Marco Vidal
Managing Partner
Pablo Lezema
Pablo Lezema
Innovation and Development Manager

Embracing the BIM Revolution

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 15:21

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a growing trend in the infrastructure industry to lower costs and increase accuracy. Pablo Lezama, Innovation and Development Manager of Rizoma, says the challenge is knowing how to successfully adapt it to each project and to form a highly specialized team that knows how to get the best out of the software. “BIM is not just a software but an entire methodology,” he says, adding that there are more companies in the market that are using BIM, but are not true experts of the tool. “Many of these companies are using the software in its standard mode. To truly optimize BIM, one has to add more functions and program it to fit the precise needs of each project. The software is only 20 percent of the project; the rest lies with the experts who handle it.”

Latin American countries, including Mexico, have a history of being resistant to change and technology. According to Marco Vidali, the engineering solutions firm’s Managing Director, they are resistant to technology because they think it entails an additional cost for their projects. Fortunately, there are many companies that are beginning to realize that projects that use BIM from the outset have a better chance of pre-empting problems, drastically reducing cost and time overruns. “Most projects experience a 40 percent cost overrun and they are almost never finished on time,” Vidali says. “Although it is more difficult to measure the impact of BIM, there are fewer surprises during the project, which results in the optimization of resources.”

Apart from overruns, the Mexican market’s reticence to adopt these technologies can also be traced to labor costs that are much lower than in other countries. “Instead of buying a new machine for a construction site, a developer can hire more than 100 people at the same price,” says Vidali. He adds that the generation gap can also play a role as older generations may sometimes struggle to see the added value BIM technology provides. “BIM requires teamwork and collaboration, which can sometimes be difficult for old-school industry players,” Vidali says. “In Mexico, everybody wants to have individual information because there is a lack of trust in shared data and we do not have a culture of working together to reach better results.” These tools help increase transparency and encourage data sharing between different work teams, a concept that has also made some people cool to the tech. “This tool has also made people uncomfortable because it promotes transparency. All parties involved can see the information and status of the project in real time, with no filters.”

Because BIM is a new technology, millennials and younger generations are more open to integrating it into their projects. The technology has permeated younger generations, more so due to a norm that has been published to encourage the use of BIM and universities that offer degrees in a related field are actively promoting its use. “Graduates have a new mentality when it comes to technology and they are more willing to adapt BIM into their projects,” says Vidali. Despite hesitance, the public sector is even beginning to integrate it into its projects. IMSS has even made BIM mandatory in certain projects to detect interference and GACM also made it a requirement for the construction of NAICM. But working with the public sector can be demanding and Vidali says it is not without issues. “The public sector made BIM mandatory, but the construction company, designer and project manager did not want it and looked at it as an extra cost,” he says. “The lack of consensus between teams made the project a lot more difficult to complete.”

In Mexico, the private sector has been embracing this tool the most. Developers and architects are working together along with the government to make this mandatory for all PPP projects, just like in the UK. This is now becoming the norm and Lezama believes that BIM is here to stay. “We must stop teaching it as just another software, but rather as a tool that has a huge impact on the various phases of a project,” he says. Rizoma decided that it was important to change the sector’s perspective of BIM as just a software. “We combined BIM with preconstruction services such as the management, planning and costing of the project,” Lezama says. “This made our results more measurable for the clients.” The company believes that because BIM is a relatively new technology, the learning curve is much steeper and it is important to frame the benefits in a way the industry can grasp to convince developers to try new things.