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Is There an East/West BIM Divide?


From where I sit in Vico’s Miami, Florida office, I see what I will dare to call an East/West divide on BIM adoption across the United States.


From my vantage point, I see the West Coast thriving with new projects - from complex hospitals to new high tech company campuses to transportation hubs to public works projects – and they are all using 5D BIM.  Not only were the projects won by GCs who are highly proficient in Virtual Construction, but they are being planned, executed, and tracked with Vico Office.


However, on the East Coast, I hear a lot of crickets.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredible examples of 5D BIM coming through loud and clear at Cranshaw in Massachusetts, at Turner in NYC, and Hoar Construction in Alabama.  But for the most part, the East Coast is woefully lagging the West.


2D 3D 4D 5D 6D BIM at MathWorks

Caption: One particularly compelling project on the East Coast is the new MathWorks campus expansion in Boston being led by Cranshaw Construction.  With Vico's Coordination Resolution service, additional deliverables include 2D installation drawings and a 6D BIM model for facilities management


I’ve been trying to divine some possible reasons, but why do you think there is an East/West divide?


  1. The tightening of seismic requirements in the West created a need for a lot of re-construction and leveraging 5D BIM was found to be the most cost effective way to do it?
  2. California was the first state to realize that gluing together point solutions didn't make much sense; but integrated coordination, scheduling, and estimating with Vico did?
  3. Universities from the western states have won the annual Associated Schools of Construction Management BIM competition for four years in a row using Vico products.  Are there are fewer schools in the East providing construction management programs?
  4. Fewer labor unions to contend with out West versus East?
  5. Because of Silicon Valley’s influence, the West is just more tech savvy than the East?
  6. Contract types are pre-dominantly different in the East with more hard bids and it’s perceived (albeit incorrectly) that BIM cannot be used in a hard bid scenario?
  7. Lots of Design Assist projects in the West with BIM requirements that are not common in the East.
  8. This was a quote written about Steve Jobs “The people who invented the twenty-first century were pot-smoking, sandal-wearing hippies from the West Coast like Steve, because they saw differently...The hierarchical systems of the East Coast, England, Germany, and Japan do not encourage this different thinking.”
  9. The West just likes saving time and money and the Easterners don’t?


I really can’t believe the last one is true, but would really like to understand the reasons why there is a significant delta.  If you have an insight you’d like to share, please comment at the bottom of this blog.


There is change on the horizon, though.  Owners are requesting the use of 5D BIM more and more. This is part of an RFP for a recent huge project in Broward County, Florida.  Just take a moment to read through it and see if your firm can deliver on the all the points…


BIM contract requirements language


It sounds to me like this Owner wants a whole lot of Vico Office!  First, Vico Office allows you to work with all the popular BIM-authoring platforms like Revit, ArchiCAD, Tekla, even SketchUp, CAD-Duct, IFC files, and 3D DWGs.  Next, Vico Office serves up clash detection and coordination.  With the coordinated models, we can establish the location breakdown structures and location systems for individual trades.  This means we can process the quantities by location.  With these quantities by location and productivity rates from our subs (garnered from pull scheduling sessions or their bid packages), we can calculate task durations.  And by simply associating schedule tasks with their line items in the cost plan, we have a fully resource- and cost-loaded schedule even at a very early stage.  Brilliant, huh?


If you want to be poised to satisfy Owner’s conditions like this, please give me a call.  I’ve seen first-hand how companies are winning new business and successfully delivering it.  The early adopters in the West have been reaping the rewards for a long time.


It’s the future, like it or not, and it’s never too late to get involved.  Luckily for GCs and CMs on the East Coast, there are huge benefits to starting BIM for Construction now as adoption is still slow and the early bird catches the worm!


My colleagues have penned some articles on what it takes to get started with BIM. 

Blog: 5 Pieces of Advice for GCs Considering BIM

Blog: Walk the Walk, Don't Talk the Talk

Blog: 5D BIM Versus 50-Yard Line Tickets

Blog: Can You Say Change 24 Times?

Blog: Who Is the International Leader in Virtual Construction?

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interesting analysis of east vs west, however, I humbly submit that Germany, Denmark and Finland are at least ten years ahead of the West coast of USA!

posted @ Wednesday, April 04, 2012 10:28 AM by Brian Lewis

In reference to the RFP excerpt, are they referring to "CONTRACTOR" as the builder or anyone who 'contracts' with the county? I ask because I'd like to dig deeper into the fact that they seem to be requiring the builder to manage the VDC process. Do they use a competitive bid process (design-bid-build)? If so, how can they extract real value by managing the VDC process without involving the design team? IMO, it seems like the RFP is a copy/paste of some marketing material without a deep understanding of the real world aspects of VDC implementation. I like your blog write-up, though.

posted @ Thursday, April 05, 2012 10:58 AM by James Van

Good point Ian! Having done loads of projects on the east and west coasts, I often feel that the east is a bit more litigious and that may be one of the reasons for the divide. My experience has shown me that west coast teams ARE more collaborative, which makes it harder to point the finger and subsequently harder to sue someone if things go wrong. I’m all for accountability but it does seem that constantly searching for a single point of accountability (read: person to sue!) is slowing down BIM adoption on the east.

posted @ Thursday, April 05, 2012 12:43 PM by Duane Gleason

Very good observations Ian and yes there is you are seeing a discernible pattern much cultural a lot industry that's how we do it period. In our due diligence work we find very different attitudes either side of the Continental divide ( west includes Denver ) with far more ' lets get the lawyers as Duane points out as to how can we do this better on the west. Lets not also forget you are placing newish information technology into an industry that has terrible Quality and productivity performance levels In a west coast Starbucks in the valley you could get up cold and propose hey lets totally revamp this process no bif deal and get an audience on the other coast you might get a pair of handcuffs

posted @ Friday, April 06, 2012 1:59 PM by pete baston

The East Coast and Midwest for that matter are very different in some ways that have to do with construction materials and methods. OLD SCHOOL is a good term I like to describe this. Case in point. I was building a small brick retainer wall by a lake Near Cairo IL and I needed to make mortar. None of the local Building supply places had Mortar Clay – or even knew what it was for. Portland cement was available but there was none of the type II I was used to using in Nevada. So I ended up using Lime mortar. 
I imagine that in New York City there is a just as much of a “good old boys” mentality among Contractors getting a haircut as there is among Farmers in Ohio standing around a truck talking about riding mowers. How does this relate to the concept of adopting BIM?  
Complaining about hardware is a way of life in some places. New ideas are scary. I can’t imagine a Tesla Dealership East of the Mississippi. The older computers most likely cannot run the software or run it too unreliably for adopters to appreciate it. Just imagine how bad a single fireball explosion in an accident would harm the safety perception of a Tesla Roadster and how that would play out in future sales figures. If guys are standing around talking about how software won’t run well or how difficult it is to learn the excitement gets derailed and shot down. 

posted @ Monday, April 09, 2012 8:30 AM by Shawn McMurtry

I'm in the Mid-West, and we are on the fence :)

posted @ Monday, April 09, 2012 3:32 PM by Bobby Parker

I think that you are right re the litigious nature of some markets. Australia is another example of how contract conditions stymie progress and the implementation of BIM.

posted @ Friday, April 13, 2012 2:06 AM by Neville Strange

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