Watch Now: Hiring, Retaining, and Enabling BIM Talent at Your Firm

digital preconstruction event recap videos

Recently, we hosted our first virtual event completely focused on preconstruction. We dove into how preconstruction professionals can get the most out of digital opportunities and shared recommendations on how to make new technology work for you. Our segment on BIM technology featured two experts: Hung Nguyen from Herrero Builders and Andy Gajbhiye from Joeris General Contractors. They dove into how they use BIM technology to foster collaboration within their team, build more efficiently, and produce a better product for project owners. They also discussed the challenge of finding qualified BIM talent, and the ways they’ve hired and enabled BIM specialists on their teams.

Check out this recap of what they covered in their session, or watch the full recording here:


Q: How are your teams currently using BIM?

Andy Gajbhiye: Coordination and clash detection are the lowest hanging fruit. We’re also figuring out how our superintendents and field staff can use BIM to identify sleeve locations. We also use it for visualization, constructability and design review

Hung Nguyen: We use BIM for existing condition verification, as well. We do a lot of TI work, so it’s a significant portion of our BIM workflow.

Q: What are your biggest challenges to completing coordination?

Hung Nyugen: One of our primary challenges is the contractor relationship. We work on IPD projects and regular design-bid-build projects as well. For IPD projects, we have it figured out very well: we have room to employ sufficient staff to address BIM workflows and needs. But in terms of design-bid-build projects, we have many more constraints on the amount of resources we have to spend for BIM. Our problem is trying to get an adequate budget for the BIM effort. It really depends on the contract type.

Andy Gajbhiye: I completely agree. It depends so much on the project delivery method. When we are able to bring the specific trade partners who have the biggest scope in the project ahead of time, it brings so much value to the coordination and design piece. It’s a better value for our customers in the end. They get a better product.

Q: What is the biggest challenge facing your BIM team?

Andy Gajbhiye: To me, the biggest challenge is integration between the different teams in the company, like the operations team, the preconstruction teams, and so on. Within the operations team you have superintendents that are wired one way, managers who are wired in a different way, and VDC teams that are different, as well. Everyone has the same goals, but they have different perspectives and opinions on how to get there.

The challenge is collaboration and developing a culture where everyone acts as part of one team.

Hung Nguyen: For us, we have a second challenge: staffing. There’s a lot of competition in the Bay Area for highly qualified individuals in BIM and VDC. It’s a small pool of talent, and they’re all well-connected. Whenever we get someone who performs well, others will try to grab them. That’s always a challenge.

Q: What is the biggest benefit of model-based takeoff?

Andy Gajbhiye: In one of the projects we did in Dallas, we really harped on using model-based quantities. We received models every week, and we became more collaborative in the design, providing feedback and input. It was a really good feedback loop. We ended up with a difference of 0.5% from what we budgeted at SD and what we ended up with. To us, that was the biggest benefit.

Hung Nguyen: This is my favorite topic! Ten years ago when I completed my PhD at UC Berkeley, I did research on how to use BIM models to support target value design. On the first billion-dollar project Herrero took on, we needed to create a system to use the quantity from the model to provide continuous feedback. That way, the design team could set the design cost to our targets at the beginning of the project. It’s been very important that the estimator and VDC people work with the design team to come to a common understanding of what the model is, what it’s not, and what the limitations are. By understanding that, we’re able to determine how we’re going to use the model and what we need to supplement.

Q: Do you find that your teams are the ones finding new technology, or even the ones enabling other teams with that technology?

Andy Gajbhiye: We don’t have VDC titles anymore. I mean, we have one. We’ve accepted that they’re not going to be siloed on just VDC. They’re focused on emerging technology, they’re evaluating virtual reality, augmented reality. They are the ones who are propagating the use of 360-photogrammetry at the job site. They’re the ones who are educating about drones, drone deployment to verify the site work done by the trade partners for quality control. All of that. Without a doubt, VDC people are the ones who are the ones who are the most interested in emerging technologies.

At Joeris, we also try to leverage people in project management, superintendent roles, and field roles. Because ultimately, it is their world. Their lives are going to get affected. We try to involve them in emerging technology. That way we’re able to see how it’s going to make their life better, and the value to us, our people, and our customers. It also helps us figure out how we can get the new technology adopted.

Hung Nguyen: It’s very interesting that Andy is showing a common trend we are seeing right now. We have a small team of BIM/VDC people, and their main job is to train the larger project team on how to use BIM/VDC processes to support their own workflows and jobs. It’s very effective in that we can maintain a very lightweight department. We don’t need any funding from the company to maintain the department. It’s all direct cost to the project. At the same time, we have the capability to upskill the project engineers, project managers, and superintendents so they can use BIM/VDC skills.

We send our staff to conferences and events that look at the future of technology, like Autodesk University and ENR Futuretech, as well as Stanford and Berkeley to intensive training programs. When they come back, they have their vision of what’s going to be coming in the next couple years. They serve as change agents at the company, and they drive new technology.

Q: What is the competition like for hiring BIM talent, and what is the retention like?

Hung Nguyen: As I mentioned, there is a lot of competition in the Bay Area. It’s a challenge to hire and retain talent. Thus, it’s the reason why we are moving to decentralize BIM, so we’re less dependent on BIM talent. We are upskilling other project staff so they can handle more and more BIM and VDC workflows.

We’re also partnering with local universities to create training programs and courses in university so we can adequately teach the future generation of workers. It’ll be less on us to do the training, and they’ll be ready when they get on the job market.

Andy Gajbhiye: Our priority in the past has been construction science programs. In terms of retention, we have lost one or two people over the last 10 years, because the majority of people just transition to different roles. We changed our program 5 years ago to have VDC-enabled PMs who are having project teams own the coordination process in their own projects. It’s not so much about punting the work to them—we have a team of modelers, developers who help them run the meetings. But it’s all about breaking the barriers. It’s not just, “it’s the BIM guy, he’ll figure it out.” Now it’s all about “my project, it’s my work, it’s my issues, it’s my clashes. And I have to figure it out.”  That allowed us to hire a different type of person. Not just VDC-skilled people, but project managers as well.

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Christina Hu

Copywriter, Autodesk Construction Solutions

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