“Even the gardener asked how to use BIM…”

Dirk Jan Kroon laughs and sits back on the sofa. He’s actually on parental leave but found time to meet us at Eigen Haard’s HQ. Today I have asked to interview him on Solibri Model Checker and BIM. As a real estate developer, it’s going to be good to hear a different point of view on how the technology works for him.

Dirk Jan works for Eigen Haard, a social housing company based in Amsterdam. They are responsible for 60,000 buildings, normally running 400 restoration projects a year. They also have new builds, office conversions and responsibility for some historically listed buildings like Het Schip (The Ship) by Michel De Klerk. Dirk Jan sees himself as a Director – a person leading projects that need to be done on time and on budget. No easy task when a small renovation can easy snowball into a full scale project when ‘nice surprises’ appear within the structure of an old building.

“BIM is the future” he tells. “We started using BIM in 2010 and already the first project showed we could get the same level of deliveries in 3D and more insight with all the disciplines working together. It’ a better way to do projects, it allows us to shorten development and construction time.”

Dirk Jan explained how they had previously worked in 2D. Every discipline did their own drawings and work was compared manually. Negotiations on cost and delivery could take up to three months. This proved a nightmare in scheduling and project management. The situation wasn’t made easier by the team all using different drawing software to complete their work. “We have now seen cost evaluations drop by 50% on some projects. I can now review models, quotes and make agreements within two weeks. It’s not unusual with our skilled subcontractors to be able to now quote within five minutes of negotiation.”

Converting to BIM was no easy task. Eigen Haard sent out a letter to all its subcontractors and told them if they wanted to work with them, they needed to use BIM. There were several reactions. Some architects complained they were being forced to make additional investments. Dirk Jan took the common sense and gentlemanly approach to the challenge. He guaranteed that BIM would save money on the project. He said, “We’re convinced you’ll earn your money back. If you don’t and the budget goes over, Eigen Haard will cover the difference.”

Not all the reactions were bad. One individual took BIM as a challenge. Dirk Jan laughs and tells the most positive response came from their gardener. He had received the letter by mistake. Rather than wondering what to do, the gardener had called Dirk Jan and said he didn’t yet know how he was going to use BIM but you could count on him using this new technology! (In my mind’s eye, I see him arranging tulips in 3D and sending IFC files to the flower shop…).

The conversation moves onto Solibri. I want to know how Dirk Jan uses Solibri Model Checker and his thoughts about the software. “Solibri helps us communicate. We used to talk on the phone and have more meetings. Now we can focus what is or isn’t in the drawings. The content is bigger, gives us more information. Solibri helps us speak with all the different disciplines – architectural, structural etc.” tells Dirk Jan.

I then ask him about savings. “People like to talk about savings. I thought we should prove it rather than just say it. We took an old project. Ran it through Solibri and compared our thoughts with the subcontractor. We saw a time saving of 10-15%. We also saw an immediate materials saving of 5% alone. If you think about our whole ongoing portfolio, that’s a huge financial saving for us.”

Dirk Jan went on to explain that their main subcontractors believe they can even lower costs over the next two years as more of the team use BIM as part of the renovation project. One subcontractor with 30 years of experience said he always added a sum for additional materials. This was now being removed from cost estimates on future projects. “If you think about it, BIM allows you to really know what you want before you start a project. Now you can confidently review throughout the project and finally calculate your savings at the end. I think it even makes the work more fun as the job gets easier” said Dirk Jan.

Ciska Van Der Leeden, Dirk Jan’s colleague, has seen BIM taken to new heights with architects working on Het Schip. “The building itself is complicated to model. It’s a big space with a lot of detailing. Some thought it would be too difficult to handle and model. I am glad to see it wasn’t. Using BIM will allows us to better plan maintenance support for the fully restored building. It’s a perfect example to take a historic building and apply the latest technology.”

Our time is up at Eigen Haard. Dirk Jan needs to go back to being a Dad. It’s been an interesting few hours. Eigen Haard has an impressive HQ and it’s no surprise they are expanding despite the recession. They possess a confidence in finding ways to improve, as well as yearning to utilize the latest technology. Something which combines wonderfully with the responsibility of maintaining historic buildings.

Russell Anderson/Solibri