Low technology adoption remains a critical issue for the U.S. construction industry’s efficiency and resiliency, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences.
For that reason, NIBS has launched the U.S. National Building Information Management Program, with the goal of achieving a higher level of efficiency through digitalization.
Johnny Fortune will spearhead the program. Fortune, an engineering and construction expert, joined NIBS in June. He previously served as the BIM manager for Prime AE Group, a Baltimore-based engineering and architecture firm.
Here, Construction Dive talks with Fortune about BIM standards, adoption rates and digital transformation trends in the U.S. built environment.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: Does the U.S. need a BIM standard as is common in European countries?
JOHNNY FORTUNE: The U.S. construction economy and marketplace are obviously different from other countries. We don't have a single government agency focused entirely on construction but rather several agencies related to buildings and infrastructure.
Several agencies already require BIM on projects meeting certain criteria. I am familiar mostly with federal agencies requiring BIM and some have done so for quite some time now. Some states, like Wisconsin and Tennessee, have required BIM for public projects that meet certain criteria. Various local agencies, like New York City, have also created BIM standards or guidelines for use on projects.
We need an open and practice-oriented standard. We may not see a BIM mandate on all government projects, but we can still develop next-generation standards and processes that provide the array of federal agencies as well as private owners with an effective toolset to use within their project requirements that harnesses the potential of BIM to achieve desired outcomes.
NIBS provides an industry consensus standard for BIM in the National BIM Standard, or NBIMS. Version 3 has been out for a few years, and we expect to publish Version 4 early next year.
In addition, the National BIM Program will leverage the standards that are existing and under further development, but also will expand upon previous activities to accelerate adoption across a broader spectrum of building and infrastructure project stakeholders.
Has the adoption of BIM increased in recent years?
It is my sense that adoption has continued to increase steadily here in the U.S. I think a challenge is that the level of adoption varies greatly.
Some companies and organizations are only adopting certain aspects of BIM, while omitting other aspects. For example, a construction company may fully adopt 4D scheduling, but may not have yet adopted providing digital handover data.
Adoption can be accelerated with improved standards and practices. The mission of the U.S. National BIM Program is to transform lifecycle information management. We see the logical path to improvement in project delivery and processes begins with the creation and advancement of next-gen standards. The question of where adoption currently stands is a good one and one that we hope to better understand after some additional market research.
Many of the activities within NIBS help advance the industry based on research. As part of the U.S. National BIM Program Implementation Plan, we see research as a key component to informing the path forward.
In addition to adoption levels amongst designers, constructors and owners, we plan to research adoption rates and levels in other key areas of project delivery such as legal, insurance, education and training. This research would build upon previous studies and help to determine if the projected adoption rates have been realized or where there are additional opportunities for advancement.
What needs to be done to speed up adoption?
I believe the industry is poised for a next-generation BIM standards solution.
To accelerate speed to market, we need to apply additional resources. Standards development often takes a lot of time and effort and many consensus-based standards rely heavily on interested volunteers and their available time. Additional resources in the form of funding and designated full time equivalents will help accelerate development.
We also have positioned the U.S. National BIM Program to utilize agile methodologies to sprint toward key milestones in standards development. There are many components that require broad and accelerated adoption. The program seeks to holistically include a broad range of stakeholders and collaboratively develop open, aligned, reliable and practice-oriented solutions. Broad adoption depends on these guiding core values and the availability of resources to execute.
Are there any other important trends you think are important to mention about BIM?
Digital transformation is an important topic and a term we hear often. There is an increasing demand to build better, faster, and more efficiently. Add to that the need to build more responsibly with respect to sustainability, resiliency and other environmental challenges. We envision this will allow public and private owners to build and renovate buildings and infrastructure with reduced costs and with increased assurance that their projects will meet their objectives.
Another increasing trend is the need for more reliable data. Organizations are seeing and exploring the benefit data can provide to their business processes and decision-making. Identifying areas of improvement are contingent upon reliable data. Reliable data is also necessary to expand and incorporate the use of digital twins. New technologies will continue to rely upon well-structured data.
We are working closely with other organizations and groups to provide the framework to support innovative technology, such as digital twins. Updated standards and processes that we envision as part of the program will further enable new innovation and technology development.