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What does BIM mean to Cansel?

- An interview by Canada BIM Council (CanBIM) with Sheila Bjerreskov, Cansel

Sheila Bjerreskov is a project manager in the Professional Services division at Cansel. The Professional Services group works with clients to make sure that they understand their business, their pain points, and their long term business goals. She works with clients to develop strategies for the projects they undertake, such as implementing new technologies or processes, and expanding their service offerings.
Cansel, established in 1966, is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. They started out as a repair shop for survey equipment and over the past 50 years have grown to 6 divisions with 23 locations across Canada and 400 employees. All the divisions support Cansel's mission, which is Improving Field to Finish Productivity.
CanBIM: What does BIM mean to Cansel?
Sheila: For us BIM is field to finish, that's what we do. In a nutshell, it's all about communication and cooperation from everybody involved in a project, and everybody working towards the same goal, which is usually, a cheaper, better, faster and more sustainable project. We were doing BIM before BIM was a thing. It was just the nature of the industry that Cansel started in. BIM is a very integral part of our business because we are involved in everything from the collection of data in the field, pushing that data into the office for design, and then back into the field for construction. BIM for Cansel is about the interconnection of disciplines and the management of information. We have technical specialists experienced in everything from Autodesk software to survey equipment to drones. With our wide range of expertise, it's easy to see why BIM is essential to our company's field to finish focus.
CanBIM: What advice would you give someone who is just beginning to introduce BIM into their company?
Sheila: Don't try and do it on your own. We often talk to clients that have previously attempted the switch to BIM on their own. They bought Revit, tried to do a project, and for one reason or another, the whole thing failed. They went over budget, overran the schedule, and switched back to AutoCAD to get the job done. They just gave up. Make sure you make use of people in your industry that are familiar with what you're trying to do. It doesn't have to be Cansel. It could be Autodesk themselves or other companies within your industry. Be willing to ask for and accept help from people that have the experience you don't have.
"People need a clear plan of where they're trying to go and the gradual steps needed to get there."
The other big thing is to go slowly. We have a lot of clients that think they can switch to a BIM platform, and in 6 months 90% of their projects are going to be done in BIM. A lot of times that doesn't work. People need a clear plan of where they're trying to go and the gradual steps that are needed to get there. Change management is a huge part of that, and it's a piece that is often overlooked. There's huge change involved in implementing BIM. It changes everything from the makeup of your teams to how you write a proposal. It's really important that clients look at the whole aspect of the change. It's always more than just buying software and getting training.
Usually the decision to implement BIM comes from the upper management, and they may not understand all the nuances of what that decision means. For example, you may decide you want to implement BIM and in 3 years you want 75% of your projects to be in BIM. That's a good goal, but you need a plan of how you're going to do that. Usually what we like to do with our clients is to create a road map. The road map lays out where you are today and where you want to be in one, three or five years. We then create tasks from that road map, a plan of what you're going to do and when. Clear planning is essential to a successful BIM implementation.
CanBIM: How do you see BIM evolving in Canada?
Sheila: Canada is a little bit behind the rest of the world when it comes to BIM, people say probably 10 years behind the US. Our evolution of BIM is probably going to continue at its current slow and measured pace. I think this is because we don't have any government mandates for BIM, and there are also not a lot of property owners that are requiring BIM on private sector projects. Without that pressure from the top, architects, engineers and construction firms still have the option to choose to ignore BIM. Nothing is forcing them to do it. Without that pressure from government and owners, I think we'll just continue on at the pace we're at.
CanBIM: What's next with BIM?
Sheila: I think what's coming next is the integration of facilities management into the BIM process. For example, on a typical office building project, you could input various types of data into your BIM model. Information on the mechanical equipment could be added, such as the make and model of the boilers and chillers, what filters they take, and how often the filter needs to be changed. All of that design and construction data could be pushed into a facilities management platform. Right now, depending on the software involved, it's a complicated, multi-step process to do that. Most facility management software is created by companies that don't specialize in design software, so there's often a gap between the two. Recently, Autodesk has been making some advances in that area, but it's far from perfect. I think this is going to be one of the main areas of development for software and for process. We haven't see a lot of it yet and the gap between the end of construction and the rest of the building life cycle needs to be addressed.
CanBIM: How can we improve BIM?
Sheila: BIM is about people and process. Many people talk about breaking down silos between disciplines and encouraging more communication and collaboration, but often it's not being put into practice. There needs to be a greater focus on changing the atmosphere of the construction industry from adversarial to cooperative. At Cansel, we try and take our clients out of their comfort zone by introducing them to different field to finish workflows that encourage them to think beyond their discipline.
"BIM is about people and process."
Using the building industry as an example, architects are generally the prime consultant and they're in charge of steering the ship. If we have architecture firms that are really passionate about incorporating cooperation and collaboration on their projects, eventually the sub-consultants working with them will start to recognize the benefit of the true BIM process. People in these leadership roles will be paddling upstream against an existing status quo that's been around for decades. This is by no means an easy thing to do, but I think it's the way things are going to change, project by project; consultant by consultant.
CanBIM: What is the relationship between BIM and sustainability today?
Sheila: From our perspective any form of BIM, whether it's in the AEC, infrastructure or manufacturing industry, allows people to test their designs before they build them. That obviously leads to less waste, less rework and better designs. When you start seeing things like advances in computational design and using other types of technologies to do analysis, such as lighting and energy analyses, we start seeing insights on the performance of your building or your interchange or your manufactured product that you simply couldn't get before. It's helping designers make better decisions for their project, whatever that happens to be.
CanBIM: The June 14, 2016 news release "Autodesk and Trimble Sign Agreement to Increase Interoperability" says they have a shared goal of meeting the evolving needs of the building and infrastructure industries. How does this type of supplier collaboration affect Cansel? ​
Sheila: For us it's really good when companies that we represent get together on their own and start collaborating. We've come up with ways to get information from Trimble hardware into Autodesk software but this will only help. Before, a lot of people would say: "Well, it's just too difficult to move the data around. I'm not going to bother, it'll be quicker to do it by hand". When Autodesk and Trimble said they're going to exchange APIs and work on designing plugins, it's fantastic news. An example: instead of a 10 step process to move the data, maybe there will be a button. When any of our suppliers work together, it helps us to encourage our clients to make use of that interoperability, because now it's simpler and faster. This type of collaboration will allow us to propel BIM forward with our clients in a way that wasn't possible before.