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What your firm needs to know about Level 3 BIM

Last week business secretary Vince Cable unveiled Digital Built Britain, the UK’s programme to get the nation ready for Level 3 BIM.

This initiative’s ‘Strategic Plan’ is probably the most ambitious and far-reaching change programme in the industry.

It brings together four other key plans: the Construction 2025 industrial strategy; the Business and Professional Services Strategy; the Smart Cities Strategy; and the Information Economy Strategy.

So what are the implications for contractors and the wider industry?

What is the difference?

Level 2 was about creating a ‘data exchange process’. Level 3 will see the process enhanced by more extensive data definitions and processes, including the sharing of information at key stages, and will accelerate the realisation of BIM’s benefits to construction.

Is Level 2 still mandated? Are major changes anticipated?

No immediate change is indicated; the current strategy on compliance by 2016 will remain the focus.

What is BIM Level 3 in detail?

The technology currently employed in BIM will combine with the ‘internet of things’, ‘advanced data analytics’ and the ‘digital economy’ to enable more effective planning of new infrastructure, at a lower cost, and the ability to operate and maintain it more efficiently.

Fully computerised construction management will become the norm and Level 3 will enable the UK to make a larger share of the global construction market.

It is an evolving programme that will be delivered in phases:

  • Level 3A – Enabling improvements in the Level 2 model
  • Level 3B – Enabling new technologies and systems
  • Level 3C – Enabling the development of new business models
  • Level 3D – Capitalising on world leadership

When will it all happen?

Planning has already started, but the first early adopter projects aim to be operational at Level 3 by 2017.

Why does government need to be involved?

Consistency of approach. Under the Digital Built Britain vision, data developed through the delivery, operational and performance phases will be published by government.

What happens after Level 3?

Unsurprisingly, BIM Level 4.

This is where more data about people and social issues will become available to be built into designs and future building plans, although no timeline has yet been suggested.

What are the implications for main contractors?

Qualifying for work in the public sector will become more focused on risk prevention and providing clear accountability, rather than offering radical and maverick solutions.

It will enable SMEs to bid for more work because they can exclude the other aspects of the work package outside their remit.

For example, a heating provider may not have to plan in the scaffolding needed to install their system.

This may help produce efficiencies for them but may increase management resource and costs for main contractors who will provide the overall works packages.

What are the implications for SMEs/supply chain members?

Digital Built Britain aims to provide a platform for suppliers to bid to supply solutions, which will help especially SME to use technology confidently, trade online and seize technological opportunities in both domestic and international markets.

Greater focus will be placed on the supply chain including SMEs to provide innovative data-rich solutions directly for the customer.

Finally, the lower tier supply chain will have more opportunities as new commercial models address sub-optimal performance.

Peter Trebilcock is BIM programme director at Balfour Beatty

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