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Which bim software provider should I choose?

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We have seen a number of bim software providers but we’re worried we don’t know enough about bim to make the right decision. What do you advise?

Investing in bim and choosing the right system is a big decision. Getting it wrong can be a very expensive mistake, so it is worth getting to know more about bim.

Richard Brindley

Richard Brindley, executive director, RIBA Professional Services

Bim software development and market uptake is currently equivalent to the “VHS/ Betamax” stage of the development of videos in the 1970s. There are competing software systems, some based on 2D and 3D cad systems, being over-sold as all-singing-all-dancing bim systems. So the first piece of advice is: be sceptical about any “snake oil” claims from software providers.

Start by seeing bim not as a 3D drawing system or technical tool, but rather as an approach or a way of thinking. Bim is about integrated design, developing, visualising and testing a design in collaboration with the design team, suppliers, constructors and the client. This virtual prototyping reduces mistakes and increases certainty of outcomes. This can lead to completely different forms of design processes, procurement and construction. For example, the RIBA is now working on radically changing the RIBA Outline Plan of Work (Stages A to L) to take account of bim’s impact.

Before thinking about “which bim system”, you should radically review how you can make your ways of working more effective, efficient and profitable. Do some research on what clients, constructors, suppliers and other design professionals will need, as well as exploring the opportunities that new technologies can bring. With bim you can be an information owner/manager/ synthesiser, not just the designer. Where do you see your future?

Your investigations and knowledge building can include bim conferences, seminars, books and web-searches, talking to peers, looking at competitors and sampling bim systems. Also researching regulatory and procurement changes, such as the UK government’s declared intentions to use bim on all public construction projects with reduced carbon and improved performance.

Then develop a game plan for the future of your practice, starting with improving your design and business processes. From that you will be able to develop a brief for what you want your bim system to do within these wider ambitions. Only then will you be able to test the available bim systems and make the right choice for your practice.

bd and Building Present BIM Show Live, a 2 day conference and exhibition taking place on the 9 and 10 May 2012 at the Business Design Centre, London. Visit www.bimshowlive.co.uk to register.

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