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Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Value of Building Information Modeling: AECbytes Viewpoint #47

AECbytes Viewpoint #47 (September 1, 2009)

Dr. Burcin Becerik-Gerber and Samara Rice
University of Southern California

At the recent BIM CON ! FAB 2009 symposium hosted by the University of Southern California, architecture, engineering and construction practitioners described how their firms have effectively used Building Information Modeling (BIM) in their projects—their BIM processes, and the benefits they believe they have found. With the increasing number of case studies on the topic of BIM in practice, anecdotal evidence suggests that the use of BIM makes the building industry more efficient and effective. However, these case studies can only provide insight into singular situations; they fail to provide a complete and comprehensive list of benefits and associated costs and they rarely assign quantitative values. The question still remains: is BIM really lowering costs and making the building industry more productive? The intuitive answer is ‘yes’ but what is really needed are models for establishing metrics and benchmarks, so the benefits of BIM can established more definitively.

ROI for Technology Implementation in AEC

In the building industry, information technology investment evaluations are complicated by the fact that each project is unique in terms of its parameters and characteristics such as financing, inter-organizational relationships, end user requirements, etc. What makes it even more complicated for the building industry is that there are no benchmarks to build on or measure from to provide meaningful comparisons. Specifically with BIM, there has been a lack of consistent fiscal benchmarking that is associated with the conversion from CAD to BIM, let alone from BIM to BIM process enhancements and innovations. In addition, information technology investments are often characterized as being extremely hard to evaluate due to difficulties in quantifying the relevant costs and benefits, as well as due to high degree of uncertainty with respect to the expected technology value. Many of the benefits fall into the semi-intangible or intangible category (for example, improved product quality, better decision making capabilities, increased availability of data, etc.) and therefore, lack the weight of clear revenue improvements. Confidentiality roadblocks that are also common in the building industry remain a large impediment to data collection.

However, the ROI for BIM can still be measured. In 2006 in the Harvard Design School Department of Architecture, we examined the proposed opportunities of Online Collaboration and Project Management (OCPM) technology and measured the benefits/values that these technologies can provide to project stakeholders and their collaborators during the life cycle of construction projects. Five OCPM technology vendors and several of their clients supported this research and the results were published in the book, Computer Aided Collaboration for Managing Construction. We drew from our experience of this study and applied it to the problem of determining the ROI for BIM as part of a research project in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Southern California

The Need for ROI for BIM

The technology, process and organizational investments required to implement BIM are considerable and costly, and adopting BIM requires substantial changes to how the industry has traditionally been designing and building projects. Managers often need to prove that an investment will produce a return before they receive the money to spend on new systems and processes. Investors feel sure that there must be benefits, but they have neither been able to predict what these benefits are, nor been able to measure them after the investment has been made, frustrating all those interested in pushing the technological state of the art forward.

One of the primary motivators for professionals in the building industry to adopt new technologies is the opportunity for direct gains and benefits in their own operations. Therefore, an increase in the availability of fiscal information would be significant. Although the issue of ROI has attracted attention in both academic research and the private consulting industry, there are no valid results available today to encourage faster adoption by industry stakeholders.

Read the rest of the article...there's a lot more and some pretty graphs:
The Value of Building Information Modeling: AECbytes Viewpoint #47

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