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Does the Commercial Construction Industry Need the BIM SAT's?

Posted by Mark Sawyer on Wed, Mar 11, 2009 @ 06:07 PM
My seventeen year old son, a junior in high school, is in the midst of his PSAT's, SAT's, ACT's and all manner of prep for what will largely determine his college choices next year. (For the benefit of my international colleagues - these are standard exams in the US that are used by our colleges and universities to determine a student applicant's suitability for enrollment. An exam score is not the only factor considered when a college accepts or rejects a student's application, but it is unquestionably one of the most important factors informing their decision. The higher the student's score, the further down the road he is to "Accepted" at his college of choice.)


So knowing that I'm a BIM-for-Construction geek, you can see where this is going.  Thankfully (and I mean that on multiple levels, :)) there are now many builders around the world with deep experience in BIM. And there is a rapidly growing appreciation for that expertise within the owner/developer community. But when choosing a contractor how does an Owner ascertain the difference between a builder who talks a good BIM story (my son would call these firms, the "posers") and one who actually practices what they market (continuing with my family's dad would call these firms, the "genuine article")? You have to admit, in the pursuit phase a poser can make his facile stuff look pretty good.


Well if the Owner is the equivalent of the College Admissions Office - deciding who to accept and who to reject - then the pursuing contractor is the equivalent of the student hoping to score well on the entrance exam. Don't we need some kind of scoring mechanism so that the posers and the genuine articles are easily differentiated? The manufacturing supply chain did this with ISO9000 in their pursuit of constantly improving quality. The software industry did this with CMM in order to bring some science to bear in qualifying vendors and software outsourcers. (Version 1.0 of the Capability Maturity Model, or CMM, was developed by the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. SEI continues to expand the model for process improvement. And, perhaps closer to all of us, the US Green Building Council did this with LEED rating systems.


What do you think? I'm asking builders, architects, owners/developers, engineers, construction managers, and subcontractors alike. Should we leave one's "BIM Maturity" or "BIM Rating" open to persuasive argument, or should we entertain the idea of an independent rating or certification? Such a score would not be the only factor considered when an owner awards a contract, but it could be one of the more important factors informing their decision. The higher the contractor's score, the further down the road he is to "Awarded." 


I know my son wishes he could talk his way into Dartmouth. And there is a reason it doesn't work that way.


BIM certification testing


At Vico, we've the BIM Master Class Series to help GCs "cram" for a BIM test.  It's a 7-session series for GCs and Owners to learn more about BIM technologies, methodologies, and best practices, including an in-depth look at contracts, coordination, model-based scheduling, and model-based estimating.  We'll continue to add courses to this series, so stay tuned.


If you want to see how your firm stacks up across seven areas of BIM expertise, please considering calculating your BIM Score.  And let us know if your score is what you expected.


So what say you?  How should the industry reward/distinguish GCs who make an honest investment in BIM?  Please offer your comments or feel free to email me directly.


If you're interested in this topic, you'll also want to research:

Calculator: Determine Your Firm's BIM Score

Blog: BIM Is Bigger Than You Think

Blog: Granite Countertops and BIM

Blog: How Does Your Firm Stack Up with BIM?

Blog: Talk the Talk AND Walk the Walk with BIM

Blog: Differentiating Your Firm with 5D BIM

Blog: BIM Doesn't Come in a Box

Blog: 5D BIM Versus 50-Yard Line Tickets

Blog: The Top 10 Reasons to Do 5D BIM

Blog: The Top 10 Ways to Derail Your BIM Initiatives

Webinar: The BIM Master Class Series

Webpage: The D's of BIM

Webpage: The 5D BIM Checklist

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See chapter of the NBIMS and read about the existing I-CMM and proposed certification plan.

posted @ Thursday, March 12, 2009 7:06 PM by Pat Suermann

Something along the lines of a PMP certification with a focus on BIM or Virtual Construction could benefit the client in making a selection. There's more to it than just the BIM though, how the BIM is used throughout the project delivery process is what needs to be rated.  
When you bring a best value analysis or qualifications based assessment into the award decision process the client is pretty much at the mercy of the proposer's statements regarding their qualifications if there is no mechanism to demonstrate successful application on multiple projects.  
Having a certification where the firm has demonstrated application of BIM or Virtual Construction in the real world, and can produce evidence of that application, would be beneficial to the purchasing decision makers. 
That leads to the need for the client's understanding of what the benefits of the certification are. If they don't perceive a benefit then the certification can be perceived as mere "marketing fluff" and will be discounted or simply ignored.  
The client's understanding of the life cycle benefits of BIM should then lead to their specifying the ultimate uses of the BIM that can modify the manner in which the BIM is developed so that the future use of the information is better facilitated.  
In the AIA IPD guide there is reference to a Integrated Project Delivery Coordinator. In my mind that firm would have the Certified IPD specialists on their staff. The certification of these folks would serve as evidence of the firms capabilities to facilitate the management of a BIM based project delivery.

posted @ Friday, March 13, 2009 9:27 AM by Jay Morgan

Hi Pat. Good to hear from you. I will check out the I-CMM cert plan. I am not familiar with this. And Jay's comments are spot on. It is about much more than the BIM. The BIM's use throughout the delivery process is key -- and the processes/best practices here are key differentiators. Thanks for the PMP suggestion, Jay. We will do some homework based on your comments. Thx. 

posted @ Saturday, March 14, 2009 7:16 PM by Mark Sawyer

Dear Mark, 
Thanks! Sorry for the short/terse post earlier, but I was typing on my phone! Anyway, see Chapter 4.2 of the NBIMS, and specifically the last part. It spells out a plan to help sustain the committe similar to how the USGBC is sustained by LEED AP tests. Also, a good article for how to apply the I-CMM can be seen here: 
Hope this helps! Looking forward to working with Vico Office! 
-Pat Suermann

posted @ Monday, March 16, 2009 2:13 PM by Pat Suermann

I've just enrolled in Stanford's CIFE Virtual Design and Construction Certificate Program, <a> Will be attending this coming September and will let you know how it goes. 

posted @ Thursday, June 11, 2009 8:35 AM by Jay Morgan

Hi Mark 
Really enjoyed reading your post on SAT's for BIM! Funnily enough, I just blogged about the same thing;( 
We've been in discussion with the AGC about the logistics of helping to create a formal accreditation to accompany their BIM courseware. We release a new testing format - i-Skills AEC - in the Fall, which is ideally suited to the material. Co-incidentally, we also have a diary note to contact Vico Software in a couple of months, as our customers are asking for a test module covering some of the Vico portfolio! Maybe something we can discuss? 
Thanks again for the enjoyable blogging! 
Kind regards 
Rory Vance 

posted @ Thursday, August 20, 2009 2:23 PM by Rory Vance

Hi Mark. This is something we have been pushing for over a number of years now, so would be all for it. We also went down the road of getting the education establishment involved through Nash Dawood at Teeside, who carried out a study that was published a couple of years back. In this he attempted to set parameters against which BIM could be measured, as that is the biggest headache in terms of ratings.

posted @ Thursday, May 13, 2010 2:31 AM by Chris Allen

I think a BIM certification could work, but has to be done in a way that truly forces people to do things better. 
You used the example of LEED, well let me tell you something about that. I was recently attending a class on Green Construction in Germany, where they have developed their own certification system DGNB. Besides learning that DGNB is the highest (most demanding) certification system, we also learned that a "LEED certified" building would not even be legally allowed to build by German regulations. 
My point is, if we go for a BIM certification system, we need to make it demanding so companies need to work hard to get it, otherwise it will become just a way to collect money.

posted @ Thursday, May 13, 2010 3:24 AM by Marti

Hi Mark, I find it interesting that the discussion tends to focus on the measurement of BIM capabilities vs. the measurement of the Clients desired outcome, their goals.  
In addition to being a Construction Manager and will officially graduate from Stanford's VDC Certificate program next month I'm also a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer so presumably can deliver to a customer a software solution that will satisfy their needs. But if my experience does not fit with the needed expertise to realize the solution I will do the client a disservice and give the professsional certification designation a bad name. We need to be careful about how experience is demonstrated, application is proved and ultimately certification granted. Building a BIM is easy, building a BIM for the purpose of delivering an efficiently scheduled, well coordinated project with zero field RFI's and change orders less than 1% of construction costs is a bit more challenging. Look at all the specialized functions that are needed to do that: model authoring, estimating, scheduling, procurement, coordination of subcontracts, etc.. My point is that one certification can't cover all things BIM, there's just too many applications of BIM that are important to realizae the benefits across the project delivery spectrum.  
If the GC does BIM, for what purpose do they do it? Most, if honest, would say to enhance their bottom line, that's why we're in business. But to the Owner who is funding the project how do they also derive benefit form the application of model based processes (BIM, VDC, IPD, ETC...) to enhance the project delivery so that all participants can benefit. GC's will need to measure metrics that can prove the benefit of BIM to the project so that they can deliver a higher quality product with a smaller organization and streamlined process. If they can prove a better delivery process presumably they can win more work in any form of competition. 

posted @ Thursday, May 13, 2010 9:04 AM by Jay Morgan

Jay, I see you completed the Stanford VDC certificate that you mentioned last year. Congrats. And regarding your comment, you remind us of an important point. Measurement against the Client's desired outcomes is THE point, isn't it. While there are efficiencies to be gained from virtual construction, I'm in the camp that says a better OWNER EXPERIENCE and the subsequent impact on the builder's differentiation, brand, and top line is the reason this stuff goes beyond a fad. Anything a builder can do to deliver a better Owner Experience is just too good an idea to pass. It kicks off a virtuous circle that encompasses those tactical aspects like employee morale, recruiting top talent, operational profit and predictability, and overall "capability." It's not about tech puffery.... it's about a better Owner Experience and then letting the word out that your firm performs.

posted @ Thursday, May 13, 2010 1:34 PM by Mark Sawyer

Lots of organisations claim they are "doing" BIM or "IPD" but very few fully embrace the BIM philosophy. They do it mainly for marketing, publicity and internal reasons. 
Generally they are reluctant to openly share BIM models with others on the project.  
In my opinion, this is what I call Selfish BIM

posted @ Wednesday, November 17, 2010 3:32 AM by Bill Bowmar

When are we going to see BIM software suppliers embrace the full "constructed asset" lifecycle 
Green field / brown field, through all construction activities, back to green field / brown field.

posted @ Wednesday, November 17, 2010 3:36 AM by Bill Bowmar

A quick way to determine what a firms capabilities are is to ask to see a job description for the BIM manager.If the BIM manager is not the one driving then they are not utilizing BIM

posted @ Saturday, November 20, 2010 3:40 PM by Charles Marion

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