Volume 8, Issue 10 - November 2007

Trend Tracker

Building Information Modeling
How Utilizing It Can Gain a Competitive Advantage
by Michael Collins

New technologies are adopted typically in waves, with some companies embracing them immediately, while others do so much later. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a technology in the relatively early adoption stage that has the potential to make a huge positive impact on the building products industry. BIM (which is pronounced to rhyme with ‘rim’) represents the next generation in 3-D building design that will replace 2-D computer-aided design (CAD). BIM is a system for storing and integrating information about all the components of a building. It is to be used during the entire life cycle of a building, from design to demolition. In the design stage, BIM results in an increase in efficiency, while eliminating design problems before physical construction begins.

The National Institute for Building Sciences has undertaken the organization and promotion of BIM in order to address the existing inefficiencies in building construction. More than a mere 3-D rendering of a building, BIM seeks to integrate information regarding all components of a building, from selection to eventual replacement. According to Bill Lambert, a representative of BIMWorld Inc., these aspects include performance statistics, product specifications, care and installation instructions, warranty terms, colors and others. By providing architects with ready access to this information, BIM enables them to make optimal choices with regard to the components of a building.

BIM as a Source of Competitive Advantage
When fully adopted, BIM should be much more powerful than was the conversion to 2-D CAD. Simply put, companies maintain their own individual CAD libraries, which limits the dispersion and use of information. In the case of BIM, image library companies have emerged that store data and share it with users, who are typically architects. The library maintained by BIM World Inc. contains more than 25,000 product SKUs, called objects. Using a large library of BIM objects allows architects to ensure that the building components they have selected will be compatible with each other when construction begins.

When the Internet was first introduced, many companies ignored it. Others, though, established sometimes-crude initial websites in order to be among the first to adopt this new technology. Early adoption usually pays rich dividends in learning as the new technology unfolds and becomes disseminated. At some point, successful new technologies shift from fad status to being an absolute necessity. We are no longer impressed if a company has a website. Rather, we are surprised to encounter companies of any size without one. It appears that BIM is progressing along the same spectrum. Early adopters will have the advantage of learning the system before it becomes a defensive necessity. Companies wishing to take maximum advantage of BIM’s future impact will ensure that all new products are designed to be BIM compliant from the outset. Currently, companies are working to submit data regarding existing products to make them BIM compliant, a more laborious process.

Door and window component manufacturers have also begun to seek BIM compliance. By submitting their products to the system, including various performance and cost characteristics, they create the possibility of being specified for a given project as part of a door or window manufactured by another company. This can lead to new customer relationships with manufacturers. 

The Future of BIM
BIM currently is used primarily in commercial applications. However, Lambert predicts that residential builders will adopt BIM standards increasingly. He believes that adoption by big-box retailers, who work with homeowners on remodeling projects, will indicate an advanced stage of acceptance of the system. By that point, BIM will have become a ‘must-have’ for door and window manufacturers, rather than a point of differentiation.

There also is a significant connection between BIM compliance and competition from overseas companies. One of the disadvantages faced by overseas manufacturers is their inability to network with and call on architects, seeking to be specified in upcoming projects. With BIM, these competitors will have an immediate audience with thousands of architects as soon as they begin to submit BIM-compliant product information to the image data libraries. Since the BIM software is used to match a building’s design with budget requirements, it is highly likely that the low prices offered by many overseas manufacturers will draw attention among architects.

It appears that BIM currently is at the perfect inflection point to provide a significant competitive advantage to early adopters, at least for the several years it will take for it to become as indispensable as CAD and other current tools. Companies would be well advised to consider working toward BIM compliance while the majority of the competitive advantage in doing so still exists. 

Michael Collins is with Jordan, Knauff & Company, an investment banking firm that specializes in the door and window industry. He may be reached at mcollins@jordanknauff.com. Mr. Collins’ opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of this magazine.


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