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BIM becomes VDC: A Case Study in Disruption

by John Tobin

January 02, 2013

For many of us who have participated in the rapid growth of BIM, It is tempting to see it as just one more technology development in the project delivery process, but its real impact is quickly accelerating beyond that. More accurately, the growth of BIM is heralding a true disruption in the construction industry. It is transforming markets, and revolutionizing expectations.

In fact, it is increasingly apparent that BIM fits a well-known pattern familiar to business scholars, a pattern known as disruptive innovation and made famous by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen in his best-selling book The Innovator’s Dilemma.

In innovation theory, a disruptive technology is one that creates entirely new “value networks”––a combination of capabilities and expectations––for a given process or technology.

For example, 2D CAD simply computerized the production of drawings. Before CAD, designers produced drawings; after CAD, we still produced drawings, just differently and with more flexibility. CAD was a “sustaining technology”––something that simply improved an existing market proposition.

BIM also started out as a sustaining technology, as many disruptions do. The notion was that 3D models would be an efficient way to produce 2D documents, the next evolution of CAD enhancement. But it quickly morphed to a point where the model created brand new value networks: clash detection, quantity takeoffs, field BIM, direct fabrication, energy analysis––and, ultimately, BIM models as a store of myriad facility information.

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John Tobin

John Tobin, LEED AP

Vice President of Project Delivery & Innovation