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Agility in Construction – BIM and Agile Mindset

Agility in Construction

The under article was originally published on LinkedIn on  July 29, 2018

The text is prepared to summarise my observations about change tendency in work culture in AECO industry.
In Construction the innovation comes in many forms: new materials, new software, new construction method and so on. The list goes on and on but generalizing we aim to achieve two main goals: to build faster and cheaper with improved or unaffected quality. BIM is no exception in that regards. Therefore, it is natural to expect measurable & financial benefits from it. BIM implementation in various organizations starts because of various reasons. In the best-case scenario, the Management identifies BIM as the logical way of efficiency improvement and method to stay on the top of the game. Substantial research precedes the decision to go ahead.

On the other end of the spectrum are cases when a panic decision is taken to get Revit because a contract requires BIM-actually it is hard to call it BIM implementation. Rich variety of BIM publications often generated by software providers gives an illusion that the change of software is the most demanding part of transition to BIM. Therefore, in most BIM implementations attempts the software training is seen as main component of the process. The importance of technology used during BIM cantered construction projects cannot be questioned and mastering of the tool is an asset in hands of the team. The unnoticed ingredient of the BIM implementation, often differentiating between failure and success of the implementation, is the change of the team dynamic. I know that this is nothing new. This statement is also central to Principles of Integrated Project Delivery as defined by The American Institute of Architects.

The above stays also in line with Principles of Agile Manifesto originally dedicated to Software development. The article published by PMI titled: Agile project management concepts applied to construction and other non-IT fields proves universal value of agile mindset.
Mutual Respect and Trust, Open Communication and Project-Centric Approach are crucial for successful team operation however difficult to measure, and in the consequence taken lightly by many organisations.
In construction, BIM as a work environment, method of communication and source of data takes a lot from the Agile attitude. I would say that using BIM without application of Agile values significantly decreases reachable benefits.
Construction by its nature is organised by predefined milestones, and the Gantt chart is going to be Planners best friend for long. However, there is often little benefit from overly detailed planning done upfront. Hence method of achieving the milestones drifts to the agile Approach if BIM is on board.
Following inspiration from above mentioned PMI article and using my experience from various BIM implementation and execution projects the below tabulation translates the Principles of Agile Manifesto to the World of BIM uses:

Principles of Agile ManifestoBIM Translation
Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.BIM allows the client to virtually experience the project and gives opportunity to monitor cost and environmental impact of the design. The monitoring of project development may start from very early stage, and if the BIM model development is coherently implemented updated data is delivered frequently.
Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.However, the late change in construction is usually recognised as the risk of cost and time increase, this type of situations is unavoidable. The modification may follow: site situation, client requirement, business situation…. BIM allows for precise assessment of the change consequences especially during site construction.
The client stays aware of the situation and is able to take educated decision about the next steps.

The BIM allows for:
• Properly managed BIM model indicates chain of changes following initial modification.
• Possibility of modification during construction – if as build phase (parameter) is consequently assigned to BIM model elements already constructed on the site – model tracks site progress. • Allows for precise estimation of the cost and time impact of the examined change.
Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescaleThe BIM model allows for frequent interaction with the client or other stakeholders in particular during design phase. 3D walk, VR & augmented reality presentations are prepared based on already developed BIM model being also source of the documentation.
Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.BIM model influence or even force open communication not only between construction trades but also with QS, planning or procurement. As exposure of work progress to others can make people uncomfortable it also develops the culture of equal rights to comment, rise issue or suggest improvements in design or value engineering.
• Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.
• At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.
IM model is the environment of collaboration and communication. It creates right conditions of developing trust among team members. Despite of initial fear of exposure of mistakes the team quickly learn that early identification of design issues reduced the rework time and benefits everybody.
The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.During development of the BIM model all team members are operating in multi-trade environment therefore instant communication is unavoidable. However following principles of BIM level 2 and 3 and using Common Data Environment tools dramatically improves the collaboration the experience shows that frequent face to face interaction remains the most efficient way of communication. It must be highlighted that open multi trade communication significantly improve team member knowledge outside of those specific disciplines.
Working software is the primary measure of progressObviously, the product of the development is not a software, but construction project or building constructed on site. Transparency of BIM allows the stakeholders to have accurate information about the project progress, completeness and its alignment with current requirements. BIM allows to verify if level of technical and spatial coordination is achieved as per decided standard.
• Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
• „The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”
In result of collaborative nature of BMI the sustainable development of the construction project is supported. Scope gaps are easily identified as lack of reference or interface models prevents development of other trades. Properly created and progressively developed BIM Execution Plan allows for smooth introduction of new or replaced staff members.
• Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
• Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential
Established model developed strategy (LOD and LOI) follows process of the project development in term of object geometry detailing and information. The Lean attitude of the process helps to avoided abortive work. As the benefit of early involvement of all project participants is obvious the geometry and the information included in the model of every stage should be sufficient (and no more) for the planned model use. The LOD/LOI Matrix used during model development is subject to continues modification to optimise use of the BIM model.