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Competitive Advantage or Necessary Investment?

A few weeks ago, between a series of meetings with a homebuilder client, I was asked if I wanted try out their virtual reality prototype, which involved me donning a pair of heavy goggles and clumsily shuffling around within a 10’ x 10’ open space. The open space, of course, was reality.  But what I was seeing through the goggles was the living room of one of their best selling house plans. On the horizon was a beautiful, scenic mountain range, which could be easily enjoyed from the fashionable L-shaped couch that I was virtually standing beside.  From a stationary position, I could rotate in a 360-degree circle to see the kitchen, covered porch, downstairs bathroom, stairs, and the entrance to the 1st floor master bedroom. From the master bedroom, I could walk around the bed, check out the master bathroom, and even take another look at that mountain range. Perhaps the coolest part of this experience came from the upstairs hallway, where I could approach the banister of the stairs, bend at the waist, and see the downstairs foyer. While not available on this particular day, the ultimate end product will include the option to change everything from the color of the walls to the structural layout of the house.  You’ll be able to build your dream home and experience it, just at the small price of wearing a bulky set of goggles.

We are closer to this world than you may think.  Pulte recently announced a new virtual reality experience at divisions in Florida and New York that allows the potential buyer to virtually walk their new home. The buyer even has the option to plug the goggles in to their Smartphone and experience their new home from any remote location. Discussions on how to apply new, innovative technology (like VR) is making its way to the top of every meeting agenda in big builder world. While these discussions have historically led to little action, look no further than Pulte’s investment in VR to see that times are changing.  As my partner and CEO of Continuum Advisory Group, Clark Ellis, recently said in an interview with “BUILDER”, “Everything is moving toward experiential learning and experiential entertainment…the hardware is getting there, and the software is getting there, so it’s only a matter of time.”

So what about BIM? Looking back over the last 20 years in the residential homebuilding industry, this also belongs in the bucket of “all talk, little action.” However, based on Continuum Advisory Group’s interactions with various public and private builders of all sizes, this too is changing. To clarify, the overall lack of mass acceptance of BIM has nothing to do with its underlying value or functionality, mainly due to advancements in the software. The problem is an overall lack of awareness of the opportunities in which it creates. The industry as a whole, with the exception of the roughly 10% of U.S. homebuilders that are using BIM technology to drive their business operations, is mostly unaware of the value that can be created with a well organized, properly planned BIM implementation.  In other words, most homebuilders are unprepared and unequipped to understand and appropriately analyze their total potential return on their BIM investment, or their “ROBIMI” (ROBIMI, or Return on BIM Investment, is a term that Continuum Advisory Group uses to communicate the potential benefits of BIM).  Without a proper understanding of the benefits, most homebuilders will succumb to the all-too-common “we’re too busy” or “it’s too expensive” reaction.

Fletcher Groves and I are ready to change the narrative.  We’re ready to build a new level of awareness. For the upcoming Pipeline Workshop in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL on April 5th and 6th, we are excited to announce the addition of a new BIM Velocity Accelerator. We’ll share the “not so well known benefits” of BIM, and why you should be acting with a sense of urgency. There is a line being drawn in the industry; on one side is present day, where BIM remains a potential competitive advantage if properly implemented. On the other side is some period of time in the future, where BIM will shift to being an investment that is necessary just to keep up with your competitors.  When will the industry shift to the other side of the line?  One year from now?  Three years from now?  Join us for the debate at the next Pipeline Workshop.  See you in April!

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