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August 2014   

Behind the Eight Ball on BIM

By: Scott Casabona

I recently read an article where a survey of specialty contractors reported nearly 40 percent of respondents had never heard of Building Information Modeling. Another 35 percent said they were familiar with BIM but had never used it on a project. Considering how much has been written about BIM over last few years, I find those numbers astonishing.

The survey was not just of interior system contractors, but all specialty contractors including mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractors. These numbers are even more startling when you consider MEPs are considered to be leading the pack when it comes to BIM utilization.

While there are some interior systems contractors who have fully integrated BIM into their normal project activities, they are the exception and are ahead of the curve.

The majority of us appear to be content to sit back and wait for BIM to be forced upon us by the owners, GCs or CMs. If we don’t become proactive and start investing resources in BIM technology, we run the risk of being left behind and will be forced to play "catch up” in an accelerated time frame, which can lead to costly missteps.

From my own personal experience, owners, CMs and GCs are still trying to figure out exactly what role interior systems contractors will play in the BIM process. They all seem to want us to use BIM on their projects, but they’re not exactly sure what they want us to do.

I was recently discussing BIM with a colleague who made the analogy between BIM and safety: Twenty years ago most subcontractors looked at safety as something you did to keep OSHA off your back. It was hard for most subcontractors to see the cost benefit of allocating resources to safety programs. Subcontractors were forced by owners and CMs to embrace safety or run the risk of not meeting prequalification standards.

I think we all recognize there is a benefit to having an effective and comprehensive safety program, even though it’s difficult to calculate just how much it saves. BIM can be looked at in the same context. In speaking with contractors who have utilized BIM, I am told it improves pre-task planning, efficiencies, helps eliminate errors and minimizes costly rework.

Fortunately, there are many resources available to small and mid-size contractors looking to implement BIM. In addition to numerous consultants, publications and websites, trade associations are a valuable resource for up-to-date information. At AWCI’s Executive Conference in Baltimore this October, AWCI will be conducting an education session titled "BIM Investment Planning: How to Make It Work for Your Company.” This program presents a great opportunity to get familiar with BIM and learn what it takes to raise your company to the next level.

In addition to being 2014–2015 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Casabona is president of Sloan & Company, Inc. in West Caldwell, N.J.

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