Roundtable Series | Assessing Digital Solutions in the Civil Engineering Industry — Part One
The Engineer and Bluebeam team up to host a roundtable discussion in the UK. Part one of this series takes a closer look at how to get buy in for BIM.
As the UK design and construction industries continue to adapt to the government mandates for BIM Level 2, it’s apparent that best practices are a sorely needed ally in the adoption of digital solutions, especially when it comes to BIM. “It’s fundamentally clear that we need to gain a consensus about a core direction going forward, and we can only do that by engaging with each other, treating each other with respect and putting time in,” declares buildingSMART CEO Richard Petrie. This respectful dialogue was exactly what Bluebeam, along with The Engineer magazine, hoped to create at a recent roundtable discussion in the UK. This roundtable discussion was dedicated to the civil side of construction, where engineering professionals and tech advocates came together in search of common ground as they contrasted and compared perspectives regarding all things digital.
Round table participants included:
- Nigel Davies – BIM Consultant, Director, Evolve Consultancy
- Neil Thompson – Atkins, Digital Transformation
- Richard Petrie – CEO, buildingSMART
- Dr. John Ingram – Entrepreneur and Inventor, Royal Academy of Engineering Prince Philip Medal winner
- Tristan McDonnell – Director, Arup Associates
- Jon Excell – Editor, The Engineer
- James Chambers – former Civil Engineer, East Coast General Manager , Bluebeam, Inc.
- Sasha Reed –VP of Strategic Development, Bluebeam, Inc.
Creativity Makes It Work
One of the most difficult steps in integrating BIM practices is understanding how those practices can be adapted on an enterprise level. “I think the built environment industry relies on people being creative,” explains Tristan McDonnell, Civil Engineer and Director for Arup. “That is such an important part of what we do, and how we generate truly fantastic projects. The technology is a tool, a principal methodology to allow us to get to the end more efficiently, but fundamentally the creativity of what people can bring to the party is so important. I think both parts are equally as important; you can’t have one without the other.”
Where to Begin
That said, how should buy in be approached? The first step is analyzing how BIM has been implemented and worked for similarly sized firms. “We’re in that state of the industry now where people are realizing that sharing knowledge and exchanging ideas makes the big difference in how the entire industry will be moving forward,” says Nigel Davies, 30-year engineering professional now Director at Evolve Consultancy.
The next step is allowing and understanding that BIM implementation will be a part of a larger growth strategy, creating real expectations, rather than assuming BIM would be some sort of magic button. “The process of design shouldn’t change, it should be supported by new or evolving technology to allow efficiencies to be realized,” explains Arup Associates Tristan McDonnell.
It Starts at The Top
Due to the complex nature of BIM, one of the key obstacles to finding best practices is creating a team within the company at the executive level to work on the integration over time. “The challenge at the moment is we are seeing a lot of volunteer effort from professionals and very committed managers giving time but this effort needs organizing. I think what I’m really calling on is the executive level in corporations across the world to realize that they actually need an expense line in their organization to support this activity and that they actually need to work with other executives to agree effectively on a consensus way forward to drive digitization in the construction industry,” says Petrie. Creating and keeping a consistent format for project information is a crucial part of BIM. Allowing civil engineering companies to establish a common data environment by leveraging PDF as the universal file format and Bluebeam Studio as the collaboration platform, allows them to easily share and access data in real time.