As adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) technologies began to surge in 2004, Autodesk’s Building Solutions Division and Stanford’s Center for Integrated Facilities Engineering (CIFE) undertook a study of AEC project participants in an effort to understand the factors that drove adoption of these tools.

As adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) technologies began to surge in 2004, Autodesk’s Building Solutions Division and Stanford’s Center for Integrated Facilities Engineering (CIFE) undertook a study of AEC project participants in an effort to understand the factors that drove adoption of these tools. Using qualitative interviews of over sixty owners, architects, engineers, and contractors, we sought to gain further insight into the barriers to implementation, factors for success, and true evolution of the use of BIM technology. Dr. John E. Taylor of Stanford talked extensively with BIM-enabled firms, asking them to describe two projects: one prior to BIM implementation, and one after. The results were striking.

The research group’s characteristics are described in Figures 1 and 2, where you can see that architects and contractors comprised approximately 80 percent of the sample, and that almost half had attempted at least five BIM-based projects. During the behavioral interviews, five BIM paradigms (methods of use) emerged:

  • Visualization: using technology to understand and represent the 3D characteristics of the project (in whole or in part)
  • Coordination: using BIM to evaluate the relationship of component building parts for interferences and connections, and to produce coordinated orthographic drawings of the project
  • Production: creating construction documents and/or shop drawings from the BIM data
  • Analysis: using the BIM representation to evaluate the performance of the building
  • Supply Chain Integration: using the model to connect design, fabrication and construction activities

    Equally provocative was the BIM sharing approach of these firms – the environment within which they allowed BIM information to be used for collaboration, including:

  • Firm: these firms used the BIM strictly as a internal tool, and distributed resulting information as traditional drawings and specification to collaborators;
  • Project: these firms share BIM-based data amongst the project team; and
  • Supply Chain: these firms used BIM through the building design-to-construct process.

    In evaluating the relationship between these two intersecting approaches, Dr. Taylor discovered three patterns of BIM adoption that may predict firm behavior. Participating firms followed an identifiable adoption patterns that move sequentially through the five paradigmatic uses while expanding collaboration from firm to supply chain. This evolution is diagrammed in Figure 3 “BIM Evolutionary Paths.” Most firms begin their exploration of BIM doing comfortable 3D visualization and move systematically through more complex uses; the most advanced users integrate their project approach using BIM throughout the supply chain. Almost by definition, more advanced usage – such as analysis and production – requires collaboration throughout more of the project team. This is first route, tagged “1” in the diagram.

    However, two other trajectories were discovered. Route “2” firms moved from visualization to production, but chose to stay within that paradigm and not progress. A single firm followed “Route 3” – a contractor who set up its business specifically to integrate the building process.

    The study suggested that evolution of BIM implementation came in parallel with willingness to collaborate and share project information, the move toward integrated practice that is much talked about in the industry. In a future edition of Design Intelligence we will describe this study in more detail, and include an analysis of barriers to implementation and how successful BIM firms have overcome those barriers.

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    Phil Bernstein teaches professional practice at Yale, and is Vice President of the Building Solutions Division at Autodesk, where he coordinated this study with Stanford. He is a senior fellow with the Design Futures Council.

    Accompanying charts recreated from originals developed by John E. Taylor, PhD