This post is about BIM Steps, those micro changes needed to implement Building Information Modelling within an organisation and then - by osmosis - throughout the whole industry. But before we introduce BIM Steps and in response to feedback received, I’ll partially revisit the BIM Stages topic (Episode 8) in an effort to invite more discussion.
BIM Adoption: Stages and Steps
The adoption of BIM by an organisation will not happen unintentionally and definitely not in a single giant leap. In fact, it will be deployed through intentional decisions passing through major milestones referred to as BIM Stages. These stages – if well defined - are very useful to understand BIM concepts and visions but are - on their own - not usable in implementation. Further subdivisions are needed: smaller incremental changes that each organisation can make to reach each major Stage, mature within it and then attempt to reach another. These ‘feetstones’ or micro objectives are called BIM Steps. The difference between BIM Stages and Steps is that stages are radical or transformational changes while steps are incremental/evolutionary changes or maturity levels.
But why do we need to define stages to start with?
Update August 26, 2015: This post is now available in Italian through the good efforts of Lorenzo Nissim of the Institute for BIM Italy (iBIMi). Article in English continues below:
Need for BIM Stages
BIM Stages - as introduced in BIM ThinkSpace Episode 8 - are part of a ‘BIM Framework’ and an underlying ‘BIM Theory’. I will not burden the blog readers with these but I want to highlight that Stage numbers, their definitions and underlying structures are based on ‘something’ more elaborate than a personal experience. The importance of BIM Stages lies in their observed ability to facilitate BIM deployment within organisations and – more generally - allow different industry stakeholders to:
- Agree on a common vision (any defined vision can be agreed upon; undefined visions cannot...)
- Generate a simplified implementation roadmap for organisations to follow
- Simplify BIM terminology around fewer headings
- Identify incremental and achievable steps between major stages
- Provide benchmarks for business improvement
- Allow organisations to assess themselves and others
To generate the above optimistic deliverables, BIM Stages have been structured using five relentless rules – stages must be:
- Well defined (non-overlapping): BIM Stages should be unambiguous and non-contradictory. For example, an implementation step cannot exist in two Stages at the same time.
- Generically Applicable: BIM Stages should apply equally to all disciplines, across all project lifecycle phases (Design, Construction and Operations) and throughout the industry’s hierarchy. So, whether you’re an owner, architect, engineer, contractor, sub-contractor or facility manager – BIM Stages should apply equally to you. They should also apply equally to teams, organisations and the whole Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Operations (AECO) industry.
- Revolutionary (non-evolutionary): BIM Stages are transformational or radical changes NOT incremental changes, usage types or maturity levels.
- Linear: BIM Stages are logical progressions and cannot be skipped.
- Cumulative: deliverables of one BIM Stage can be carried forward to the next Stage
Three BIM Stages: a reminder
As a reminder (please read Episode 8 before continuing), BIM implementation or BIM maturity levels can be subdivided into three consecutive stages:
- BIM Stage 1: object-based modelling or MODELLING for short
- BIM Stage 2: model-based collaboration or just COLLABORATION
- BIM Stage 3: network-based integration or just INTEGRATION
Figure 1: BIM Stages - definitions
Which finally brings us back to BIM Steps, the main topic of this post...
BIM Steps: an introduction
The distance separating each of the above BIM Stages is quite large judging by the amount of changes expected at both organisational and industry levels. However, the passage from Pre-BIM to BIM Stage 1 and through each of the three stages is populated by many smaller steps that can be identified and thus fulfilled by willing organisations. These steps are either pre-empt a stage or are maturity levels within each of the stages.
Different step sets
The collection of steps that each organisation needs to fulfil to reach or mature within a BIM Stage across the continuum from pre-BIM to Integrated Project Delivery is driven by different perquisites for, challenges within and deliverables of each stage. It is therefore important to identify these different step sets:
- A steps from pre-BIM Status (fixed starting point) leading to BIM Stage 1
- B steps from BIM Stage 1 maturing towards BIM Stage 2
- C steps from BIM Stage 2 maturing towards BIM Stage 3
- D steps are maturity levels within Stage 3 leading to Integrated Project Delivery1 – a continuously evolving target!
Figure 2: BIM Stages – step sets
Different Step types
Although many attributes of BIM innovation appear technological in nature, most changes demanded by its implementation do in fact relate to processes and policies (Episode 7). As an example, before achieving ‘database integration’ - an attribute of BIM Stage 3 - certain standards, procedures and data channels need to be available. Therefore, in order to generate adequate guides to fulfil implementation steps, it is important to differentiate between these challenges as each demands a different approach.
There are three types of steps leading to or transitioning between BIM stages:
Technology Steps are milestones in software, hardware and networks. For example, the availability of a BIM tool allows the migration from drafting-based to object-based workflow (BIM Stage 1)
Process Steps are Leadership, Infrastructure, Human Resources and Products/Services. For example, collaboration procedures and database-sharing skills are necessary to allow model-based collaboration (BIM Stage 2).
Policy Steps are contractual, regulatory and preparatory changes. For example, alliance-based and risk-sharing contractual agreements are pre-requisites to achieving integrated practices (BIM Stage 3).
Figure 3: BIM Stages – step sets
This staged and stepped approach to BIM implementation will benefit organisations as it allows them to optimise their efforts and prioritise their actions. Each BIM Stage will act as (1) a place to start from, (2) a goal to aspire to or (3) a milestone along the way to Integrated Project Delivery (or whatever the industry considers to be its ultimate BIM-driven goal). The identification of smaller steps between stages will allow organisations to plan their next move, select their own change-pace and thus reach their aspired maturity levels with much less anguish, cost and frustration...
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Updated Aug 26, 2015: A video is now available explaining BIM Steps on the BIM Framework's YouTube channel:
Updated Dec 1, 2015: please note that the term Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) in the BIM Stages and BIM Steps models has been replaced with viDCO (virtually integrated Design, Construction and Operation). This is caused by changes in IPD's connotations that now refers to a type of contractual arrangement rather than a long-term vision. Thank you.