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Agents of disruption

Dubai Municipality's mandate for the use of BIM on large projects

Gerry McFadden is BIM manager for consulting engineers WSP in the Middle East
Gerry McFadden is BIM manager for consulting engineers WSP in the Middle East

Well, it finally happened. . .

After all of the rumours and whispers over the past few years, a government entity in the region has issued a mandate for the use of BIM on large projects.

From 1 January, 2014 all Architectural and Building Services consultants now have to employ BIM processes on their projects (if meeting certain criteria) to obtain Dubai Municipality approval. It would make sense that structures will also become a requirement in the near future.

The new mandate has been met with a mix of raised eyebrows, excitement and consternation in different quarters. Personally, I was not surprised by the announcement. It was only a matter of time before one of the major regional agencies took the plunge and stipulated BIM in some form. It is likely that others will follow suit.

The timeframe stated would, however, have given cause for sleepless nights had WSP not already been embracing BIM for some years.

It is a bold move and one which will force the industry to embrace a better way to design, construct and operate projects.

Even though some clients have required BIM on their projects, there was never going to be true transformation without governmental intervention.

At WSP, we see BIM as a socio-technical process. BIM is a combination of ‘People, Process and Technology’. The technology is the easy part. We can purchase hardware and master BIM software.

We could delve into the many technical aspects of BIM. However, the area we will see the greatest resistance and learning curve is the cultural change which BIM will bring to all corners of our industry.

The biggest challenge will be having people who fully understand the process and its requirements.

It has been said that BIM is the biggest change in our industry since the advent of 2D CAD many years ago.

However, BIM is a quantum leap from the introduction of 2D CAD. It could be argued that CAD merely computerised a process that was already inefficient for the modern age (2D manual drafting).

BIM is not a ‘new way to do the same old things’ but a ‘way to do something new’. It will force us to confront the way we have traditionally delivered projects, and more importantly, the mindsets that are currently ingrained within the industry.

All project stakeholders have a common goal to design and construct a project that comes in on time and under budget. However, reaching this goal sometimes proves to be a struggle of almost epic proportions. The results can be variable and may lead to a project not reaching its full potential and an unhappy client.

It is sometimes the case that willful and effective collaboration just does not happen between all project stakeholders. These may be hard habits to break but they must be challenged and broken if the industry is to evolve to the next level.

The entire project team should share a bond that we are all experiencing the same challenges and reaping the same rewards when successful.

One of the main tenets of BIM is to bring the decision-making process forward in the design stages. Early engagement will reap benefits during the initial BIM process and onwards throughout the project lifecycle.

Contractors and facilities managers should be brought in as early as possible to give their input on what they will require later on to efficiently meet their responsibilities. This can pre-empt the need for redesign later on in a project. Will this mean new forms of contract? Will we be looking to move to a new procurement method such as IPD (Integrated Project Delivery)?

Only time will tell.

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