Technology and construction: In the past, these two fields often were not compatible, and sometimes mutually exclusive. But, much has changed during the past decade.

One of the most notable changes was the advent of BIM. Phrases such as clash detection, coordination, BIM for preconstruction, model-based cost estimation, prefabrication and facilities management are now commonplace. Almost everyone appears to accept the benefits of using BIM.

So, the $64,000 (or $64 million) questions are:
  • Why aren’t more owners contractually requiring the use of BIM? 
  • Why aren’t architects and engineers collaborating with contractors on BIM?
  • How can AEC industry professionals bring some structure to the chaotic BIM process?
Challenges owners face in implementing BIM for project delivery and facilities management go beyond basic resistance to change.

The Perception of Increased Cost
Facility owners and even many AEC firms perceive BIM as a tool that increases the cost of a project. This perception is exacerbated by the fact that training staff on this emerging and evolving technology, and its processes and tools, requires additional financial investment.

Industry and business leaders see BIM and other technological innovations as investments with clear and measurable expectations of their return on that investment.

Lack of Understanding of the True Benefits of the Technology
Investment in BIM—when taking into account hardware, software, licensing, training and learning curve—can reach six figures. Many AEC firms are willing to pull the trigger because they are actually using it to make themselves more efficient. For public owners, such an investment is hard to justify without tangible numbers to back up the ROI. These owners want to see the “real proof” that BIM can make their projects more successful and their teams more efficient. They need the numbers before they can recommend BIM’s usage within their organizations.

Experience suggests AEC firms save money when using BIM. For example, according to a facilities assessment performed by Los Angeles Community College District, on average, using BIM for facilities maintenance and a work order system results in a potential savings of 10 percent or more on each system ticket.

Another study from the Building Owners and Managers Association calculates that the average annual operating cost for a building is $8.05 per square foot. Out of that, repair and maintenance costs range from $1.87 to $2.01 per square foot annually. As such, a 300,000-square-foot school or college building racked up as much as $600,000 in repair and maintenance annually. Using BIM models loaded with facilities maintenance data, there is a potential to save 10 percent, or $60,000 annually, per building of this size. This cost savings has the ability to significantly impact the budget of any school district or university system when thinking in terms of the millions of square feet requiring maintenance during the 50 to 60-year life of the buildings.

However, hard data illustrating savings from BIM during preconstruction or construction is hard to come by. The intangible benefit owners are getting is in projects that run more smoothly, and are more likely to be on schedule and within budget. BIM provides owners with a higher level of confidence in project success, but there is no proof that they can save money by using BIM for project delivery.

There is the sense that BIM provides added value; however, it is hard to quantify or even define. What is valuable to K-12 or higher education owners? For instance, clash detection/coordination is of great value to the AEC firms, but what is the value for owners? AEC firms know they can raise the quality on a project for owners if they strategically implement BIM in project delivery. They just need to prove that value in the metrics that resonate with owners. BIM has to be presented and sold as an opportunity to be efficient and more profitable or less costly.

Lack of Established Expectations
Many owners expect AEC firms to collaboratively provide BIM services with a simple verbal agreement. Owners’ lack of understanding or acceptance of the full value of BIM services contributes to the failure to provide clear expectations. It is difficult for owners to provide direction and clarify desired results if they cannot fully appreciate the value of the service to begin with. This lack of direction or definition of required deliverables can result in reduced accountability and inconsistency in BIM work products from AEC firms.

A team is only as good as the weakest player. This is especially true in circumstances requiring all players to work together and share work products, as is the case with BIM implementations.

Bringing Structure to the Chaotic BIM Process
Providing specific performance measurements to owners is the starting point. AEC firms implementing BIM need to track performance and results. Key performance indicators can tell the BIM story and the value of BIM for all parties.

Additionally, the AEC industry needs to acknowledge and embrace the value of BIM for facilities management, as this is the lowest hanging fruit for owners. AEC firms should no longer view substantial completion as the endpoint. The final product is a process that allows the owner’s facilities management team to save time and money by utilizing the models for decision-making.

Experienced leadership from the AEC community is needed in order to educate owners on what true and complete BIM implementation can mean for them. What does the process look like, what steps do they need to take to make it work, what investment will be required for them to gain the most value from it and what returns should they expect to receive? AEC firms need to provide the answers if owners are expected to implement the process. 


ABC South Texas Spearheads BIM Forum

In an effort to provide greater exposure for the BIM process and garner industry support, the South Texas Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and Joeris General Contractors partnered with the San Antonio chapters of the Council of Educational Facility Planners and American Institute of Architects to survey K-12 and higher education design, engineering and construction services purchasers in the state of Texas. Twenty-three different entities responded.

The majority of owners agreed that BIM has a significant impact on project delivery. It increases collaboration, communication, quality and effective decision-making, and improves preconstruction and construction management. It reduces rework, the number of change orders, project cost and delivery time.

Yet, a significant number of K-12 and higher education organizations are still not using BIM. Many owners indicated plans to implement BIM for design, construction management and facilities management within two to five years. Additionally, a majority of owners (75 percent) do not include BIM requirements in contracts or RFPs; they expect AEC firms to work collaboratively using BIM tools on their own.

The top challenge preventing owners from implementing BIM for project delivery is cost. On the facilities management side, the biggest challenges are training facilities staff, interoperability between tools they use versus BIM models, and commitment from management.

One-fourth of the respondents believe AEC firms will initiate the use of BIM on their own, so there is no need to contractually
require it—resulting in a fragmented implementation process because there is little to no direction from the owner regarding desired BIM outcomes or deliverables. 

As a next step, ABC South Texas and representatives from Joeris General Contractors are currently developing a BIM Forum that will include technical experts as well as other stakeholders such as building owners, architects and engineers. This group will continue to work toward identifying potential solutions for the challenges identified, as well as ways to assist owners and AEC firms in the strategic implementation of BIM and other innovative technologies. Those interested in the forum should contact ABC South Texas Chapter President Steve Schultz at steve@abcsouthtexas.org.


Anand “Andy” Gajbhiye is BIM manager and Angela Cardwell is chief marketing officer at Joeris General Contractors, Ltd., San Antonio, Texas. For more information, visit joeris.com.