AECbytes Viewpoint #58 (Jan 20, 2011))

Beyond BIM – It’s Not the End of the Road!

Robert Amor, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Robert Owen, University of Salford, UK

Over several decades, academics around the world have investigated the necessary tools, techniques, and conditions which would allow BIM (building information modeling) to become a positive force in the world of construction. As the research results matured, BIM started to become commercially available. Researchers and many in industry soon realized that BIM, as a technological innovation, was, in and of itself, not the end point in the journey. The technical adoption of BIM has to be supported by process and culture change within organizations to make a real impact on a project (for example, see AECbytes Viewpoint #35 by Chuck Eastman, Paul Teicholz, Rafael Sacks and Kathleen Liston).

Current academic research aims to understand the steps beyond BIM, which will help chart the future of our industry over the coming decades. This article describes an international research effort in this area, coordinated by the Integrated Design and Delivery Solutions (IDDS) initiative of the CIB (International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction). We hope that it responds to and extends the discussion initiated by Brian Lighthart in AECbytes Viewpoint #56, which asked about who is charting future BIM directions.

Background on CIB and IDDS

Let us start with an introduction to CIB and the role it plays in international research developments. This organization was formed in 1953, with the help of the United Nations, to assist in coordinating research efforts for the rebuilding of Europe following the Second World War. Since then, it has grown to be a fully international organization with over 500 organizational members representing mainly universities and government facilities. CIB includes over 5,000 research experts who work together on a wide variety of issues. Currently, there are almost 60 task groups and working commissions that are focused on research in many and varied sub-disciplines such as fire, acoustics, safety and health in construction, climate change and the built environment, legal and regulatory aspects of BIM, etc.

With so many groups focusing on very specific research topics in A/E/C-FM, there was a possibility that the research would progress only in silos. This led the CIB to introduce a range of “Priority Themes” to draw together the research expertise across the many groupings and to focus on wider issues for our industries. Priority Themes that have been established in the past include Sustainable Construction, Clients and Users, and Revaluing Construction. They are now joined by a fourth theme of Integrated Design and Delivery Solutions (IDDS), which is responsible for exploring the steps beyond BIM.

NAA (Not Another Acronym)!?

To make it clear that the work of defining what follows from BIM is recognized as being independent from BIM, we needed to find a description for the place that we wish to reach. “Integrated Design and Delivery Solutions” (IDDS) was coined to represent the future state of our industry, and to provide a little distance from BIM as a purely technical solution. It also helps recognize that process and people are the integral parts of the next steps for our industries. IDDS may or may not ultimately be the commercially successful term for the systems we will be seeing in the next decade, but we are confident that the systems which are sold in the years to come will encompass many of the attributes that are defined for IDDS.

Structure of the IDDS

As we start to develop the IDDS view of the future, we see that it impacts almost every aspect of the industry; and what we contemplate as the future of our industry is something very different from what exists now. We see a future where almost all processes have been radically adapted and optimized. These process changes will be made possible through a range of new technologies that augment tremendously the abilities of BIM as we have it today (and we can already see many process changes with today’s basic BIM technology). New types of professionals will need to be trained for our industry who are fluent with the new technologies and their impact on processes. This future contemplates changes far more disruptive than we have seen with BIM, but it will also bring benefits on a grander scale than BIM will ever be able to achieve. It foresees our industry as being a core and integral part of the knowledge economy and with levels of productivity which are in accord with its importance to global economies, rather than lagging behind, as it currently does.

Let’s look in more detail at a scenario of how the IDDS approach will impact processes, technologies and people. (The final IDDS approach is still being refined through international discussions planned over the coming year.)

Processes: Effective implementation of IDDS will result in integrated work processes for each phase of the project and throughout the lifecycle of the project. Prior to construction, the team completes: integrated planning to implement the project rather than specialist priorities throughout; integrated design to allow evaluation of multiple alternatives and coordinate functional and spatial interfaces; and integrated supply chains to provide timely technical expertise, commissioning, and subsequent operation and maintenance services, including delivery of fully defined system performance requirements and specifications, and coordination of completion, commissioning, and handover. Further future benefits may result from the adoption of new approaches to work processes now being developed in other sectors, such as “holonic” development and production (modularized, transferrable, partial solutions and processes, partial/interim product assemblies) and self‐learning factories.

Technologies: A new set of technologies and capabilities for collaboration and automation will be essential for project teams to implement the integrated work processes identified above. Working within a fully interoperable environment, these will include modeling of design intent; multi‐disciplinary performance analysis; building geometry data merged with construction site data; delivery of the as‐constructed facility model; 4D visualization; virtual prototyping; transparent, interoperable and reliable data transfer with third party applications; automated propagation of changes and integrity checking; and computer aided manufacturing and assembly. The deployment of these technologies working in an integrated fashion will require open systems architecture as well as sharing and coordination of appropriate views of data included in the models. The integrated facility model—usually a combination of distributed information resources—will become the means of ensuring coordination, agility, and integrated work processes throughout the full lifecycle, reducing risk and waste. It can also be used to support reporting to, and decision making by, higher management.

People: Project teams pursuing exemplary IDDS will need people with special qualifications, particularly in terms of an underlying adaptability and willingness to develop skill sets. People with such attributes will depend on a facilitative and supportive management and business culture in order to thrive. They begin with technical and collaboration skills and a commitment to a team approach. The training and development of integrated team members gives them an ability to understand the work processes of the other specialists on the team, along with the shared knowledge essential for integrated work processes. Several roles are likely to be critical for successful IDDS, including technical champion, integration champion, model management, and knowledge management. For each, the individual will bring not only knowledge, enthusiasm, and commitment to make IDDS work and realize the project benefits, but also a personal attribute of being able to assimilate multiple inputs and develop a holistic view of what is best for the project.

As knowledge resources and capital are developed, essential long‐term partnerships will form, providing some of the workforce stability needed for integrated design work processes and improved construction productivity. Such changes will also facilitate the opportunity for broader adoption of continuous improvement seen in other industrial sectors, improving training, motivation, and skill, and consequently, collaboration and health and safety outcomes.

How is IDDS Progressing?

The IDDS is gaining significant momentum under the leadership of Robert Owen, supported by a board of core members representing the University of Salford, SINTEF, NRC, CERL, VTT, Virginia Tech, TU Delft, Shimizu, NIST, Texas A&M University, Deakin University, and the University of Auckland, who have helped drive many of its developments over the last two years. In 2009, Finland hosted an international conference on IDDS, followed by a 2009 white paper published by CIB (, a special issue on IDDS in the AEDM journal in 2010, and several international workshops to progress and harmonize the research trajectory for IDDS. This has led to very positive feedback on the work being undertaken, reflected by the following quote from Commander Dempsey of the US Coast Guard in response to the release of the white paper on IDDS: “This type of work is very important to us practitioners … Your paper is making my work easier and, for that, I greatly appreciate your efforts blazing the trail so that others can more easily push the mule train forward.”

As for the future, 2011 will see further development workshops around the world as well as collaboration with other efforts, such as FIATECH and the various CIB groups and commissions.  In the spring of 2012, the CIB Board has agreed to focus on IDDS at their meeting in Washington DC, and Virginia Tech will coordinate an IDDS conference to link with this activity. 

However, we should bear in mind that the IDDS is not a single technology, process, or business culture; it hopes to synthesize all of these on a continuous improvement principle.  We can only do this with help from the rest of our community.  Those wishing to provide input to the research trajectory for IDDS, and to be involved in the research projects which will flow from this work, are very welcome at any of the international workshops. They can also contact Robert Owen ( to discuss their potential involvement.


About the Authors

Robert Amor received his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Victoria University of Wellington and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Auckland. He is now an Associate Professor in Computer Science at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His research interests have spanned most aspects of Construction IT over the last 25 years, where he has over 150 publications. He is currently the coordinator of the CIB’s working group W78 on Construction IT, which has run an annual international conference series for over 25 years. Robert has been involved with international standards development for the representation of buildings for over a decade, including as a board member of the Australasian chapter of the International Alliance for Interoperability. He has held positions as a research scientist at the Building Research Establishment in the UK and has recently completed a term as Head of Department of Computer Science at the University of Auckland. Robert is currently on sabbatical at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Robert Owen is a (very) late entrant to academia, having started work at 16. After serving as a technician, pilot, and intelligence officer for 18 years in UK’s Royal Air Force, he was head-hunted to join the defense industry, where he worked as a technology applications manager and business development manager/ director. He eventually decided to get educated and obtained his Masters Degree (Distinction) in Information Systems from the University of Sheffield, UK.  Bob is now Senior Research Fellow in the UK’s premier built environment research organization at the University of Salford, UK, and specializes in project and process improvement.  He is an acknowledged UK and international expert in project and program management and leads the CIB’s Priority Theme on Integrated Design and Delivery Solutions (IDDS).

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