Legislation, Adoption, Education Needed to Unlock Bim’s PotentialBy Andrea Villar | Thu, 07/08/2021 - 05:00
Q: How have Rizoma and the Building Information Modeling (BIM) ecosystem evolved in recent years?
A: Although our firm focuses on consulting for design and virtual construction, we provide BIM services, as well as implementation and consulting. We have another branch that specializes in digital topography and another area into which we have ventured in recent years is generative design, which uses machine learning interfaces that help us optimize projects. We have found a great opportunity since the market of companies offering BIM solutions has become saturated.
Our spectrum has expanded in recent years for several reasons. We entered the BIM segment in 2008 when we worked at ICA. We realized that the design platforms we were using had a great deal of information that could also be used for the construction phase. We started extracting this information and using it in construction because we realized that we could better plan our developments this way. Later, we began to form technological alliances with software developers who understood that the technology they used for design had many uses in the construction phase as well.
In 2014, we founded Rizoma and began to capitalize on all that we had learned. We realized that in many countries there would be a great deal of movement in terms of projects and regulations related to BIM in both the private and public sectors. However, in Mexico we saw that there was a certain lag and we decided to promote these tools, where the final objective is to deliver better projects with fewer resources. In recent years, there has been a joint effort among the private sector and academic and government institutions to promote these methodologies. In many countries, it is now mandatory to use BIM for projects developed with public resources. The UK is a great example, since nothing is invested in projects that are not modelled with this tool.
The BIM Task Group initiative was born in the UK, which came to Mexico and eventually led to meetings with the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP) to promote a bill that made BIM mandatory for projects worth more than MX$1 billion (US$47.8 million). This is not easy because a manual has to be developed for the industry with standards and process designs that are adapted to the Mexican market.
Q: Besides the standardization of processes, what else is needed to be able to standardize best practices from other countries?
A: The private sector is almost always the first in the market to adopt these practices because it is the one that sees an immediate benefit, whether economic or in terms of productivity. In the US, when a contract has BIM requirements, it is easier to corroborate that they were met throughout the process. In Mexico, on the other hand, this cannot be verified. The option we have chosen is to verify projects based on what can be extracted from them. This makes it easier to quantify the results. There are still legal gaps that complicate tropicalization, which has to be multidisciplinary. As a tool for transparency, BIM also makes the industry in Latin America uncomfortable due to the bad contractual practices in the regoin.
Q: How are you approaching acceptance and training in the construction area?
A: It is a constant problem but it seems to be temporary. People in the construction sector are experts in what they do. They have worked like this for many years and it is difficult for them to change. Also, there is an important psychological factor that influences this. When a person in the construction industry has been working in the same way for 30 years and suddenly someone younger comes along using other tools, they feel threatened. That said, the way these implementations are done has an impact on their success. If instead of imposing a new tool on them, we first expose workers and demonstrate the benefits of the technology, they will eventually accept it. It is necessary to list the benefits that they will get, rather than those the company will achieve.
Q: What is needed in the academic field to promote new technologies?
A: When I went to UNAM, I was not taught to use technological tools because I had to learn to draw by hand and it was forbidden to submit my work in AutoCAD. Even if a student learned to use it on their own, it was forbidden. Some time ago, I taught classes and I realized that one of the obstacles to achieving greater adoption is that most teachers refuse it. BIM changes the traditional creative process because it requires thinking in 3D and that somehow makes teachers feel threatened and obsolete.
Adoption will be a long and difficult process. Fortunately, there are already universities like Tecnológico de Monterrey that understand its benefits. There is a program called Práctica Empresarial (Business Practice) in which businesspeople teach students, including engineers, architects and designers who have to develop a project together. Instead of the architect doing a project alone, it is done with people from different fields, just like in real and professional life.
Rizoma is a collective of engineers and architects dedicated to consulting and virtual design of infrastructure projects. The company, founded in 2014, also specializes in digital topography