BIM is widely acknowledged as a game changer in the UK construction industry. With all information and input complied in a shared model, it can capture and present an accurate reality, streamline project preparation, improve collaboration and transfer knowledge. BIM technologies unlock more efficient methods of designing, creating and maintaining our assets and managing information throughout a project lifecycle – from initial concept to operation – and ultimately save time and money.
Having entered the second half of 2016, we are over two months on from the introduction of a UK government mandate requiring all centrally-funded work to be undertaken using BIM at Level 2. BIM technology is being utilised by organisations and government agencies in the development, operation and maintenance of a broad range of buildings, utilities and infrastructures. Even in these times of austerity, public sector construction provides substantial opportunity: the value of its output in the second quarter of 2015 was £5.8 billion, including £1.4 billion on housing and £1.8 billion on infrastructure. The Government Construction Strategy 2016-20 set out a new plan to increase productivity in government construction, supporting the delivery of £163 billion of planned projects identified in the spring 2016 Government Construction Pipeline. The mandatory use of BIM in the public sector could eventually lead to the industry-wide adoption as the benefits become more widely understood.
BIM capability is now essential to open the door to these projects throughout the supply chain, from the largest contractor to the smallest supplier, but over five years after the government mandate was announced many companies remain ‘BIM-averse’, thus denying themselves countless opportunities for new business. neaco talk to architects on a daily basis and in our experience the practices which have yet to establish BIM Level 2 capability have largely done so for two reasons: a reluctance to invest in the initial cost and a fear or dislike of change.
The largest investment is not in the BIM technologies themselves, but the change management required to properly establish the whole process throughout an organisation. Benefiting from that process requires a fully integrated internal and external team.
It’s important to champion and develop company-wide standards, policies, procedures and processes to ensure that everyone is fully informed, fully involved and fully committed. It may also be useful to upgrade behind-the-scenes business infrastructure. Removing technical hurdles encourages staff to focus on the process and resolving the basics makes it easy for people to manage the transition. As a starting point it’s worth examining the way in which your current practice operates, not just in terms of the programmes used by the architects, but also document control, HR and accounts software. Ultimately you want the BIM processes and technologies to become part of business as usual. In many cases a company’s IT system will have to cope with files that are many times larger than anything it’s dealt with in the past. BIM is about making it easier for people to work in a more collaborative way, so associated technologies such as good networks and screen-sharing are also vital.
When you’re set up and ready to put BIM into practice for the first time, it’s widely considered to be a good idea (if possible) to use a pilot project, rather than a live project in which delays and confusion could damage relationships with other team members, parties and stakeholders. A project with a reasonable timescale, or a friendly client who wants to explore BIM, could provide a suitable path for your first steps in the BIM journey. Ideally it should reflect the type of scheme which is representative of a large proportion of your work. It’s understandable when architects opt for the simplest project as the place to dip their toes but if it isn’t typical of their workstream then they probably won’t gain a full appreciation of how BIM technology could benefit their approach. A more complex project is often the best way to steepen the learning curve.
It’s also worth noting that a number of free products are available to enable users to view and mark up models, which can be useful for members of the project team who are not actually designing, or to get an initial feel for the software. These include Autodesk Design Review, Solibri Model Checker and Tekla BIMsight. There is also a wealth of useful, independent information on the UK BIM Task Group website www.bimtaskgroup.org/bim-faqs
Bear in mind that help is at hand if you’re not BIM ready and unsure where to start. Numerous organisations and consultancies provide or sponsor BIM Level 2 training, including BRE Academy, BSI and the Chartered Institute of Building. An initial investment in the time and cost of planning, training and implementing BIM could transform your day-to-day work and unlock enormous potential for new business in the coming years.
BIM models for neaco’s balustrade products are available online: www.nationalbimlibrary.com/neaco
BIM Level 2 Definition
Level 2 is distinguished by collaborative working – all parties use their own 3D CAD models, but not necessarily working on a single, shared model. The collaboration comes in the form of how the information is exchanged between different parties – and is the crucial aspect of this level. Design information is shared through a common file format, which enables any organisation to be able to combine that data with their own in order to make a federated BIM model, and to carry out interrogative checks on it. Hence any CAD software that each party used must be capable of exporting to one of the common file formats such as IFC (Industry Foundation Class) or COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange). *
*source: NBS, November 2014