Towards the Development of a Project Decision Support Framework for Adoption of an Integrated Building Information Model using a Model Server

Towards the Development of a Project Decision Support Framework for Adoption of an Integrated Building Information Model using a Model Server

Kerry London (Deakin University, Australia), Vishal Singh (University of Newcastle, Australia), Ning Gu (University of Newcastle, Australia), Claudelle Taylor (Nexus Point Solutions, Australia) and Ljiljana Brankovic (University of Newcastle, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-928-1.ch013
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This chapter discusses an action research study towards the development of a decision framework to support a fully integrated multi disciplinary Building Information Model (BIM) using a Model Server. The framework was proposed to facilitate multi disciplinary collaborative BIM adoption through, informed selection of a project specific BIM approach and tools contingent upon project collaborators’ readiness, tool capabilities and workflow dependencies. The aim of the research was to explore the technical concerns in relation to Model Servers to support multi disciplinary model integration and collaboration; however it became clear that there were both technical and non technical issues that needed consideration. The evidence also suggests that there are varying levels of adoption which impacts upon further diffusion of the technologies. Therefore the need for a decision framework was identified based on the findings from an exploratory study conducted to investigate industry expectations. The study revealed that even the market leaders who are early technology adopters in the Australian industry in many cases have varying degrees of practical experiential knowledge of BIM and hence at times low levels of confidence of the future diffusion of BIM technology throughout the industry. The study did not focus on the benefits of BIM implementation as this was not the intention, as the industry partners involved are market leaders and early adopters of the technology and did not need convincing of the benefits. Coupled with this there are various other past studies that have contributed to the ‘benefits’ debate. There were numerous factors affecting BIM adoption which were grouped in to two main areas; technical tool functional requirements and needs, and non technical strategic issues. The need for guidance on where to start, what tools were available and how to work through the legal, procurement and cultural challenges was evidenced in the exploratory study. Therefore a BIM decision framework was initiated, based upon these industry concerns. Eight case studies informed the development of the framework and a summary of the key findings is presented. Primary and secondary case studies from firms that have adopted a structured approach to technology adoption are presented. The Framework consists of four interrelated key elements including a strategic purpose and scoping matrix, work process mapping, technical requirements for BIM tools and Model Servers, and framework implementation guide. The BIM framework was presented in draft format again to key industry stakeholders and considered in comparison with current best practice BIM adoption to further validate the framework. There was no request to change any part of the Framework. However, it is an ongoing process and it will be presented again to industry through the various project partners. The Framework may be refined within the boundaries of the action research process as an ongoing activity as more experiential knowledge can be incorporated.
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1 Introduction

Despite the apparent benefits in terms of information sharing and management, efficiency in information flow and associated overall anticipated cost benefits, as well as project collaboration and coordination may seem evident, the adoption of BIM in practice has been slow (Bernstein and Pittman 2004). Many factors have been identified which contribute to the slow rate of adoption including; lack of training (Khemlani 2007), low business incentives (Holzer 2007), perception of lack of rewards (London and Bavinton, 2006), technological concerns (Howard and Bjork 2008), industry fragmentation related to uneven ICT adoption practices (London and Bavinton, 2006), contractual matters and resistance to changing current work practice (Johnson and Laepple 2003). In fact,the majority of the past studies were conducted at a distance from the research participants.

The aim of this national research study was to review and analyse the current capability of Model Servers leading to open software technical requirements with special emphasis on the so-called “non-functional” specification for BIM Model Server which would cater for digital models accessible through a web interface. The approach was to conduct the research collaboratively with industry market leaders who had been early adopters of the BIM approach. The findings reported in this chapter form an important part of an action-oriented research study which seeks to explore the technological, operational and strategic factors related to adopting BIM in the AEC/FM industry. There were five major phases to the study including:

Phase 1 Literature Review: An overview of BIM model server based collaboration platform including a literature review and discussion on the BIM approach and levels of technical capabilities and technology adoption.

Phase 2 Desktop analysis: Desktop analysis of key BIM Tools and Model Servers

Phase 3 Industry needs analysis: Detailed review of industry needs based on Focus Group Interviews. Preliminary findings (based on literature review, desktop analysis and FGI data) are used to refine the research approach.

Phase 4 Case studies: Eight case studies conducted to investigate the Collaborative BIM approach. Firstly, industry based case studies include a controlled testing as a pilot study and experiences of using a BIM approach in a real world project. Second, a comparative study of different document based collaboration platforms is presented to identify the technical features for a Model Server.

Phase 5 Decision Framework: Synthesis of previous phases towards developing a non functional technical features specification for a BIM Model Server. This phase also included exploration of BIM strategic and project management requirements and approaches to support implementation.

This chapter summarises the literature review and the findings of the various focussed group interviews and the case study analysis. The focus of the chapter is the description of the Decision Framework. For a more complete discussion on the analysis of the literature review to the chapter “ BIM Adoption: Expectations across disciplines”, Gu et al (2010) in this Handbook(and the final research report “Collaborative Platform Solutions Research Report”, 2007 -003 EP, Taylor et al.


2 Background

BIM is a process of maintaining a repository of all the information relevant to a building or construction project throughout the different phases of the project lifecycle. This repository facilitates storing, integrating, checking and visualizing the entire data emerging throughout the project lifecycle. This information can be used in combination or separately, but not in isolation, in the sense that it will always be subject to some integrity and cross-checking.

The information maintained and produced in the BIM approach includes both the geometric and non-geometric data. Geometric data comprises 2D drawings, 3D models, as well as dimensional and spatial relationships. Non-geometric data refers to annotations, textual semantic relationships, reports, tables, charts, freehand illustrations, graphs, images, audio-visual data, and any other form of representing some information generated during the project. (Taylor et al, 2009)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Work Process Roadmap: Formal documented maps of key processes of an organisation developed as a form of quality assurance and/or accreditation or simply as, good business practice including activities, events and key decision points and relationships between these entities.

BIM Approach: A practice adopts a BIM approach for a building project if the project applies a BIM as the base model for the design and/or construction processes.

Document Management Systems (DMS): A collaboration platform developed specifically for managing documents shared by multiple parties in a project.

BIM -Model Server: An information repository that will hold the building information submodels and allows native applications to import and export files from the database for updating, modifying, viewing and checking the data.

BIM Project Lifecycle Decision Framework: A project decision framework developed by the author team to assist the design and implementation of a suitable BIM approach for a building project.

Collaboration Platform: A computer-based platform that provides a centralised unit (i.e. a server), for supporting collaborative projects and coordinating team activities.

Object-Oriented Modelling: Object-oriented modelling is a programming paradigm that uses objects as data structures to design computer-based applications. In an object-oriented building model, building elements are represented as objects that can contain both geometric and non-geometric information.

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