And what if you’re not on board; do you even need to be?

1502_Stocks_Mind the gapWhere have we come from? At the first conference, there was a lot of enthusiasm and interest into what BIM is all about; but as the keynote speaker indicated to me, it’s not until people start complaining about BIM that he would know people are starting to get the message about the challenges involved. David Philp advocated everyone should get on board the BIM Train before it left the station, the message being start now or you’ll get left behind! In 2013 and 2014 it was more of the same; lots of enthusiasm mixed with presentations from those that were gaining experience of BIM.

For me in 2015, it was the excellent live demonstrations from Trevor Woods and Cathy Molloy that not only highlighted the practical challenges of using BIM, but also how far some people have progressed on their BIM journey.

So where is this BIM Journey going?

I was drafting this post whilst commuting into London and it made realise that the analogy of journey is really important. Would I prefer not to commute, to take this train journey? Probably, but it’s a necessary journey that I have to make as I’m required to be in the University to teach my students. In other words, it’s a journey that helps me fulfil my aims, which are my contractual obligations to my employer and, ultimately, to get paid! I do have other journey options, but the train is the most efficient option at the current time and will be until Scotty becomes a reality (one for you trekkies out there!) Moreover, I can use the commuting time to do other activities such as blog writing on my tablet.

So like my commute, BIM would appear to be a necessary journey; in which case you should ask yourself: where are you heading? How are you maximising the benefits of the journey?

To answer my first question, do we need BIM, you need to ask yourself what you are trying to achieve; what are your outcomes?

I would suggest that, if it isn’t already, BIM will 1502_Stocks_Big_picturebecome an integral component of the project life cycle. As Terry Stocks described in his keynote, BIM is an important part in the bigger picture alongside improving client capability, developing collaborative procurement practices, getting early contractor engagement, soft landings, benchmarking etc.All of which contribute to delivering better outcomes for clients and the supply chain. Is this where you are heading?

Whilst David Philp urged us to get on board the BIM train, I would also suggest that there is more than one train and it’s certainly not too late. But start your journey by being clear of your outcomes, and then look to get onboard your BIM journey as soon as possible.

Slides used with permission of Terry Stocks from his Keynote talk at 2015 RICS BIM Conference

Government Construction Strategy

What’s happened to the Government Construction Strategy?060111_1314_GovernmentC1.png

Firstly, I have to say I like the Government Construction Strategy (The Strategy). It was concise in articulating

  • the need for change,
  • proposing what needs to be done and
  • formulating an implementation plan.

In doing so, The Strategy was practicing what it preached by demonstrating clear leadership, one of its important tenets. Separate task groups implemented the plan and after 12 months, there was an update report. At the same time, Building held the first of what has become an annual Construction Summit, with the principal aim of coordinating the key messages and progress of the Strategy.

As I’ve blogged on the Strategy (previous posts link) and I wanted to review progress; not least because as we enter 2015, I was reminded that the principal objective of The Strategy was to reduce costs by up to 20% by the end of this Parliament (i.e. May 2015).

So what’s happened with the implementation of the Strategy?

In short, a lot has happened. Each task group has delivered outputs, with reports available on the Government website. The BIM Task Group has been the most visible with their own micro-site and twitter feed and has been instrumental in setting standards and coordinating the development of industry capability. Progress with procurement has seen the production of guidance on new procurement models and numerous trial projects take place. Moreover, work of the procurement task group has merged with Infrastructure UK who have *quietly* produced some outstanding documents on improving delivery in relation to the Project Initiation Routemap. And there is plenty more positive progress on, amongst other things, soft landings, developing client capability.

However, it’s unclear to me how the Government has done in relation to its original target for cost (and carbon) reduction. The 12 month update indicates savings, but there is, to my knowledge, no subsequent publication that clearly articulates progress. Don’t we need to understand how the Government has actually performed against the key objectives?

I have previously challenged whether The Strategy would result in any lasting change? On this note, in the interview with Stef Stefanou (£ Building) he lamented that despite being an industrial reformer, he no longer believes the industry will ever change. It’s my concern, that whilst there are persuasive arguments for change, we are a long way from reaching the tipping point of a more productive way of delivery.

The Strategy is a good document, a lot of good work that has taken place, however the question has be “how much influence has it really had?”

Do we need another Contract Form?

As one lawyer said “if two lawyers are in the same room, you’re unlikely to get agreement”; so what happens when you have a room full of lawyer-folk!


Let’s cut to chase, my conclusion from the NBS Bond Dickinson briefing “Understanding Construction Collaboration Contracts” is that the lawyers aren’t that impressed with current collaborative forms.

But if collaboration is called for, aren’t collaborative contracts essential?

Ever since Latham constructed the team and Egan rethought construction, built environment professionals have been urged to find a different way of working.  If clients are to have successful projects, improvement must be through COLLABORATION!  Ad infinitum the message is that adversarial ways don’t cut the mustard anymore; the latest including the Government’s new procurement routes with collaboration at the heart; and if BIM is to achieve it’s full potential, “the only way is collaborate“.

I attended the NBS Bond Dickinson briefing Understanding Construction Collaboration Contracts because I recognise that if construction needs to collaborate, then collaborative forms of contract must be adopted. [Review my storify]

The briefing reviewed 4 contracts; three I knew about and one whose arrival had recently passed me by!  The NEC3 is 20 years old; it’s been around a while and is being used.  The PPC2000 has it’s plaudits and is shown in a favourable light by the Government Trial Projects.  The JCT adopted the Be Collaborative form as its own and hence we have the JCT Constructing Excellence form.  The new kid on the block is the CPC2013 (Complex Project Contract) authored by the CIOB.

NBS_UCCCx4The audience were treated to candid and informative series of presentations from principally lawyer-folk. My impression is that the lawyers aren’t that impressed with these collaborative forms. From their legal perspective, they didn’t appear to recognise the management rationale and instead focused on the fact that if the projects go wrong, the contracts will not stand up in Law; afterall what is collaboration in the eyes of the court! Certainly for anyone who attended the event, if they recommend a collaborative form potentially they could be held negligent given that barristers advised to stay well clear of one of the forms!

So I see we have a bit of stand-off.  We need collaborative forms, but what client advisors are/will be advising clients to use the current bunch?  In my opinion this is a pressing issue, and one that will affect the adoption of the new procurement routes and the implementation of BIM …

…. or shall we just leave the lawyers to have a reasonable disagreement!

This is a link to my Storify of the event.

Built environment education

Something isn’t working …

I’m relatively new to the world of academia (in the teaching sense that is) having been given the post of university lecturer in September 2010, so I’m finding my voice and slowly understanding the way things get done; and I’m coming to the conclusion things need to change.

Before I say more, I’ve been inspired to write by someone who I never met and who is, sadly, no longer with us. I’ve been inspired by the eulogy stating “there aren’t enough people who are prepared to challenge, consistently and persistently, in pursuit of a better built environment, a better world for future generations to enjoy“. I want to be one of those people.

My selective perception mode is currently picking up loads of vibes encouraging me to challenge the way we educate in the built environment. Below I will identify these vibes, but first I want to take you back a couple of years …

… and my first introduction into lecturing our future professionals of the built environment.

I was asked to lead a number of modules at levels 5 and 6 (this means years 2 and 3 for a full time undergraduate course). I was provided with some module aims and learning outcomes and told I had 36 hours of student contact time to fill, assignments to set that determined how well the students achieve the learning outcomes. Oh, I would also be marking those assignments.

Suffice to say, I have survived (I’m still there after all!) and more to the point I’m really enjoying my new found career.

Or is this the point; what is the purpose of my lecturing?

In my second year I started to appreciate that whilst I intrinsically wanted to be student-centred, I wasn’t. I’ve started to learn how to educate my students more effectively and I’ve started to understand how students learn, because I’ve been learning myself.

But something is not right:

  • Do we know if we provide graduates that employers want?
  • I teach the students what I think is important (based on learning outcomes obviously), set an assignment that I then mark!
  • I teach a piece of a jigsaw (the module), but have not really seen the whole picture! Do the students see the whole picture (which I original typed as hole picture; this might more apt!)
  • How do we integrate new things and ways of working into curricula? I’m challenging us to integrate BIM at the moment
  • Are we hamstrung by our accrediting bodies; we need our accrediting bodies as they provide an important validation (source of students), but we can’t adapt unless the accrediting bodies agree!

On top of my own experiences, I’ve learnt that:

  • Our students are the laziest in Europe1
  • The way we teach is outdated2
  • Children in the UK are some of the most pressurised, unhappy and commercially vulnerable in the world3

Having stated the negatives, I’m seeing a lot of positives too:

  • There is a significant amount of learning taking place in our approaches to education.
  • As with everything, education has not stood still over the past 60 years4
  • Enrichment helps students learn5,6,7 .

i.e. it can be different.

But relating this to the built environment, the vibes have come from:

  • Colleagues that recently visited Denmark and saw a different approach to educating built environment students.
  • The Building Futures Think Pieces, which was recommended to me by Sebastian Macmillian (one of the authors). I similarly would encourage everyone to read Sebastian’s view on education in built environment in 20 years.8
  • A debate held by Ryder Architecture that has created a blogsite: The Future of Built Environment Education & Practice9
  • Discussions with CIC Lifelong Learning director
  • And how are we going integrate BIM into our curriculum.
  • The debates in my own department about group work, the amount of assessment etc…

So I’m sensing a need for change and I’m sensing that I’m not alone.

I’ll write more on the specific drivers for change, but for now thanks for reading and feel free to add your comments.


Dedicated to the memory of Mel Starrs and a better world for future generations.


  1. Professor Graham Gibbs identified that students at UK universities studied (significantly) less than counterparts in European Universities Improving student learning through assessment and feedback in the new higher education landscape
  2. Sir Ken Robinson Changing Education Paradigms “The gene pool of education still dictates way we educate is still largely based on the system created for the Industrial Revolution and switches our kids off to learning” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U
  3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9357146/British-children-unhappiest-in-the-world-say-academics.html
  4. http://www.kaizen-training.com/tips/celebrating-the-diamond-jubilee
  5. Ravens Wood School
  6. University of Westminster Learning and Teaching Symposium 5th July 2012
  7. My son participated in a fantastic end of year 6 production called The Keymaster based on travelling through time to important dates in history. I bet the kids didn’t even realise they were learning history, but could tell me now things about 1066 up to the Suffragettes ets
  8. The Future of Architectural Education http://www.buildingfutures.org.uk/think/year/2012
  9. http://2012bee.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/future-of-built-environment-education.html?spref=tw

RICS BIM Conference

It should be patently obvious to everyone that attended the RICS BIM Conference (9th Feb’12) that the FUTURE is BIM.

My take on the day involves:

  • Trains
  • Disintermediation
  • Paul Morrell’s schadenfreude
  • Dinosaurs-in-waiting

As numerous presentations indicated the BIM-Train is leaving the platform and you need to get on board…

or get left behind.

In other words, the industry, but QS’s in particular have to recognise the threat classified by Simon Rawlinson as disintermediation. Which Simon describes as ‘other people doing what you currently do’. Plenty of examples were highlighted, but the recent demise of Kodak should be a lesson to all. (Simon explained that Kodak invented the digital camera, but failed to exploit the innovation for fear of killing their golden goose: traditional film!)

QS’s were constantly encouraged to realise the opportunity that BIM represents – although it’s not going to be easy to find, according to Simon. But essentially it means changing …

The QS should be ideally placed to significantly contribute to the hypothesis of the BIM Strategy to derive significant improvement in cost, value and carbon performance; this is what QS’s are about after all! However, listening to the presenters and in particular the client from John Lewis Partnership, it would appear QS’s don’t really understand cost (contractors do though!) and there was a constant plea to add-value; the implication being QS’s don’t!

Paul Fletcher enigmatically pleaded for change, chastising the industry for its pathetic use of information. Paul promoted systems thinking as an approach to understand what a client wants and to deliver value; lean is a sub-set of systems thinking and QS’s are systems thinkers, even if they don’t realise it! Paul also challenged everyone to consider what industry we’re in; and it’s not construction!

Paul Morrell has done his utmost to provide QS’s with the opportunity to promote their value-adding skills through the authoring of the Government’s Construction Strategy. Paul was optimistic for the future of QS’s, however I believe his most interesting comment was “he won’t be happy until he hears people being unhappy about BIM” (The Germans would describe this as schadenfreude). This says to me that until we stop cheer-leading about the importance of BIM and start realising the pain involved in implementing it, then we aren’t changing and we’re still on the platform.

Anyone that was not aware of the industry and listening to this conference would probably conclude that QS’s are dinosaurs-in-waiting. Whilst there was some cautious optimism, underneath it was a sombre message; was it the sounding of the death knell for the QS?

What is certain is the rallying cry has been sounded …

All aboard … all aboard the BIM-Train …

Thanks for reading,