Many people ask me how I became a BIM coordinator. They want to know if I have undergone any special training? Did I complete postgraduate studies in BIM? Do I wave a certificate entitling me to such a role? The answer to all the above questions is “No”.
However, I was curious about the topic, so I did a background check with friends who are currently BIM Coordinators in a project or organization. I questioned how they started working with BIM. The stories of these people, including mine, are similar and here they are.
Short story, how I become BIM Coordinator
BIM is a relatively new technology. I and the majority of the people working on BIM managerial positions did not start their careers with the intention of becoming BIM Coordinator.
After studying, I started working as a structural designer. I noticed that many activities that I did during my daily work were repetitive or could be done faster. I started to be interested in ways to improve my tasks. I remembered the basics of using modeling software from my university classes. So I knew that there were ways to provide 3D documentation that automatically updates drawings with every change. At that time it was something that I was looking for. I dived into the topic of modeling and working with information in the model for good.
When I am looking back now, colloquially speaking, the rest happened quite naturally. I changed my job and became a member of the design team, that used models as their main documentation. I knew then that I will not go back to 2D drawing anymore.
What happened afterwards? My next steps in acquiring knowledge in BIM were learning new modeling information management methodologies, teaching others to work with 3D software, and conducting multidisciplinary model coordination.
Over time, I began to get new responsibilities related to team management and creation of BIM strategies for projects.
When I asked my friends about their journey, I received similar stories like the one mentioned above.
Is it the case that the first choice of career path is so important?
Personally, I belive not as much as people might think. As you can see, in my case I got the role of BIM Coordinator in the process of improving my competencies related to BIM. There are several ways that may lead to such a role. It is common for those who coordinate a project using this technology to start as:
- MEP engineers,
- Structural Engineers
- Construction engineers,
- Draftsman / Modelers,
- CAD managers,
- Product Managers at an IT company developing software for BIM,
- or started from a position not linked to BIM.
Their initial position wasn’t so important. In many situations, BIM coordinators start from a strictly production role (they are designers or site engineers). Their working habits, knowledge, and skills generally lead to an obvious choice for a company when it comes to deciding to create or employ a BIM coordinator.
Frequently, a BIM coordinator receives such a position as a result of the recognition of their abilities by others. Typically these people are experts in the office/organization in the BIM software they work with. The role of the coordinator itself naturally “develops” around them.
Valuable skills which give you an advantage as a BIM Coordinator
During conversations with my friends, I noticed certain similarities in the skills which helped them to become the BIM Coordinators. Here is a list of a few of them:
- They were able to explain clearly and simply the issues related to creating and working with 3D documentation to other members of the project team,
- They had a better understanding of the potential of modeling programs than anyone else,
- They understood the information exchange subtleties of the model, e.g. through Shared Parameters and shared this knowledge with others,
- They were able to work in several BIM software and they were aware how these can communicate with each other,
- They were very keen on using IFC and BCF files on the project,
- They were enthusiastic about the new methods of modeling,
- They were interested in learning new software,
- They attempted to simplify their work by automating repetitive tasks, using techniques and tools available on the market,
- As one of the few in the company, they knew how to use coordination programs such as Tekla BIM Sight, Solibri Model Checker, or Navisworks,
- They were able to communicate effectively with any department, industry or company,
- The other employees were aware that they could count on them when solving problems with the 3D models and the broadly understood BIM.
Excellent, and what do I have to do to acquire these skills?
The answer to that question is me:
I do realise that it is a simplified and rather general answer. However, I believe that daily work challenges are the best way to build the right skills to become a good BIM Coordinator. Remember, the most essential thing is to practice, practice and once again practice. At this point I have a few tips to start with:
- Show initiative and learn things that help you work faster with the model,
- Learn how to manage the information implemented in the model,
- In the office, be that “person” who knows:… e.g..: Revit, Archicad, Civil 3d, Sketchup, Solibri, Allplan, Novapoint,
- Explore information transfer strategies between models,
- Become friends with open file formats: IFC and BCF,
- Discover how other companies have applied BIM to their projects,
- Come to events about BIM, but select those concerning specifics, and not merely generalizes such as “what kind of BIM is great”.
What if my company does not apply BIM technology at any level and do not need BIM Coordinator?
If you are truly interested in learning such technology, you have two options.
First: Talk to the decision-maker in the company you work for and convince them to adopt BIM in their projects. It is vital to show what benefits the company may gain after implementing BIM.
Second: Change the company for one that already employs BIM and will support your efforts to expand your skills.
Or maybe I should go to college/refresher course to work as BIM Coordinator?
The number of studies and courses offered either as a BIM Coordinator or Manager is springing up like mushrooms. At the same time, I appreciate this fact. I notice that the interest of people in the technology itself is growing and the awareness of the application of BIM in everyday project life is increasing. However, on the other hand, I warn beginners to choose their courses/studies wisely.
Do not forget to look for places where you will be taught by practitioners, not theoreticians who know BIM technology only from books and lectures.
Yet, there is no shortage of such courses on the market that are taught by pseudo-specialists.
BIM Coordinator is a fairly “fresh” profession with no predefined framework and no established path as to how you may become one of them. It is a position for people who like learning new things, are not afraid of challenges and are consistent in their actions. Coordination itself is primarily about working with people, precisely for people. You will then be the one to create concepts for implementing BIM on a project, you will be the one to explain to others how your BIM strategy works and you will also be the one to expect them to meet the specific requirements of the ordering party.
Although the job itself poses many challenges, it is also incredibly rewarding. If I have convinced you a bit, I encourage you to read the following posts from the series “How to become a BIM Coordinator”. We have many interesting topics ahead of us, which certainly are worth learning while working with BIM technology.
Below is a brief summary of today’s topic in the form of a mind map: