Thursday, March 10, 2011

The day I met the Ambassador

This month, I had the great pleasure to be invited to a reception at the private residence of the Ambassador of Finland.  This was to be a forum to promote and enable communication centred on innovations in construction – specifically the development and adoption of BIM in the UK.

It was very interesting to be in the company of people who were all concerned and obviously deeply interested in the emergence of BIM and the potential for improvement to current processes that it could release.

Thanks must be made to Tekla and to the Finnish Embassy for allowing and enabling this gathering to take place.  For the uninitiated, Tekla are a leading light in the development of BIM solutions globally, and a visit to their website ( is definitely worthwhile.  Specifically, their new product (Bimsight) is available for free download from their website – a fantastic tool for BIM analysis and collaboration.

Readers of previous articles will by now recognise a trend whereby I am trying to initiate and encourage discussions and thought processes that might help us all to understand and realise the potential of this concept.

Back in October, I attempted to define BIM and break down this definition to make it relevant and applicable to UK construction activities (see ).  At the close of this piece, I made the following comment…

“Communication and collaboration, enabled by technology and harnessed by BIM could make the ideal of the fully integrated work process a reality over the coming decade.”

Not content with this, (and struggling to get feedback) I became concerned that I was understating the importance and potential of BIM.  In a following article ( I offered my thoughts for the future.  This time I closed with the following…

“With the potential to transform the construction industry as we know it through technology, develop our methodology to aspire to a new level of excellence and undertake a wave of exciting major projects, 2011 could represent a re-birth and renewal of construction in the UK.”

I have no doubt that the future of construction is a BIM enabled one, whether it be for design, analysis, estimation, manufacture, collaboration, workflow management, facilities management, financial planning, any other activity or all of these together.

It was a pleasure to be able to hear Paul Morrell OBE give a talk at the same evening, outlining some of his thoughts and points for wider discussion and consideration.  Furthermore, I find myself encouraged by the general tone of the presentation in that it reaffirms my own beliefs.

Near the opening of Paul Morrell’s presentation, a dramatic and definite statement was made…
“BIM is coming… soon”.

Little else really needs to be added to this for those who can appreciate BIM and how it can be leveraged to give rise to collaborative and integrated workflow processes for construction.
This month, we are expecting a report based on a current trial of BIM in government projects that is expected to recommend that BIM be used for future government projects.  The best estimate is that this mandate could take place over a five year timescale.  Obviously, there is a huge amount of work, investment and learning to be done by individuals, businesses and the industry as a whole before such a global change could be fully adopted.  A minimum one-year adoption period could be expected to allow this to take place.

Among the many good and thought provoking points raised by Paul Morrell (along with some of his slides) were the following, as things to be addressed by BIM…

The “silo problem” refers to the all-to-common problem of different teams and stakeholders being separated by virtual “walls” or barriers – contractual or organisational.  This leads to poor communication and increased risk of waste through non-collaboration.


 Reducing the number and value of “change orders”.  Better planning, integration and collaboration can lead to improved efficiencies for project delivery.  Fewer errors, alterations and reduced rework can all be a product of an integrated project method.


Readers of my most recent article ( may have given some thought to my notional ideas around the environmental benefits of BIM (although I had hoped for more of a discussion, given the grant-centred proposal contained in the piece).  Again, the issue of waste and carbon reduction was highlighted during the keynote presentation… 

“If cash is king, then carbon must be queen” – Paul Morrell.

In my earlier piece, I questioned whether there was merit in the thought of government grants towards BIM development and investment for UK companies.  The following slide from Paul Morrell’s presentation gives us some idea…

Unfortunately, this is the sad reality of today’s situation.  In fact, it seems that the government is likely to undergo a period of “negative asset building”, in that overall assets will be reduced and downsized rather than added to with new large-scale builds.

It is often the case that great innovations and progress in methodology can be achieved during times of financial hardship and austerity.   

On different occasions recently, I have read articles containing statements suggesting that non-adopters of BIM are likely to be those who are left behind on the as the construction industry moves into a new era of process management.

“BIM is coming… soon”