#BIM, construction clients, #socialmedia, @theb1m and #bimregions discussed #ukbimcrew

This blog recognises that Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a fundamental change to a construction industry which has not progressed significantly in line with other industries in relation to productivity.  There are two sections to this post which includes; how can construction industry professionals embrace the opportunity to influence the Architecture Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry and also how can social media communication strategies affect the advancement of BIM and technology within the field.  Both of these questions will be considered, however it is recognised that these are large fields for discussion and further detailed analysis individually is recommended.

In order to understand how the AEC industry can be influenced it is worth understanding that the construction industry is predominantly client-led and the demand for work is divided into public sectors and private sectors.  The public sector includes government departments, public utilities, local authorities and the National Health Service (Consultations.rics.org, 2016).  Conversely the private sector is work undertaken for a private group or owner which may include property development companies seeking profits or investment in buildings or industrial or commercial clients who are looking for facilities to conduct their business, as well as private individuals (Consultations.rics.org, 2016).  With these client led groups, in order to influence the wider industry it would appear that they need to be engaged and new practices promoted to these groups.  Hardie and Newell (2011) argue that one of the key factors to influence innovation is the regulatory climate which is fundamental to drive through change and improvement within the construction industry. In addition to this client and end-user influence was indicated as having a high level of influence on innovation implementation.  Hardie and Newell (2011) go on to argue that change is effected by “the enthusiasm of talented individuals who simply refuse to accept that there is only one solution to a given problem. An industry climate that provides scope and opportunity for such people to develop and prosper is the primary prerequisite for improved technical innovation rates” (2011, p. 633).  This would align with the proposal that BIM implementation can be supported initially through dynamic and committed individuals within the construction industry.

A demonstration of a client group or body supporting a dedicated group of professionals has been the establishment by the Construction Industry Council (CIC) BIM Task Group of the BIM Regions (Bimtaskgroup.org, 2016).  These groups were set up across England to support BIM adoption and communication of the Government’s Construction strategy of achieving BIM level 2 on centrally procured projects by 2016 (Cabinet Office, 2011).  The regional groups have a champion for each area and the aim is to disseminate at a local level best practice and adoption (Bimtaskgroup.org, 2016);

  • Interface with the core team and the emerging legacy support organisation to raise awareness of the BIM programme and its requirements.
  • Act as a conduit for relevant information on the programme to ensure a consistent and contextualised message is disseminated.
  • Enable regional engagement in national discussions.
  • Encourage the sharing of BIM knowledge and best practice within the networks.
  • Facilitate regional collaborative activity to support the development of the supply chain’s BIM capabilities.
  • Provide linkage with the GCS BIM Task Group and the CIC BIM Forum.
  • Provide valuable feedback to the core team.

(Bimtaskgroup.org, 2016)

This is a demonstration of how the improvement of the construction industry can be engaged between a client demanding innovation; i.e. the UK Government in this case, and local regional individuals who work as champions in the construction industry and are passionate about improvement. However, a risk with this strategy is that it is run by committed individuals who are providing this service for free out of their own spare time. It would appear that for an effective and productive establishment of this group’s aims to be increased, and the influence to be maintained, that suitable funding and adequate time should be allowed to ensure the aims of the regional hubs is maintained.

Therefore, it is argued here that in order for AEC professionals to influence the construction industry clients groups are fundamental to support the adoption of innovative and long term change to a traditionally low-productivity industry.   This has been demonstrated in the UK however further funding and support is required for the effective long term implementation of this strategy.

Regarding the question of how social media can advance the adoption of new technologies, there are a number of interesting areas which have been developed over the last few years to discuss here.  These include the use of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and blogs, all of which have varying aims and effectiveness depending on what is required to be communicated and to whom.  Currently in the construction industry, Brown (2012) argues that social media has been adopted by large contractor organisations however Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) in particular have fallen behind.  Brown expresses concern that with the introduction of BIM as a collaborative and open sharing system that this needs to change in order to communicate openly how the industry can benefit from this new process (Brown, 2012).  This would probably appear to be similar to consultant adoption who also may need to engage further with social media adoption.  However, Brown also argues that the use of social media purely as a tool for self-promotion does not develop a strong following with people engaging with ideas and developing thought leadership and this is required for an effective social media strategy (Brown, 2012).

One group who have endeavoured to demonstrate the power of social media in engaging as many people as possible within the construction industry is the BIM 1 Million (B1M) who have an aim of sharing and inspiring to support BIM adoption (Theb1m.com, 2016);

Millions of people need to adopt BIM to realise its full potential. We can wait until everyone reads up on it, or we can reach out to them with engaging video content.

(Theb1m.com, 2016)

Payne (2016) argues that social media and, in particular, online video content is so popular now that it represents an opportunity to reach out and communicate with an audience, targeting young professionals and new entrants, within the construction industry. Payne argues that this is required to make the change from a traditional fragmented industry to a more cohesive and innovative construction sector which will produce buildings and infrastructure over the coming fifty years.

Plotnick (2012) furthers the discussion on social media adoption within the construction industry and argues for greater sharing and engagement to communicate topical issues that link to current concerns such as “climate change, health care costs, urban renewal, affordable housing, the changing workplace” (Plotnick, 2012).  This extends to ‘thought leadership’ which will can place an organisation at the forefront of innovation and therefore enhance their reputation. This clearly relates to strategy of identifying an organisation to potential clients who can drive greater efficiencies and increase the quality of the product that a client may receive, whether they are public or private sector. A risk here is that social media use is purely for marketing means and not for a greater change driven agenda across the construction industry as a broader principle.  Hhowever there may be a need to accept that these two issues of sharing ‘thought leadership’ and marketing may need to go hand-in-hand as no company will want to communicate their ideas for free.

Thought leadership in BIM has been demonstrated by a core group who have identified themselves on Twitter with the hashtag ”ukbimcrew”, begun by Casey Rutland in 2012 (Rutland, 2013).  Rutland confirms that the hashtag has reached many individuals with the intention to “Learn. Share. Improve. Repeat.” this open forum has been a success within the confines of Twitter, although has broadened to LinkedIn, and a select group who use this in a dedicated fashion.  However, there has been criticism that this hashtag, if misunderstood, could be perceived as an elitist group which excludes those who do not understand the purpose fully which can be hard to communicate within Twitter and its 140 character limit (Butcher, 2014). It would appear that individuals who have communicated on Twitter with this hashtag have particularly furthered the understanding and adoption of BIM within the UK industry as well as progressing the international standing of the UK BIM Level 2 standards.

The two questions asked here were; how can construction industry professionals embrace the opportunity to influence the Architecture Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry and also how can social media communication strategies affect the advancement of BIM and technology within the field have been examined at a high level.  It is argued here that these are large fields for discussion and further detailed analysis individually is recommended.  For new processes to be adopted it is clear that an examination of clients’ needs will affect the ability of the AEC industry to respond and implement innovative ideas.  However, it is also clear that there is an argument for social media engagement to assist the adoption and communication of new ideas to implement the new ideas that may increase the productivity and efficiency of the construction industry.

References

B1M, (2016). The Power of Video: Tom Payne at Google. Available at: http://www.theb1m.com/video/the-power-of-video-tom-payne-at-google  [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016].

Bimtaskgroup.org, (2016). BIM Regions. [online] Available at: http://www.bimtaskgroup.org/bim-regional-hubs/  [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016].

Brown, M. (2012). Why the construction sector should engage with social media. [online] The Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/construction-sector-social-media  [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016].

Butcher, S. (2014). The #ukbimcrew is Not a Clique; it’s for Everyone. [Blog] Just Practising. Available at: http://www.justpractising.com/social-tools/networking/ukbimcrew-clique-everyone/  [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016].

Cabinet Office, (2011). Government Construction Strategy. London: Cabinet Office.

Consultations.rics.org, (2016). RICS iConsult. [online] Available at: https://consultations.rics.org/consult.ti/construction_sectors/view?objectId=798068  [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016].

Hardie, M. and Newell, G. (2011). Factors influencing technical innovation in construction SMEs: an Australian perspective. Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, 18(6), pp.618-636.

Plotnick, M. (2012). Warming Up to Social Media. [online] Di.net. Available at: http://www.di.net/articles/warming_up_to_social_media/  [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016].

Rutland, C. (2013). What is the ukbimcrew? [Blog] Casey Rutland. Available at: http://caseyrutland.com/2013/02/10/what-is-the-ukbimcrew/  [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016].

Theb1m.com, (2016). What is The B1M? [online] Available at: http://www.theb1m.com/about  [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016]

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