Four Lessons Learned at the Building Content Summit
This was my third and arguably the most interesting Building Content Summit (BCS). After the first summit in Northern Virginia in 2015 and Scottsdale last year, I was excited to travel north to Toronto for 2017. It’s a great city and made the summit that much better. I always enjoy meeting others in the BIM space and comparing notes. Everyone in attendance has a slightly different reason for attending:
AECs: The Architects (represented by heavyweights such as Perkins+Will, HDR, Stantec, Cannon Design and Smith Group JJR) were there largely to understand best BIM practices. How are other firms using BIM? Also, what key changes in technology from vendors can make their “BIM life” easier? Major contractor organizations like Turner Construction were also present, trying to communicate how they were using BIM and what they wanted and needed from Architects and Manufacturers.
Manufacturers: They want to connect to the AEC community and be a part of the building plan. Boiled down, it’s about trying to be part of the basis of design or be specified to generate more sales and greater marketshare.
Technology players (such as Concora): there to show the AEC community what tools we have to offer and to best understand both the Manufacturer’s wants and needs as well as those of the AECs who are the heavy users of our products.
Here are my top four “A-HA!” moments, I’d like to share them with you.
1. BIM as a non-negotiable for Contractors.
While it’s true that our friends across the pond have more quickly adopted using BIM from cradle to grave, it’s encouraging to hear some US contractors, such as Jeffrey Pinheiro (aka “The Revit Kid“) of Turner Construction spell it out so clearly. The question was posed to Jeff: How in the world do you get these sub[contractor]s to use level 400 [constructibility] BIM??” Jeff responded:
“If you want to work on a Turner project, you’ll do it. If you don’t want to work with Turner, you won’t.”
Incredibly strong words. The general assumption to date was that the only pressure to adopt BIM usage was coming from the Architects. More and more we are seeing multiple entities within the building chain mandate it. Here, an industry leading Contractor in Turner Construction was.
2. There’s still passion for BIM as the Rosetta Stone.
One presentation hit on the fact that we, as an industry, still don’t have one core group of standards that everyone follows. The argument was that manufacturers believe their products are special in certain ways and want to ensure that they differentiate whenever they see a competitive advantage – which I can understand.
Count me in the group that’s squarely in the corner for universal standards. It’s one of the reasons the group was built in the first place, and as anyone who has ever been in the building construction ecosystem can tell you, the number one enemy is poor communication. BIM offers a universal understanding of what it is, and what you’re doing with it. I thought Jim Conger from Dodge Data & Analytics said it perfectly:
“It’s about time we all spoke the same language.”
3. Architects want to communicate with Manufacturers… when the time is right.
A real eye-opener for me was a roundtable discussion I was a part of where I spoke to Architects from some leading firms. They had no problem at all letting the Manufacturers know that they were using their BIM / digital assets in the planning phase. In fact, they welcomed the communication. The catch? Timing. An Architect from Cannon Design put it this way:
“We’re happy to share the information and have a conversation when the time is right [however]…we object to being approached too early in the process.”
The key take-away here for me is this: you don’t want to jump down anyone’s throat just because you know that a project is going on. If they’re in the mode where they’re starting to examine objects to specify, that’s a better time to have a conversation.
4. Architects aren’t patient with Manufacturers.
It’s well known that Architects and Specifiers want to get their BIM content directly from the Manufacturer’s website. They know it’s the most accurate and don’t have to worry about someone pointing the finger at them down the line claiming that they used the wrong model. What wasn’t known was just how important ease of use was for this group.
Architect Chris Schaeffer was painfully blunt with a message to the Manufacturers:
“I need to find what I need to find immediately on the Manufacturer’s website. If I don’t find it quickly, I go to the next Manufacturer.”
The clear message here is that it’s not enough to just have BIM on the Manufacturer’s website, it has to be easily accessible and offer a great user experience for the AEC – or they’ll go to a Manufacturer that can provide that BIM to them…immediately.
BIM continues to evolve, and how the Manufacturers, AECs, Specifiers and Building Owners use the digital tool is fascinating. One thing we can say for sure: BIM has never had more momentum and purpose than what it does today in the United States.