- The construction industry took the first step this month toward a BIM standard in the U.S. during an executive roundtable discussion hosted by the National Institute of Building Sciences. The 40 roundtable participants included executives from Autodesk, Bentley, WSP and HDR, as well as leaders from federal agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Highway Administration.
- NIBS has already developed a national standard through a volunteer effort, but it has not evolved yet into a comprehensive standard like the one used in the United Kingdom. The new goal through a National BIM Program, according to NIBS, is "a solution at a national scale to enable digital process standards that will streamline business, accelerate the effectiveness of the supply chain, provide predictable processes, improve project outcomes, drive efficiency and foster innovation."
- NIBS told Construction Dive that it has not yet scheduled another roundtable session but that the participants will review the items discussed at the first session and then decide on the next steps.
One of the roundtable participants, Adam Matthews, head of the International Stream of the Centre for Digital Built Britain, said that the UK's national BIM standard was born out of a desire to save money, drive better procurement practices and construction, not "just for the sake of technology." The standard, he said has led to a 33% reduction in costs and 50% faster project delivery.
The U.K. implemented a Level 2 BIM mandate in 2016. Architects, engineers and material vendors working on public projects are all required to communicate via common file formats like Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) or Industry Foundation Class (IFC).
Andrew Friendly, Autodesk's vice president of government affairs and public policy, told Construction Dive that the U.K. wrote the playbook for a successful BIM standard and that the involvement of federal agencies in these discussions demonstrate the value of BIM and how important it is to digitize buildings and infrastructure. Congress and President Joe Biden’s administration, he said, could help the process along.
"As part of an economic stimulus or federal infrastructure program, legislation should include simple-to-achieve BIM and digital construction incentives for government-funded projects," he said. "This will motivate the move to BIM and serve as official BIM demonstration projects."
In addition, Friendly said, much of the construction industry is still just entering the world of BIM, so there should be some consideration of incentives to support digitization as the NIBS group works toward a national standard.
One of the challenges in developing a single standard for public work, according to NIBS, is that agencies currently operate independently of each other and some already have their own BIM standards.
For example, the Army Corps has used BIM in its $50 billion medical construction program, but the Department of Veterans Affairs, which builds hospitals, has its own BIM standard.
According to NIBS, the federal agency representatives agreed with Friendly's suggestion that the group reach out to policymakers.
“No one of us has the solution — we need a national program,” said Van Woods, the Army Corps' BIM program manager and chair of the NIBS BIM Council, during the discussion. “The first step is getting the right people to the table. We have an all-star team and we need your help to expand it and get to work on this.”