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The State of BIM in Latin America | Ariel Castillo

With tablet at construction site

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a hot term in the AEC industry. In Latin America, a region that comprises 20 sovereign states and several territories, progress toward incorporating BIM practices has not been homogeneous. Nonetheless, it has been consistent, spearheaded by a limited group of technology enthusiasts. These visionaries have intensively pushed for new ways to distinguish themselves and add value to their business.

Progress toward BIM in Latin America follows the lead of the United States, the UK, and many other countries accustomed to a more stringent industry where overusing labor comes at a tangible financial cost, readily available documentation is crucial for quality purposes, and bids are generally awarded by qualifications and not necessarily by relationships.

 

Ariel Castillo discusses transforming construction in Latin America with BIM.

While the adoption and use of BIM in Latin America has been limited, noticeable advancement was made at the end of the past decade with the last two years being the most active. Mandates, BIM commissions, conferences, and workshops started surging from Mexico to Chile.

Let’s take a closer look at the state of BIM in two subregions of Latin America: 1) South America, and 2) Central America and the Caribbean.

South America

South America has shown a lot of progress implementing BIM methodology, with Chile at the forefront when it comes to government initiatives. In June of 2019, Corfo's PlanBIM launched its public projects BIM standard. Since then, the country hasn’t stopped promoting and educating users.  

That was a groundbreaking moment for the continent, because shortly afterward many countries announced similar initiatives. In August 2019, Argentina’s Ministry of Interior, Public Works, and Housing presented their BIM strategy, Estrategia BIM Argentina, EB-AR. They also introduced SIBIM, a program focused on implementing the use of BIM on a national scale, to improve the digitization of construction, and increase efficiency and sustainability.

During the same month, Brazil published its Decree No. 9983 highlighting strategies to implement BIM at the national level. Peru took a unique approach, testing the methodology on their flagship project VIDENA. When the project was successfully completed, the country moved to institute a national requirement, and their BIM standard is expected to launch at the end of 2020.

And finally, Colombia recently launched BIM KIT, a set of guidelines for implementing BIM within an organization.

Central America and the Caribbean

In contrast to South America, Central America and the Caribbean move at a slower pace. Costa Rica is leading the movement to implement BIM. In February 2020, the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy presented their approach. And Guatemala has recently published a local application guide for the international standard ISO 19650. However, no other country in the region has yet shown any structured effort.

That being said, the BIM community in Central America and the Caribbean has been growing and there’s a plausible demand for the methodology. In 2019, Nicaragua organized five BIM events and although there is no government involvement yet, some AEC firms are exploring the use of technology in order to compete in new markets and provide outsourcing services. In the Dominican Republic, companies like LEXCO have developed successful projects using BIM.

More broadly, entities such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) impact all countries in Latin America. They work closely with governments by financing infrastructure projects in Latin America. The IDB understands how the use of BIM could positively impact the management of resources, and it’s now supporting a set of events where government officials are educated on the use of BIM. They have supported the creation of the BIM Network of Latin American Governments, a regional collaboration and learning platform of governments. It was created to develop a strategic vision and implementation of public policies to encourage an agile adoption of BIM.

Challenges and Opportunities

To continue embracing and building on this progress, we must face three main challenges. First, most professionals visualize BIM as software. This is a delicate and confusing matter, considering that the first time they flirted with BIM, it was most likely with a tool like Revit. Moving professionals away from this mindset is not easy.

Second, construction companies are not used to investing in tech. It’s often difficult to convince a contractor to invest money in something that they are not used to. They see this as an expense rather than an opportunity to do business in a different way, especially when labor is very inexpensive. Most companies can exercise the luxury of having idle manpower on-site, as it doesn’t necessarily represent a major financial loss.

And finally, the ‘plug and play’ syndrome: companies think BIM simply involves going to a vendor and acquiring a magic box and don’t realize all the moving parts involved to make it happen. It takes time for them to understand that BIM is a process that must be implemented.

Implementing BIM and related technologies brings industry-wide benefits, as Ariel Castillo explains.

To address all these challenges, I believe Latin America’s top BIM priority should be education. By reducing the knowledge gap and encouraging the creation of case studies, we should be able to build an opportunity for universities, government institutions, and the private sector to collaborate in a common environment with a like-minded purpose: expediting the adoption of AEC technology throughout the region.

International education programs such as Zigurat Global Institute of Technology and the AGC CM-BIM Education Program have shown high demand in the region.

Content creation is growing as well with books, podcasts, videos, and weekly digests providing professionals with a variety of ways to consume quality content in Spanish regardless of their favorite platform. David Barco Moreno’s book Diario de un BIM Manager is well regarded and is a good place to start. Growing engagement with these and other educational resources show how a community has been developed that wants to stay up to date with what’s going on with BIM in Latin America.

As Latin America moves from early adopters to the early majority in the tech adoption lifecycle, the future looks bright for the standardized implementation of BIM in the region.

Ariel Castillo is strategic process and VDC specialist at Miller-Davis Company. Working in the industry since 2010, he has become a reference in the Latin America region. His focus is on learning and utilizing emerging technologies to create new experiences that allow companies to maximize resources, whether they’re designing, building, maintaining, or selling a project. Ariel has proven his expertise by working on high-demand construction jobs, implementing new technologies, and incorporating new project delivery processes in multimillion-dollar projects. He also creates BIM content for the industry through his BIMnomad Newsletter and podcast, Shared Coordinates. Ariel was recently featured in 40 Under 40: Construction Champions of 2019.

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