MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 1.3- Research Question and Objectives

On the previous sections we have seen that the implementation of BIM is not homogeneous in all countries. We have also noted that despite the increase in literature related to BIM in recent years (Table 1.2 and Figure 1.3) PM scholars have ignored BIM as a tool to be considered in PM research.

Considering the increased complexity of construction projects mentioned on the first section of this chapter, any tools that help optimize the design and construction process should be analyzed if they help practitioners cope with this increased project complexity. On the other hand, PM scholars have for too long ignored the study of BIM (Table 1.2), despite its potential benefits that we will alter see, despite the increased interest by other field’s scholars (Figure 1.3) and by construction professionals in general (Figure 1.4)

The intention of this research is to study BIM from the PM point of view, and to do this, this paper tries to answer the question: “Is BIM a Project Management Tool? How can BIM help Project Managers succeed in delivering complex construction projects”? The author’s intention is to proof based on existing literature and empirical evidence that the answer to the first question is affirmative and that the answer to the second one includes a wide range of ways in which BIM can be a helpful PM Tool.

Parallel and as a consequence to this search for answers, several research objectives are defined:
1. To identify in which aspects is BIM implementation showing more benefits for the delivery of construction projects
2. To compare the benefits of BIM with the role of the Project Manager
3. To define which role should the Project Manager assume within the BIM framework.

The intention of the author is in no way to produce a promotional pamphlet for a specific BIM platform, nor is it to ignore the challenges and shortcomings of BIM platforms. For this reason, another research objective is defined as:
4. To analyze the existing challenges for BIM implementation and estimate future developments that might mitigate these challenges.

Figure 1.4 Google Search Trends for CAD vs. BIM (Google Trends, 2010)

The research methods to answer the research question and objectives will be described in the Methodology chapter of this paper. A key aspect that lead to the definition of the research methodology is the in depth analysis of relevant literature. The following chapter will deal with this topic, since despite the lack of references from the International Journal of Project Management there are plenty of scholars from other related research fields that have analysed the role of BIM (Table 1.2).

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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 1.2- Problem Definition

BIM is argued to be “a catalyst for change, poised to reduce industry's fragmentation, improve its efficiency/effectiveness and lower the high costs of inadequate interoperability” (Succar, 2009: p. 357). Studies show that there has been an important growth on the use of BIM software in the recent years (AIA, 2009; McGraw-Hill, 2008 and McGraw-Hill, 2010).

In the USA, as of 2008 and according to AIA (2009), 34% of registered AIA members have purchased a BIM software package, percentage that doubles the numbers of 3 years before (Ibid). It is important to remember the definition of BIM used on the previous section comprises not only tools but also the adoption of new processes, so the data expressing “use of BIM” has to be analyzed with caution for it is not clear if it refers only to the use of BIM software or to the holistic approach to BIM that this dissertation is interested in.

Regardless of this difficulty analysing the data, the penetration rates (McGraw-Hill, 2010a) show the relevance that the technology is gaining in some countries. But not all countries embrace it at the same pace. As it can be seen on Figure 1.2, North America is ahead of Europe on BIM adoption rates.

Figure 1.2 BIM Adoption Rates in North America and Europe
After McGraw-Hill, 2010a)

On the other hand, and despite the great increase in Journal Articles about BIM in recent years (Figure 1.3), Project Management Literature has tended to ignore the topic of BIM. Only Bansal (2011) and Benjoaran (2009) mention this concept in the International Journal of Project Management. The only mention found on the Project Management Institute literature –the Project Management Journal and PMI organised Conferences- is a conference paper by Lee (2008) that briefly mentions the possible beneficial outcomes of using BIM from the Project Manager point of view.
BIM is becoming a relevant topic of research in recent years (Figure 1.3) but none of this increase in interest on the topic has arrived to PM specialised literature (Table 1.2). Research is thus needed on the role of BIM as a Project Management [PM] tool. Most of the potential benefits of BIM mentioned on the previous section of this chapter are key aspects of the role of a Project Manager (PMI, 2004), for this reason PM literature should no longer ignore this topic and join other scholars on analyzing the potential benefits of implementing BIM in construction projects.

Figure 1.3 Evolution of the Number of Journal Articles Mentioning BIM

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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 1.1- Background

The author of this Master Thesis has always been interested in the implementation of ICT in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction [AEC] Industry. During the last decade, the major shift in ICT for the AEC industry has been the proliferation of Building Information Modelling [BIM] in industrial and academic circles as the “new CAD paradigm” (Succar, 2009).

BIM is currently the most common denomination for a new way of approaching the design, construction and maintenance of Buildings. Different authors and commercial firms have chosen to name this new approach in different ways (Table 1.1) but they all refer to the same concept that will be referred always on this dissertation as BIM.

There is not a single definition of what BIM is. Some scholars define it as “a set of interacting policies, processes and technologies generating a methodology to manage the essential building design and project data in digital format throughout the building's life-cycle” (Succar, 2009: p. 357). Other scholars prefer to define it using papers by commercial BIM vendors. Aouad et al. (2006) used the following definition: “building information model (BIM) is a computer model database of building design information, which may also contain information about the building’s construction, management, operations and maintenance” (Graphisoft 2003, cited in Aouad et al., 2006: p. 5). Other software vendors have also stated their own definitions of BIM such as “create and operate on digital databases for collaboration, manage change [...] and capture and preserve information for reuse by additional industry-specific applications” (Autodesk, 2002 : p. 2). For the purpose of this dissertation the author would like to use his own definition of BIM that encompasses the most common accepted views on the topic.

Building Information Modelling [BIM] is the most commonly used term to describe a set of parametric CAD tools and processes for the creation and maintenance of an integrated collaborative database of multi-dimensional information regarding the design, construction and/or operations of a building, with the purpose of improving collaboration between stakeholders, reducing the time needed for documentation of the project and producing more predictable project outcomes.

Table 1.1 Widely used terms related to BIM
(after Succar, 2009 : p. 359)

Although it is sometimes understood that BIM is only the software platform and that all the inter-organizational integrated processes should receive other names (like Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, etc), when referring to BIM in this dissertation, the reader should always understand that BIM refers to the previous definition of tools and processes and never to just the software tools that allow the geometrical modelling and the input of information. It is the understanding of the author, that this holistic definition embraces all the potential of BIM and offers a better understanding of all its scope.

Defining the term though, is not the purpose of this dissertation. As we will see in the following section, despite the potential benefits that we can infer from the previous definition, the implementation of BIM and the perception of its benefits is not equal everywhere (AIA, 2009; McGraw-Hill, 2008 and McGraw-Hill, 2010). This disparity between potential benefits and acceptance is the starting point for our problem definition.

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