In-house BIM expertise is critical to the work of top Irish contractors. Digital Built Consultants Managing Director and CitA Board Member Emma Hayes describes to Irish building magazine the changes she has witnessed within contractors’ organisations over the past 10 years and what is needed to overcome the challenges to building in-house BIM expertise.
CitA has developed its Board over the past few years, with people who bring vast expertise from industry and academia. Throughout 2020 we will bring Irish building magazine readers interviews with members of the CitA Board. In this issue, we talk with consultant, industry expert, academic and ICE Awards Judge Emma Hayes about developing a BIM team within contractors’ organisations.
Emma Hayes is Managing Director of Digital Built Consultants, a leading BIM and Digital Information Management consultancy firm. A Chartered Architectural Technologist, Emma holds a BSc in Architectural Technology from Technological University Dublin and an MSc in BIM Management from Middlesex University.
Based close to Dublin, Digital Built Consultants supports and guides clients from the Architectural, Engineering, Construction and Owner-Operated (AECO) industry throughout their digital transition and BIM adoption journey. Services provided include strategy, change management, training, project execution and management.
Emma has over 20 years’ experience in the AEC industry in Ireland and internationally. Prior to establishing her business, Emma was the Group BIM Manager with the project delivery specialists, PM Group. She was responsible for the development and implementation of the Group BIM strategy and roll-out of procedures and workflows for BIM adoption across the organisation’s network of offices in Europe, Asia and the US.
Industry work aside, Emma is a part-time lecturer on the Middlesex University BIM Management MSc programme and on the Technological University Dublin MSc in Applied BIM and Management programme. Emma has presented research papers at international conferences such as the CitA BIM Gathering, and is a Board Member of the Construction IT Alliance (CitA) as a non-executive director since 2018. With this great wealth of experience, Emma has witnessed great changes in contractors’ operations over the past 10 years with the development of in-house expertise.
Emma says Irish contractors’ Digital Construction portfolios are impressive, with many getting international work, clients’ praise and awards for major projects. However, there are different levels of capability in Irish construction with some Tier 2 contractors and SMEs outsourcing BIM expertise as they have not yet developed their in-house BIM team. “Many big contractors have developed reputations internationally for their BIM expertise; delivering projects throughout Europe and in the Middle East and Africa. However, there are others working with BIM on projects and outsourcing this to consultants while looking to develop in-house BIM skills.” Emma describes to us the challenges and means of developing in-house BIM expertise.
Emma remembers 10 years ago, it was mainly large multidiscipline engineering firms and Irish Tier 1 contractors who were developing BIM teams and implementing BIM on projects. Over the past few years this culture has filtered down to Tier 2 contractors and subcontractors. Subcontractors are now developing in-house teams and becoming international MEP and specialist leaders in Digital Construction. However, there are significant challenges, the primary one being skills. Upskilling an entire industry to a new way of working is a major task but the Irish construction industry has been supported by third-level colleges across the country.
Emma identifies the challenge and provides her own university as an example of how Irish colleges are meeting the requirements of industry. “The challenges of the skills shortage are significant. But this is being dealt with by increasing the number of university courses. For example the MSc in Applied BIM and Management at Technological University Dublin and their recently launched BSc (Hons) in BIM (Digital Construction) which is a one-year part-time re-skilling programme offers education and training routes for people who are working.” Aside from the skills challenge, strategy implementation can be difficult.
Implementing a Digital Construction strategy is difficult and this has been an issue for SMEs over the past few years. “Smaller companies are being asked to adopt BIM. Many do not have a BIM adoption and implementation strategy which is critical to the success of rolling out Digital Construction processes in organisations and on projects. Maybe if you do not have a strategy the best thing to do is work with a third-party BIM consultant. A consultant can engage with your in-house teams with an initial gap analysis workshop where they get an understanding of your business goals, existing workflows and processes, staff capability and organisational culture. From the findings in the workshop the consultant will analyse your BIM knowledge and adoption gaps and will prepare a strategic customised roadmap for BIM implementation in your organisation taking into consideration your business goals to ensure they align the BIM strategy. The roadmap also considers existing processes and organisational culture to ensure a smooth implementation process using short, medium and long-term goals. A medium-term goal would be to buy software, e.g. Revit or Navisworks, and to train people using this and to then roll it out across the organisation with training; a long-term goal might be to develop further BIM processes such as 4D and 5D workflows.”
Starting on new processes and dealing with the change within an organisation can be difficult. BIM adoption takes time and money and this is difficult while working to complete projects and trying to win more work. Talking of support for companies, Emma says Enterprise Ireland offers great support for companies selling services abroad. “A lot of contractors exporting services outside of Ireland are Enterprise Ireland clients and have availed of the BIM Enable grant. Enterprise Ireland will fund a BIM consultant to work with their organisation and do the gap analysis and develop a BIM Implementation roadmap. There is a second round of funding called BIM Implement where Enterprise Ireland fund a third-party BIM trainer to provide training with BIM tools and support with the implementation of BIM within the contractor’s organisation.” There is a lot of support to develop the BIM strategy she states; this is critical.
Without a BIM strategy, Emma stresses you are setting yourself up to fail. “Contractors may end up spending money on software that wasn’t appropriate for the business or spending time and money on outside expertise and modelling services. A BIM consultant can provide experienced guidance and support for a smooth transition to BIM and Digital Construction and this will save you money in the long-run.”
There is a big difference in developing a BIM team with a company turnover of several hundred million and developing a team with a turnover of €10m to €20m. Enterprise Ireland can be a key source of support for small companies. “For SMEs having a strategy is more important due to their more limited resources and they do not have the number of people in-house that those on the top tiers would. Enterprise Ireland funding is critical for SMEs as this gives them access to BIM consultants.”
There are also differences between main contractors and MEP and other specialist contractors as their roles are different on BIM projects. “Main contractors generally manage the information generated by the supply chain, managing the Common Data Environment and ensuring that the BIM Execution Plan (BEP) is being followed. They are often not generating the information themselves. MEP contractors and other specialists are authoring both graphical information and non-graphical asset information, throughout the construction and handover stages. Coordination is key for MEP contractors. They are avoiding clashes with other specialists and with civil, structural and architectural models etc. One of their key tasks is to complete the development of the asset information before handover. There are different emphasises with regards to tools and training of staff.”
Since starting her business two years ago, Emma has seen subcontractors outsourcing BIM skills to BIM consultancies. “These contractors do not have an in-house strategy. They are asked to implement BIM on projects but do not have the staff capabilities.” Emma’s company offers contractors skills support on projects and helps them grow and develop in-house capabilities. She emphasises the importance of selecting a BIM consultant with construction experience along with a proven track record in BIM adoption and implementation. “Enterprise Ireland will only approve BIM Enable and Implement funding with Enterprise Ireland pre-qualified and approved BIM consultants. If you can’t avail of EI funding, still engage with reputable consultants with experience as it will save money over time.”
Emma says in the near future all contractors should have the expertise within their organisation and be agile to technological change. “In the next decade I hope all contractors will have in-house capabilities to collaborate on-site with BIM processes and workflows which will improve project delivery and add value to the client.” It is presently very disjointed on BIM projects she explains where not all stakeholders have the capabilities. “There are gaps in collaboration between the project team and also with handover to the client.”
Asked where contractors should go for guidance and advice she says, “Go to CitA events in your region and attend the breakfast meetings in Dublin if you can or attend online. CitA is a key resource for a company or person in the Irish construction industry who wants to learn more about Digital Construction or to seek independent advice, and/or to progress on their BIM journey. I recommend attending the CitA Digital Transformation Series, the CitA Tech Trend Series and I also recommend attending the regional roadshow events.”
CitA is working with international organisations and has international contacts in industry and academia that gives members up-to-date knowledge Emma explains. “In CitA we are trying to become the single source of truth for BIM and Digital Construction in Ireland. We are building alliances with other organisations like BRE and the NBS so we can provide information for the Irish construction industry on tools, training, standards and expertise. Through Skillnet CitA provides courses and training to meet members’ needs.” If readers are interested in learning more on Digital Construction topics, there are a number of upcoming events in March, April and May, and this year the regions will be very active.
Dr Alan Hore outlines to us CitA’s objectives for 2020. “In 2020, CitA seeks to broaden the reach of the organisation and promote the benefits of membership of CitA and spread the message across the regions by embarking on our busiest regional event programme since CitA was formed over 20 years ago.”
This year with a focus on offsite, CitA will highlight the importance of Modern Methods of Construction given the challenge our industry faces in regard to the shortage of skilled people and our housing crisis. CitA is offering support to companies through CitA Skillnet industry-led training throughout Ireland.
Alan says the organisation is embarking on two research initiatives in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin in respect to:
a. Documenting BIM research in Ireland’s Higher Education Institutions over the past three years throughout Ireland.
b. Investigating the readiness of the Irish construction industry to prepare for the Irish Government BIM mandate.
CitA is currently delivering its breakfast series via webinar. Visit the site for more info.
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