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Organizational Divisions in BIM-Enabled Commercial Construction

Proponents claim that the adoption of building information modeling BIM will lead to greater efficiencies through increased collaboration. In this paper, we present research that examines the use of BIM technologies for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire life safety systems often referred to as MEP coordination and how the introduction of BIM influences collaboration and communication. Using data from over 12 months of ethnographic observations of the MEP coordination process for two commercial construction projects and interviews with 65 industry leaders across the United States, we find that BIM-enabled projects are often tightly coupled technologically, but divided organizationally. This means that while BIM makes visible the connections among project members, it is not fostering closer collaboration across different companies. We outline the competing obligations to scope, project, and company as one cause for this
division. Obligations to an individual scope of work or to a particular company can conflict with project goals. Individual leadership, especially that of the MEP coordinator in the teams we studied, often substitutes for stronger project cohesion and organization. Organizational forces and structures must be accounted for in order for BIM to be implemented successfully.

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