Face-to-face, with Ramzi Abu Qamar, Bimtec

While BIM is gaining traction, over enthusiasm and a lack of know-how is creating its own issues. Kim Kemp speaks to Bimtec’s Ramzi Abu Qamar

INTERVIEWS, Projects

As an integrated services provider Bimtec’s managing director Ramzi Abu Qamar is clear about what the company does not offer: “We are not a BIM sweatshop, we are not a BIM production company. What we do mainly is value engineering and project management using the latest BIM technology, laser scanning and vertical planning – all aspects which afford us a niche presence in the market.”

He adds: “Bimtec is also vendor-free, we don’t sell software or promote certain technologies. We analyse each project on its specific merits and utilise our resources to produce the best outcome for that project.”

In Qatar since 2011, the company’s head office is in Doha, with offices in Jordan, a satellite office in Korea and an office in Turkey on the cards.

The construction boom in Qatar was the initial draw card for starting the company and with the growing awareness around BIM it made sense to be where construction is at its most intense. Abu Qamar comments: “The number of projects here number even more than in the UAE. Although we have projects in Dubai, to my mind, the projects in Qatar are more ‘mature’. In the UAE requests centre around typical 2D/3D conversions, maybe 4D as well, with very few asking for the fully-fledged BIM option. Whereas in Doha, clients ask for laser scanning and as-built modelling.”

He mentions the Al Wakrah stadium where a BIM model was submitted for tender for the contractor. “Qatar 2022 didn’t submit documents, they asked for quotations based on the model,” he says. “This is where I can say that we are more mature than anyone else in the region.” He believes that this is not a case of Doha being more sophisticated but rather a case of Qatari culture that can afford the best, at whatever it costs.

This however, results in incomplete documentation and gaps in information as client enthusiasm is let loose. “How we manage this is when we see a requirement, we analyse it for loop holes and advise the client or suggest amendments to the contractor, pointing out cost implications.”

The dichotomy is that while there are no BIM standards in place in Qatar, projects request detailed specifications, such as those from the Qatar Foundation/Qatar Petroleum projects, Abu Qamar observes: “The tender specifications are extremely detailed and the client knows exactly what they want – and it works, despite never having been requested previously in any other country.” With a bank of experts to call on however, he says it poses no problem to implement the requests.

3D BIM has been delineated into many levels by many international standards. These levels help define consistent expectations throughout the building lifecycle from design concept through planning, construction, and ultimately the facilities lifecycle.

But it is much more than 3D, taking it to overall project management whilst maintaining a single point of truth. It is the ability to understand and foresee construction lifecycle details interlinked through design generation and verification, bill of quantities (BOQ), estimating, project control, material procurement, scheduling and tendering, contract management and material management. The aptitude to eliminate the silo approach is where the real BIM savings kick in.

“One of the major challenges we face is – specific to the UAE and to a lesser degree to Qatar – clients request LOD 400, which is generally unrealistic, unnecessary and overkill,” he explains.

“We are a contractor and not a fabricating entity,” Abu Qamar continues. “For example, a client asked for a fire extinguisher at LOD 400. I had to explain that this item would be purchased, not fabricated. What would be my value in wasting the time of our engineers to understand how a fire extinguisher is fabricated and apply it in a model? Eventually we should not expect contractors to be fabricators when they don’t need to be.”

LOD 300 models are perfectly suited for estimating as well as construction coordination clash detection, scheduling, and visualisation.

He adds, “There is a spec from the UK BIM Forum that is an integration of what the American Institute of Architects (AIA) had in 2008, and then it was upgraded. It’s not one hundred percent but they have applied something they call LOD 350 which straddles the gap between LOD 300 and 400 and you can achieve construction models based on your drawings, which is more than enough. Anything extra is done in CAD.”

Abu Qamar believes that another issue is that the BIM software presently available “has to be pushed to the limit to get LOD 400 results”. Bimtec has in-house IT specialists, he says, which avoid this problem as they develop application program interfaces (APIs) to enhance computer performance and are used when programming graphical user interface (GUI) components.

There is also a contingent in the industry who have the BIM software, but don’t know how to use it. Abu Qamar cites an example where a huge contractor approached Bimtec to do work for it. “They had no clue what BIM is and unfortunately had incorrect information. After discussing the project it turned out they were actually using BIM software; they just needed to do the workflow correctly. Basically, people don’t know what they have and they don’t know what they are looking at.”

He says that one of the most important approaches is to educate people as to what the capabilities of BIM are. The contractors’ approach is: “If the owner asks for it, we will do it – without understanding what is being asked.” He says that it makes sense that companies have dedicated BIM divisions/departments that understand what they are receiving. While the internet is an information resource it can serve to confuse and confound when used to fill in information gaps, he warns.

“We are the only company in the MENA region that does end-to-end solution project management based on BIM, mainly attributable to the software that we procured internally, as we have invested heavily, from all the vendors.

“Looking ahead, and ensuring automated completion of the construction lifecycle, we have acquired top of the line laser scanning and aerial scanning equipment and look to offer our sophisticated clients what they seek to better revolutionise their design and construction techniques,” he concludes.

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