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Sat 8 Jan 2011 12:00 AM

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The ABC of BIM

Gerhard Hope looks at the findings of the first-ever GCC-wide BIM survey, which reveals an inexperienced but willing market eager to embrace the benefits of BIM.

The ABC of BIM
Buildingsmart me president Tahir Shariff.

The 2010 Middle East Building Information Modelling (BIM) Market
Survey, undertaken by buildingSMART ME, reveals that while the GCC is behind in
the adoption of BIM, there is strong awareness of the significant benefits entailed
by the process.

“The findings are reflective of the opinions of industry professionals
with prior exposure to and/or experience with BIM,” noted buildingSMART ME president
Tahir Shariff. “The survey findings provide unique insight into the current state
of BIM usage, as well as providing valuable indicators of how the industry can prepare
for, and facilitate, increased BIM activity.”

“The region’s construction industry is at a decisive crossroads,
and the purpose of the survey is to provide perspective on how companies which are
implementing BIM within their organisations, and those that are looking to implement
BIM, can gain tangible business benefits as a result,” said Shariff at the launch
of the inaugural survey’s findings at the organisation’s annual conference in December.

While a lot of contractors and consultants are attracted by BIM,
“they are put off by the amount of work you need to get there, which is probably
where the market stands at the moment. I think a lot of people have had a go at
this and then decided it is too hard and given up,” commented Atkins MEP head of
department: Middle East and India David Crowder.

The survey encompassed an even distribution of respondents from
across the region, with most indicating multiple locations within the GCC and Jordan.
There was a noticeable concentration in the UAE (77%), Saudi Arabia (41%) and Qatar (35%), along with Oman (22%), Bahrain
(19%) and Kuwait
(18%). Jordan
was at the bottom of the pile, accounting for only 7% of respondents. “This distribution
is largely proportionate to the areas of high construction activity,” said Professor
Raymond Issa, of the University
of Florida, in the main summary
of the overall survey findings.

Survey participants included owners, operators, government departments,
contractors (36%), consultants (43%) and suppliers. Suppliers, developers and owners
each accounted for about 8% to 10%. This distribution is in line with more developed
markets such as Europe and the US,
where contractors and consultants are the most active BIM users.

“One segment of the market that was noticeably under-represented
in the survey was facility managers. Owners (8%) and facilities managers (4%) would
ideally be engaged in the complete BIM lifecycle, from planning to operation, and
would therefore have the greatest area of influence in, and benefit from, the BIM
process,” said Issa.

“The fact that this area was under-represented is not untypical
of the markets elsewhere in the world. However, owners, as key decision-makers,
and facilities managers, as primary operators, should be encouraged to take a leading
role in BIM,” said Issa.

While BIM usage in the GCC region and Jordan is moderate,
the level of competency is basic compared to other leading markets. About 25% of
respondents indicated that they used BIM in their operations, compared to 36% in
Western Europe and 49% in the US.
In addition, BIM usage is confined typically to the most basic functions, suggesting
an industry “that is inexperienced and, to some extent, insecure in the application
of BIM,” said Issa.

Of the initial respondents, 21% were not familiar with BIM and
so could not complete the full survey, 54% identified themselves as non-BIM users
(although in some cases they had had exposure and even training); and only 25% were
self-defined BIM users.

Despite the moderate penetration, the overall level of BIM competency
in the region is quite low, according to the survey. Most firms engaged with BIM
were at a ‘beginner’ level, typically deploying BIM for visualisation, 3D co-ordination
and 2D drawing extraction. The survey also noted that a lack of strategic planning
meant many respondents could not progress to more advanced BIM processes.

The survey found that “there is strong awareness of BIM and its
value to the construction industry,” said Issa, with 79% of respondents indicating
awareness of and/or exposure to BIM. Major benefits cited include reduction in design
errors (66%), improved quality control (64%) and improved productivity (64%).

“The Middle East findings suggest
a market that is well-informed. Although the level of competency is low, having
a good understanding of the real value of BIM promises a strong base from which
to progress,” said Issa.

The survey revealed that 59% of respondents agreed that if BIM
were mandated on projects, they would be more likely to use BIM. “The first large
tenders in the UAE specifying that all design work must be done in a 3D format using
BIM have already been published,” noted Timo Nurminen, country manager for MagiCAD
in the UAE.

The main obstacles to wider BIM adoption are availability of
skilled staff (51%), cost of software (48%), cost of implementation and availability
of training (34%). In terms of the latter, 46% of respondents said they had some
level of training, but most of these were self-taught. “This low level of formal
training correlates to the general lack of BIM expertise and competency in the region,”
said Issa.

The main conclusion of the survey is that “the region is behind
in adoption of BIM as compared to the US and Western European construction
industries,” said Issa. While there is a good interest and awareness to learn, this
is hampered by lack of proper information, training, accreditation and support from
developers and governments, which need to make it mandatory on projects.

The survey also indicated a high level of awareness of the significant
benefits posed by BIM. “Market leaders in the region have already used, or are using,
BIM in their major projects, while medium to small companies are lagging behind
due to lack of guidance,” warned Issa.

The level of competency is also confined to the most basic operations.
“The industry must raise general capabilities through the implementation of standards,
and regulated training and certification programmes. Educational institutions should
be encouraged to be at the forefront of the process to meet this need by revamping
their curricula and integrating BIM across the construction disciplines,” concluded
Issa.

The future for BIM in the region is, indeed, very bright.  “Here there have been massive, incredible projects,
and it is even more impressive to think that everything [related to design] has
been done in 2D, manually,” said Progman Oy export sales manager Ruggero Valsecchi.

A major driver for BIM are new initiatives such as Abu Dhabi’s stipulation that
all new build have a minimum One Pearl Estidama rating from 1 September 2010. Ramboll
associate director: building services Louise Collins noted that an immediate consequence
of the implementation of the new standard is “it will impact on our fees,” as projects
are likely to require more detailed modelling in terms of sustainability and energy
efficiency.

Current flagship projects that have adopted BIM include Capital Gate
Tower and the Aldar headquarters in Abu Dhabi, and the ongoing Sorbonne
University project in Abu Dhabi. “By implementing BIM, I would say we
have speeded up the overall project time to completion,” commented Ron Brinkman,
technical manager at Murray & Roberts Contractors.

“Co-ordination between us, the main contractor, and the steel
and façade subcontractors was a challenge that we overcame with BIM. Changes to
the as-built models from design were communicated to the sub-contractors. By doing
so, we avoided further conflicts and delays on-site and sped up the installation
process,” said Brinkman.

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