An Interview with Daniel Doherty, Clark Builders

November 30, 2016

CanBIM: What is your role at Clark Builders?



DD: As Manager of Virtual Construction I work closely with internal project teams to manage risk by use of building information modelling, as well as frame procedures of implementation for external stakeholders.


CanBIM: What is Clark Builders working on relating to BIM. What do you think, out of all the projects you are working on would be a source of educational content


DD: We are working on many projects using BIM. I will split up Clark Builders into departments. We have a Business Development department which includes estimating, operations department (construction) and metals division. We have a project or 2 in every one of them. We have used BIM in conceptual studies, conceptual estimating, rendering, site logistic studies, construction analysis and if the project progresses from there to construction, we take on the role of information manager that is to say we would act as the conduit of information between the designer and the subcontractor, basically run coordination meetings and handle everybody else’s information. We have a 300 million dollar hospital project in Yellowknife, the only project going on where the other stakeholders are doing the modelling. We also do our own internal modelling, coordination studies (especially when sub-trades don’t have the capacity to model, or is not in the contract and we feel the need to do it) such as constructability analysis, phase planning, sequence planning that act more like risk mitigation tools. Any one process could act as an educational tool in an industry where the processes don’t usually exist and that has to change. 



CanBIM: When did your company begin adopting BIM?


DD: I was actually hired (in 2011) to bring clark builders into the BIM world. Before I was hired, there was a year long process of meetings, a BIM pass group deciding on what Clark Builders needed internally in terms of BIM. What we found was that there was a big disconnect in terms of what we thought we needed and what we thought we could do and what we could actually do as a GC.


CanBIM: What were the initial challenges/concerns your company faced when introducing BIM?


DD: The initial problem was that there was an expectation that I was going to come in and train everybody and we would be a BIM competent firm and we would market ourselves as such. But as a GC, we are very much at the mercy of the rest of the industry in what we can do. Also, BIM was initially thought of as a technical competency, but we learnt with time that BIM is 90% social and only 10% technical.


“BIM is 90% Social and 10% Technical”


CanBIM: How did the company overcome the challenges?


DD: So what we ended up doing was focussing on small, very targeted applications to mine value. If we had a very geometrically complex concrete job, because we self perform concrete, it was of value to model that very detailed and design our formwork. We look at it as more of a lean tool than actual BIM tool because it provided efficiencies. And that is what has been the main theme of how we have adopted BIM. Some of the main challenges were that it was a big change management process. Because things have been done the same way for so long, a lot of the internal staff was just not bought into the process. They tried rejecting any BIM application we developed since they did not understand it. That was a huge challenge. So I got a small team of advocates to test projects out and what happened was we started getting some big success stories. We modelled project proposals, we firmed up some estimating numbers and ended up winning a big project because of it, we carried that into construction and found there was a big productivity gain if employed correctly. So it was slowly winning people over projects and now 5 years later, the PMs and superintendents we worked with come back every job and ask us how we can help them. So it has started to permeate the business. Now we have 5 staff in the virtual construction department.  


CanBIM: How significant of a role does BIM play in your company processes?

  • Is BIM integral to your company operation or is it just support mechanism?

DD: Depends on the job. Mostly a support mechanism because we do support the entire company but when the process or project calls for BIM, it is integral to the process. We need everybody’s expectations lined, need the entire group of stakeholders bought into it, we have the entire contract written around the BIM process. In that sense, BIM is integral to the process.


CanBIM: How did BIM change the dynamics of your company? (Provide specific examples)


DD: Dynamics have changed because now there is a virtual construction conversation that happens on every job. We’re not constantly being used as just a risk mitigation tool or a clean up tool, but we are more brought into the table early, so we can decide if this is worth pursuing, if we should put resources into designing project processes around BIM.The operations and business development staff understand and use us as part of their process. We have kind of taken the work processes off of BD’s plate, so we have standardised some processes around BIM. More than anything, it is part of the conversation now.


CanBIM: How did implementing BIM affect the decision making processes amongst the various external stakeholders?


DD: Lot more sub-trades are starting to look into internal capabilities considering it is something we constantly ask for now. They understand its a process they can not hide from anymore. Clients are starting to get educated. The big GCs are starting to push for it more and more. However, on the owners side, the problem is that they don’t really understand BIM or what they want from BIM, they hear it as something valuable to do and they use it as an overarching term, as something they want on the project. They don’t understand what they want to do with BIM. So I ask them questions. I like to explain there are 5 T’s of BIM: Target – what you want to achieve , Team, Technology (they are going to use), Truce (between all the stakeholders on how to use technology properly) and lastly Time, because with process change comes a learning curve, with new technology comes training. 


“5 T’s of BIM: Target, Team, Technology, Truce and Time”


CanBIM: What advice would you give someone who is just beginning to introduce BIM to their company?


DD: I would tell them to examine their current processes and see how BIM can supplement them now. It doesn’t happen like a flick of a switch, it is a slow process of training and implementation. BIM is more about processes than technology.


CanBIM: What type of feedback did you get from your clients in regards to BIM?


DD: Honestly  the clients are a bit detached from the BIM process. Some, once they have kind of seen what it can do, will ask for it in the future whereas some just watch from the background and don’t really care as long as we deliver the building on time and on budget. Others understand that they the owners are driving that process to some degree, then we the contractor can provide more efficiencies. So right now I am in a big “educate the client” phase, because if they don’t understand what they need to ask for, then they are not going to get what they expect in the end.


CanBIM: How do you see BIM evolving in Canada and around the world?


DD: Its definitely going to be a steady state of adoption because the technology is increasing every year- there are more and more capabilities, there are more software, more applications, all these technological advances which is really going to start pushing people into adopting that are not currently doing it. Lot of countries like the UK, Finland, Australia and Singapore are starting to mandate it and we have not yet. I think that’s an insight on whats to come, it might be a few years but I think Canada will eventually follow that too. Here in Alberta, because there was too much money for 40 years and people had many jobs lined up so there really was no incentive to invest in newer processes and technologies. But now that the economy has started to hurt due to lower oil prices, there is a big push for efficiency, green buildings, facilty management. We are kind of on a precipice of more faster adoption.


CanBIM: Where does BIM fall short? How can we improve these shortcomings? (Whom it fell short with)


DD: In terms of wider adoption say facilities management, BIM falls short in the amount of time it takes to properly set it up and just the amount of planning it takes from all the stakeholders to make it work properly, it is a disruptive technology, so that’s where it falls short because its not easy to implement. Requires a whole different way of thinking about your project. If you are talking about the sub-trade coordination for example, then they fall short in industry capability.   


CanBIM: What does BIM mean to you? (At a deeper level, go beyond ideals of money, budgets)


DD: Efficiency. 30% of materials used on construction site go to waste and morally I had a problem with that. In this age, we need to tackle environmental issues in a more proactive way and BIM is one tool we can use to really make a difference.


CanBIM: What is the relationship between BIM and Sustainability today?


DD: Its about better optimised design and reduced waste. In the future its going to be more about building automation, using performance analytics to be able to control your building, to further reduce waste. I think its going to be an integral part of building au