News & Media
Spend thirty seconds on Google in 2014 to look up the definition of BIM, and you will soon find yourself trawling through a long and varied list of construction companies, organisations and bodies each with their own slightly differing interpretation of the acronym. A similar search five years ago would have been far less fruitful, unless of course, you were hoping to study at the Bristol Institute of Modern Music. Clear indication then, that there has since been a significant shift in the construction industry to define and better understand Building Information Modelling (BIM). Believe the words of the government’s BIM Task Group, as you should, who state that BIM is “value creating collaboration through the entire life-cycle of an asset, underpinned by the creation, collation and exchange of shared 3D models and intelligent, structured data attached to them”. Put simply, each discipline within a design team produces a three dimensional model of their respective designs, which are populated with information appropriate for any particular stage of a project. These individual models are combined to produce a digital prototype of the building used to enhance the design and coordination process and ultimately manage the building post-completion.
The trigger within the aforementioned five year period was the announcement back in 2010 by the government’s chief construction advisor that all projects procured by central government from 2016 onwards would have to be delivered using BIM. A bold statement considering this accounted for approximately one third of the construction industry’s output at the time, and the UK was two years into one of the worst economic recessions of the previous century. The intentions of the mandate were to improve efficiency in a notoriously wasteful industry, as well as provide an opportunity to unlock new avenues of growth through advancements in working practices. An all-important glimmer of hope for some construction companies to redefine themselves during times of austerity, and to emerge as streamlined-pioneers of all things digital-construction.
It’s interesting then that during this time period, the National Building Specification (NBS) have been collecting information from the industry using questionnaires in an effort to release an annual document titled the National BIM Report. These documents give useful insight into the changes in attitude as well as rate of adoption across the industry. A revealing statistic regarding BIM usage and awareness indicated that in 2010, only 13% of the industry was aware of and currently using BIM, compared to 54% when the same question was posed in 2013. Compare this to another statistic taken from the latest report, which claims that 73% of respondents agree
“the industry is not clear enough on what BIM is yet.”
A suggestion then that uptake of BIM since the government’s announcement has been very positive, although there is clearly some disparity between rate of adoption and clear understanding across the industry.
Although these figures based on attitudes and opinions tell one story, there have been significant steps forward to ensure the UK construction industry is well placed not only to successfully adopt BIM by 2016, but also to become world leaders in digital techniques of delivering, managing and maintaining the built environment. Bodies and groups such as the BIM Task Group and the CIC Regional Hubs perform as platforms for disseminating information to industry and feeding findings back up stream. Key documents such as PAS1192:2 clearly
set-out the requirements of Level 2 BIM while the CIC BIM Protocol is the legal supplement to contractually bind the obligations, liabilities and working practices required of this workflow. Looking forward, the very recently released PAS1192:3 document builds upon the principles established in PAS1192:2, but turns its focus on the use of model information through the operational phase of a building’s life. Important work is also being carried out by the BIM2050 group in an effort to foresee and shape developments in the industry as we move towards Level 3 BIM in the coming years.
At Ridge, we are now over two years into our implementation program to drive and support the practice BIM capabilities. As a multi-disciplinary organisation we recognise the importance of a collaborative workflow and have an established BIM
focus group comprising of champions from each of our disciplines. This has given the practice a platform to develop, coordinate and implement our own strategy while enabling us to explore and interrogate future avenues of development. As a business we have now delivered a wide range of BIM projects ranging from small school projects through to very large production facilities for the automotive industry. The immediate benefits for us have been derived from the software, including reduced drafting times and the ability to quickly and efficiently test different design options. However there are further advantages of standardising our processes and clearly defining project requirements by complying with PAS1192:2, which have resulted in improved collaboration and coordination. It is also envisaged that working on projects in a similar sector,
or even for the same client further down the line will allow us to re-use and refine the information and processes developed.
As we deliver more and more Building Information Models, the BIM process has potential to stumble when projects progress into the later construction phases if a contractors supply chain do not have the required BIM literacy to populate the project with its own models or information. There are mechanisms in place to deal with this under PAS1192:2, namely the recommended use of a “Supplier BIM Assessment Form” to ascertain the capability of subcontractors, which has the potential to shut-out companies who are not in a position to make appropriate investment in BIM. There is hope however, in the shape of groups such as BIM4SMEs who are making fantastic ground in encouraging smaller companies to make the leap and invest in BIM, which should relieve this potential stumbling point.
As more clients in the future have the opportunity to manage their assets using our carefully crafted models,
it will be interesting to see how these will be maintained throughout the operational phase of the building. Particularly in buildings that may not employ a Facilities Management team, or may have no interest in updating
a BIM to include any updated components, renewed warranties, or altered layouts for example. There is as much importance in ensuring our clients understand the rewards to be reaped from BIM as there is for the rest
of the construction industry, which hopefully will be a
by-product of the momentum we see at the moment on the ramp up to 2016.
Wouldn’t it be great if it were possible to introduce a “Search Results for the Year 2050” button alongside the “I’m Feeling Lucky” option in Google? Saying that, working in an industry evolving as quickly as UK construction is at the moment, it will be just as interesting to see what happens this time next year, let alone in over 35 years time. Who cares about BIM in the year 2050 anyway, I’ll be retired by then, telling tales of coal-powered CAD machines.
Writen By Brent Rees, Senior Architectural Technologist and BIM Coordinator at Ridge and Partners LLP.