Building information modelling demystified: does it make business sense to adopt BIM?

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    Building information modellingdemystified: does it make

    business sense to adopt BIM?Guillermo Aranda-Mena, John Crawford and Agustin Chevez

    School of Property, Construction and Project Management,RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, and

    Thomas FroeseSchool of Property, Construction and Project Management,

    RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia andDepartment of Civil Engineering, University of British Columbia,

    Vancouver, Canada


    Purpose The purpose of this paper is to inform project management practice on the businessbenefits of building information modelling (BIM) adoption.

    Design/methodology/approach BIM needs to compete against well-ingrained methods to deliverprojects in a fragmented and rather traditional industry. This paper investigates 47 value propositionsfor the adoption of BIM under a multiple case study investigation carried out in Australia and HongKong. The selected case study projects included a range of public (1) and private (4) sector buildingdevelopments of small and large-scale. Findings are coded, interpreted and synthesised in order toidentify the challenges and business drivers, and the paper focuses mainly on challenges and benefitsfor architectural and engineering consultants, contractors and steel fabricators. As a condition for theselection criteria all case studies had to be collaborating by sharing BIM data between two or moreconsultants/stakeholders. As practices cannot afford to ignore BIM, this paper aims to identify thoseimmediate business drivers as to provoke debate amongst the professional and academic community.

    Findings Shared understanding on business drivers to adopt BIM for managing the design andconstruction process of building projects raging from small commercial to high-rise.

    Originality/value The originality of the research reported in this paper is that it breaks from aproliferating series of articles on BIM as industry aspiration and as a marketing statement. Theelicited drivers for BIM underwent industry, academic and peer validation.

    Keywords Construction industry, Information modelling, Communication technologies,Project management

    Paper type Research paper


    Construction project management is a core traditional field of the project management (PM)discipline so lessons learned from this paper may be of wider benefit to the PM community.

    The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at

    The original version of this paper was peer blind reviewed for the CIB-W78 25th InternationalConference on Information Technology in Construction: Improving the management ofConstruction Projects through IT adoption. Santiago de Chile. 15-17 July 2008. It was modifiedlater and reviewed by an International Journal of Managing Projects in Business reviewer.

    BIM demystified


    Received November 2008Accepted March 2009

    International Journal of ManagingProjects in Business

    Vol. 2 No. 3, 2009pp. 419-433

    q Emerald Group Publishing Limited1753-8378

    DOI 10.1108/17538370910971063

  • Current problems with the management of design and construction quality andefficiencies are clear calls for action to improve an industry that remains behind anyother in its attempt to become more competitive and provide a better service to clientsand society as a whole to reduce disputes and to share risks and move the industryforward into the 21st century. A well known finding by the NIST (2004) study statesthat over US$15.8 billion is lost every year due to the lack of data interoperability in themanagement of capital facilities in the US alone, while a more recent response is themandate of the General Services Administration (GSA) to require new buildingdocumentation be prepared in a building information modelling (BIM) technologicalsoftware.

    The aim of the paper is to report on findings on business drivers for BIM and toprovoke wider debate on the speed of adoption by design and constructionmanagement practices. The paper draws upon five case studies originally set todemystify myths surrounding Business Drivers for BIM (Aranda-Mena et al., 2008).Froese et al. (2008) provides a detailed description of the structured study, dataanalysis and alignment with the Val IT business framework (ITGI, 2006). On the otherhand, Crawford et al. (2008) presents a concise summary of business drivers for BIM.Both papers were intended to disseminate findings and value propositions to propertyowners, operators, contractors and consultants. This paper focuses on specific findingsto managing consulting practices in architecture and engineering.

    Taking the premise that construction project management practices cannot affordnot to invest in BIM technologies this paper was set to investigate business drivers forBIM. The paper is based on a larger investigation sponsored by the CRC forConstruction Innovation representing a number of private and public sectorarchitectural and construction organisations ( The investigation wascarried out during 2007 by researchers from RMIT University, Melbourne and QUTUniversity, Brisbane, whereby the overall investigation was set as a project to identifyfactual evidence on business drivers for BIM as a response to the plethora of myths andmisconceptions currently surrounding BIM.

    What is BIM? An emerging definitionOne might think that BIM needs no introduction but it should come as no surprise thatcurrently BIM is an ambiguous term that means different things to differentprofessionals. This was also confirmed by empirical results found by this studyindicating that BIM is not only defined in various ways according to particularprofessions but that there is also confusion at three different levels:

    (1) for some, BIM is a software application;

    (2) for others, it is a process for designing and documenting building information;and

    (3) for others, it is a whole new approach to practise and advancing the professionwhich requires the implementation of new policies, contracts, and relationshipsamongst project stakeholders.

    There are a number of views in industry and academia as to what constitutes BIM. Anabundance of definitions related to BIM have emerged with terms includingobject-oriented modelling, project modelling, virtual design and construction, virtualprototyping, integrated project databases and the more recent term BIM.



  • Amor and Farag (2001) identified a number of definitions including:. Gann et al. (1996) a single project database as an electronic data model to which

    all participants refer throughout the process of design, construction, operationand maintenance.

    . Bjork and Penttila (1989) project models are conceptual structures specifyingwhat kind of information is used to describe buildings and how such informationis structured.

    . Fisher et al. (1997) project modelling is object modelling applied to a project andincluding more information than just geometry.

    Synonyms of BIM include terms such as nD modelling employed by SalfordUniversity:

    An nD model is an extension of the building information model, which incorporatesmulti-aspects of design information required at each stage of the lifecycle of a building facility(Construct-IT, 2002).

    The term BIM as such was originally popularised by Jerry Laiserin, referring to theability to use, reuse and exchange information, of which electronic documents are just asingle component:

    BIM is much more than 3D rendering or transferring electronic versions of paper documents.By implementing BIM risk is reduced, design intent is maintained, quality control isstreamlined, communication is clearer, and higher analytic tools are more accessible (AIA,2005, web site).

    More recent material offers several BIM definitions. However, they all seem to agreethat BIM is a digital representation of the building. Following are two alternatives thatencompass views of two of the leading organisations in the field:

    A BIM is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. As suchit serves as a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basisfor decisions during its life-cycle from inception onward (BuildingSMART, 2008, web site).

    Complementing the architectural domain the American General Contractors definesBIM as:

    Building Information Modeling is the development and use of a computer software model tosimulate the construction and operation of a facility. The resulting model, a BuildingInformation Model, is a data-rich, object-oriented, intelligent and parametric digitalrepresentation of the facility, from which views and data appropriate to various users needscan be extracted and analyzed to generate information that can be used to make decisions andimprove the process of delivering the facility. The process of using BIM models to improvethe planning, design and construction process is increasingly being referred to as VirtualDesign and Construction (VDC) (The Contractors Guide to BIM (AGC, 2006)).

    Succar et al. (2007) defined BIM as a set of interacting policies, processes and technologiesproducing a methodology to manage the essential building design and project data indigital format throughout the buildings life-cycle. They argued that BIM is an emergingtechnological and procedural shift affecting all stakeholders within the architecture,engineering and construction industry with the resulting problems of semantics and avariety of connotations to those engaged with it.

    BIM demystified


  • Empirical results of this particular study align with those BIM problems of meaningand interpretation. It is expected that as BIM becomes a mainstream method