Bridging the Performance Gap through Collaboration – Utilising BIM

Over recent years there appears to have been a shift in thinking within the construction industry, as increased documentation on the performance gap consistently highlights that this may in fact be a compound issue, concerning all stages of the delivery process and building operation. Such research undertaken by academic and industrial sources alike, has thrown up findings which criticise the traditionally disjointed stages in the construction process; emphasising the need for better integration and coordination of professionals and users at all stages of delivery, from the design stage all the way through to handover and building usage.

Such findings have implicit assumptions regarding responsibility, with increased emphasis on cooperation upfront; arguing that collaborative modes of working will eliminate documented mismatches generated through differing approaches from different professions during construction resulting from poor communication. Such scenarios include those where professions downstream dismiss aspects specified at design, undertaking work based on their own recognised modes of practice often with disastrous effect, and where assumptions made during design are used to form expectations regarding energy usage during operation, which are in fact inherently unrealistic.

Without doubt, the current frontrunner in attempts to bridge the heterogeneity between building design and usage is through utilising BIM, which now forms a mandatory part of many government funded construction projects across Europe. Shifting conventional modes of operation from 2D drawings to a virtual environment allows each construction discipline to input profession-specific data, as the model is passed on at each stage of the building lifecycle; from the design team to the contractors and subcontractors, and eventually onto the building user. The ethos is one of minimising information losses through the generation of a collaborative environment, and the continuation of a homogenous approach to construction and building operation, regardless of which team currently has project ownership.

Although well underway, this transition must be carefully managed. As has been highlighted, using such a detailed package of software carries with it the risk of shutting individuals out, rather than drawing them in as was the intention. Where people are already being drawn out of their recognised ways of working, an acronym, jargon heavy environment is unlikely to prove accessible if it appears too elitist and complicated. This will be particularly important when considering building users, who are extremely unlikely to be able to reference an overly complicated package of software when many Operational and Maintenance manuals are already deemed too complicated and not user friendly; issues cited in the literature as a root cause of ineffective building operation and a resultant performance gap. For this group in particular then, inclusivity will be important in ensuring building operation is closer to that specified at design.

It would appear that the industry is still a long way off from moving towards an entirely software based approach to project management and execution, however it is clear that efforts need to be made now to ensure that this transition brings about a reduction in the performance gap, and does not widen it by shutting groups out of the process.

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