Interview with Jean-Baptiste Valette

Jean-Baptiste Valette is Director of BIM Engineering at Vinci Construction France and leads a team of around 20 people in charge of developing BIM tools, methods and techniques for the Vinci Construction France group.

Solibri France: Can you tell us more about your career and the work of your team?

Jean-Baptiste VALETTE: I am an engineer of the EIVP and I joined the Vinci Construction France group a little less than 10 years ago, initially in the Technical Resources and Sustainable Development Department as an R&D engineer On two topics: one for industrialized housing production, and the other on the COMMUNIC project, the first project in France to define BIM in linear infrastructure projects. I then developed a team to launch and structure the BIM approach of Vinci Construction France.

Today my team has grown, and it’s composed of field experts who have, above all, developed an expertise on BIM and related tools, and whose goal is to develop the use of BIM within Vinci Construction France.

SF: What are your challenges?

JBV: Our main challenge is to make people understand what BIM is and what it’s for, that it’s not a bad contractual obligation! That is to say, to involve our subsidiaries and building sites in the BIM by showing them the advantages and their interests to reclaim a part of the job of builder thanks to the BIM. Practically, this means changing habits and getting people out of their comfort zone. In practice on a large project, the superintendent is used to managing one or more subcontractors on some lots but not on the whole, and to delegate them massively the final design of the technical or architectural lot. For jobs such as tiling or painting, he can provide plans for detailed sections and elevations, but the tool most used by the superintendent often remains the ‘pen and paper’ instead of BIM. Our challenge is to make him understand that the role of the BIM manager helps him, for he receives a model which he will be able to use independently, and which will allow him to produce location plans and quantity takeoffs, helping him to control his subcontractor on both takeoffs and schedule. This involves training, role-playing and coaching because you have to teach the superintendent to do his job on his own. In short, the mission of our service is to make the business grow and perform, by accompanying and advising. 

SF: BIM is in full development today, but how do you see your role in 5 years?

JBV: Indeed, the changes are taking place faster and I would say that BIM Management should eventually disappear from my service because our subsidiaries will be autonomous. Nevertheless, we will keep the development aspect and the consulting for the deployment of BIM - related technologies (e.g. dashboards, production monitoring, mixed reality…) because these are topics on which we work now. The complexity of deploying BIM, however, requires control because whatever the completeness of the rules that are put in place, we must always ensure that the procedures are followed. 

SF : How does Solibri Model Checker (SMC) help you overcome your challenges? 

JBV: SMC allows us, regardless of the software used by our partner, to read all that is in the model and to check if it is complete and conforms to the BIM convention.

The next step would be to be able to equip our superintendents so that they can also judge the quality of the technical study of said partner directly from the model.

SF: Don’t you think that SMC is a software rather for experts?

JBV: No, I don’t think so, standard usage is not complicated and it’s easy to create and edit an attribute report, extract quantities from it, and filter and analyze it in Excel. Of course, creating rules is more complex and may require some training.

SF : What tasks does SMC do in your current processes? 

JBV: During quality control passes of BIM Management, SMC allows us to make BOMs and control rules, beyond the simple use of the viewer to check and annotate the geometry. So we mainly use Solibri to do quality control of models, including clashes within the same model. (When an HVAC model presents clashes with itself). Of course, detecting these defects has important consequences on the calculations of quantities and the work of synthesis afterwards.

SF: You talked about an advantage of SMC to control the quality of models regardless of the software used by your subcontractors: I imagine you are talking about openBIM and IFC format. Do you often face opposition to its use? 

JBV: Even if we use a native modeling solution internally to collaborate, we do not choose everything and we cannot impose the software that will be used by a partner; only the way he uses it. We do not face IFC: it’s just part of our environment and we’re happy with it. Some trades also have very specialized tools for which exchanges go through IFC, for example wood construction. For me, the maturity of BIM comes first and foremost by the degree of collaboration: are we open to be really collaborative, to share our files, to rethink the pace of design and the way we design? Remember that in the building industry we often take reflexes inherited from 2D: starting with the foundation plans and going up. While in fact the structural loads go down, but the ventilation is irrigated from the bottom as from the top, the waters gates go down, Ö BIM allows us to cut the building into different areas and to move away from the processes inherited from 2D.

Close BIM or openBIM, for me the essential is elsewhere!

In close BIM, we can exchange at a firm pace by a simple synchronization, which can harm the internal control process but allows us to be very agile and responsive. In openBIM, we must export and verify our export before sending it; and we can easily filter what we share. Collaboration is thus delayed as in a traditional process but itís more convenient to use more data.

In the end, the close BIM is easier technically but requires great trust between the partners, so it is sometimes difficult in practice. OpenBIM is less technically easy but it allows more control.