“From the project management standpoint, the most important aspect of Building Information Modelling is information”
Rafael Capdevila manages the BIM Manager Postgraduate at the Col·legi d’Aparelladors, Arquitectes Tècnics i Enginyers d’Edificació de Barcelona. He has been working in the architecture and construction trade since 1996. He is in charge of project and site management and execution based on the BIM methodology. He specialises in the management of large domestic and international architectural teams and is also involved in different processes in the area of city planning management and development. He and Jaume Bardají Joval are the cofounders of the Bardají-Capdevila Management Barcelona, S.L. Company and he is currently the Team Leader in the Tècnics G3, SLP company structure.
What is your impression of the situation of the implementation of BIM in Catalonia and Spain?
We are in the early stages, some work is being done, although the focus is too heavily on project design. There is an entire area, namely the actual work or site and the future management of the assets executed that is somewhat overlooked. The handicap is that it is good for generating projects, but since the mentality of the people that design these projects is limited to printing out drawings, between 70% and 80% of the potential involved in working with BIM is being wasted. More work is therefore required to focus on BIM beyond the actual project. This is where we are now, and things would seem to be stirring, slowly but surely, at institutional level as well.
Why is it so difficult for BIM to be applied to the execution phase?
As far as those of us who are involved in site management are concerned, the most important part of BIM (Building Information Modelling), is the “I” part, i.e. information. Very little care is taken with parametric information, the information that goes into the models; on the other hand, greater emphasis is attached to generating drawings. However, it is not just about plans or drawings, there is other information that is needed, such as technical conditions and specifications, to which no attention is paid. Moreover, we lack clear standards that we can use to communicate with each other, remembering that we operate in a digital environment with huge amounts of data to manage. Greater awareness of the need to manage data is called for and that this must be done transparently. Projects involve a great number of professionals who need to be able to access all the data, smartly, in order to do their job. We should never lose sight of the fact that the digital world is infinite, which means that it is easy to get lost in it.
And how can we solve this? Because in the BIM setting, coordination is of the essence…
I think a lot of people do not realise what working with BIM actually means. Many will say that it is about making 3D drawings, but they overlook the entire data management part behind all of this, as well as the collaboration involved. They see it as a tool rather than a methodology. The problem is rooted in the way that the concept of BIM has been communicated; it has often been reduced to a software tool. Many students even mistakenly think they know BIM because they have done a course in Revit. Obviously, Revit is a tool, but it is not the methodology. BIM allows you to run a simulation of the work to be executed; this therefore means that what really matters are the data we are working with.
How can an event such as the European BIM Summit help to improve things?
Things have gone very well until now, because we were in the initial stage and therefore had to create awareness of the BIM methodology. Having said that, we have not yet got past the presentation format. We have disseminated the concept and this has been done very well, but we need to take the next step that will make it a true summit. We need feedback. The BIM Summit must be a tool to generate knowledge to exchange experiences, bearing in mind that each territory has its own way of doing things.
You manage projects that are executed using the BIM methodology. How do you manage this?
Projects are not usually prepared to be executed with the BIM method, which means that I have to re-adapt them to turn them into something that is buildable. This means slicing up the 3D model that is sent to me and transforming it into an IKEA-type model, one that allows me to generate parameters and make sure that all the parts fit together properly. The problem is that in Spain we apply a linear process to constructing buildings. The way it is assembled not only depends on the architect, but also on the builder, and logistics also play an important role. Project designers are unlikely to have the detailed knowledge they need to know how what they have designed will be built in the future, when the builder comes in, and therefore cannot take this into account in their projects. This decision is taken when work actually begins, with a staggering impact on costs; we are issuing tenders for projects and submitting estimates without even knowing how we will execute them. This means that there is an enormous degree of uncertainty, which generates competition rather than encouraging cooperation between all the professionals involved. We cannot foresee problems without a pre-constructed model. On the other hand, increasingly more developers are asking me to get involved at the beginning of the drafting of the executive project rather than at the beginning of the actual work. This is a step in the right direction.
And what about the maintenance phase, once work has been completed?
It costs a lot of money to maintain buildings throughout their service life, much more than the execution of the project in itself, although very few people have this long-term vision. It is very difficult to get a developer involved in the management of assets. A large part of the difficulty lies in the management of the information generated; put plainly and simply, it is an IT problem.
Is it important for administrations to be involved in order to change the construction model?
Yes. They are the driving force of change. If there is no legal mandate, no one will lift a finger. Since September 2017, when the Infrastructures Department of the Government of Catalonia imposed the use of BIM, there has been a public and private revolution. Everyone asks for BIM because the administration does. However, and as I already mentioned, the fact that they do not know what is really involved is a different matter altogether, but change must start somewhere. It is important for the administration to be involved in order to catalyse the implementation of this methodology; to establish working criteria that eventually lead to standardisation; and for everyone in the sector to put their skates on. There are handicaps, such as the Ley de Ordenación de la Edificación (LOE) [Building Planning Law], which is totally outmoded, or the Ley de Contratos del Estado [State Procurement Law], which is diametrically opposed to working with the BIM methodology. These are major obstacles that render hamper a collaboration-based way of working.
The European BIM Summit is possible thanks to the contribution of our sponsors: Roca, as Main sponsor; Finalcad, as Gold sponsor; Agència Catalana de l’Aigua, ATL, Bentley, CIAT, FGC, Knauf Industries, MUSAAT, PREMAAT, Graphisoft Archicad and SIMBIM Solutions, as Silver sponsors; Calaf Constructora, Copisa, and Fundación Laboral de la Construcción, as Pro sponsors; and BASF, as Sustainability sponsor. It has also the support and the collaboration of the Departament de Territori i Sostenibilitat of the Generalitat de Catalunya.