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European makeover to save schools

Continental-style computerised design and build techniques will be recommended by a government commissioned taskforce to help slash the cost of schools projects by half and “bring them into the 21st century”.

Building information modelling is understood to be at the centre of the schools capital review team’s thinking on how schemes can be built 50 per cent cheaper.

The taskforce, led by DSG International operations director Sebastian James, was set up to recommend a new system for schools projects after the government
abandoned the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future programme.

It was due to submit a final report before the end of the year but this has been delayed until early January because one of the panel members has been ill. The taskforce is understood to believe all schools that had projects scrapped under BSF could yet be worked on.

A source close to the taskforce said: “In Germany and the US, you see much, much better value for money. Much better than anything that we manage. The design
is better and the planning is better.

“You have got to build these schools on computer first. We have got to join the 21st century.” Legislation in the US, as well as Bavaria in Germany, and other
European countries including Belgium and Norway, requires schools to be built using building information modelling.

This constitutes the use of a single three-dimensional computer model, which is used from design to construction, then occupancy, all the way to demolition of
the building. The model can be used and manipulated by each part of the supply chain. It is designed to create cost certainty and effective collaboration all the way down the supply chain.

The source said halving the cost of schools projects was achievable.”A modern private developer could do that.”

Mervyn Richards, director of construction consultancy MR1 and former Laing O’Rourke director, is advising Crossrail on the use of BIM. He said it would mean
radical changes for contractors.

“BIM means a change in the way main contractors work and the way they make profit. A lot of their money is made in the changes and the additional costs to lients. But using BIM correctly means zero defects - it fits first time,” he said.

“The value for contractors comes in using fewer resources, fewer materials, fewer people. It is about de-risking the project because you get it right first time.”
Sarah Delaney, secretary of best practice body the Construction Project Information Committee, said procuring billions of pounds of public work using BIM would
increase collaborative working.

“There are a lot of contractors already using BIM software. But in many ways it is down to the client to say what they want to get out of it. Using the software is fine, but passing the information on down the supply chain is more complicated.

But people would work together very quickly if BSF was procured like this.” The taskforce’s thinking echoes last week’s Innovation and Growth Team report on Low
Carbon Construction. Led by chief construction adviser Paul Morrell, the report advised the use of BIM for all public projects worth more than £50 million.

It said: “The use of BIM would have a major impact on the ability to control cost and delivery to schedule by the better control and exchange of information within
the supply chain, aiding integration and reducing risk - including uncertainty, rework and delay.”

It added: “Government should mandate the use of BIM methodology for central government projects with a value greater than £50m.”

The taskforce is also expected to advise more use of offsite manufacturing of standardised modules for schools projects, as previously revealed by Construction News
(23 September, page 5).

Kevin Smith, an adviser at information sharing body buildingSMART, said the use of BIM would ensure margins for schools contractors by giving greater visibility
to upfront costs. He added that it would multiply the savings from offsite building, by ensuring it worked first time.

The £55bn BSF scheme aimed to rebuild or refurbish every state secondary school in England by 2023. When it was scrapped in July, 715 school projects were halted, of which nearly 180 were projected to be new build, 319 remodelled or refurbished, 63 ICT-only and 153 had unconfirmed plans. More than 2,000 schools were further back in the pipeline and would have been worked on by 2023.

The review team found schools were costing between £1,000 and £2,000 per sq m under BSF, compared with an approximate benchmark of £500 per sq m in
the US.

Skanska to use BIM in UK

Skanska is about to commit to using building Information modelling in each of its UK construction projects. The Swedish construction firm is preparing a document to be distributed to all its UK staff demanding an element of BIM be used on every UK project.

The move could mean radical changes for the Swedish contractor’s supply chain. Skanska BIM project manager Malcolm Stagg said: “Any subcontractor who is appointed onto a project will be appointed because of their ability to deliver according to their integrated way of working. Any data they produce must fully consider the downstream needs.”

Skanska’s own research suggests that for every £1 million of investment in BIM, from software to upfront design costs, there is a return in savings of £5m.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • Finally!
    Perhaps now the schools will be designed first, based on the build method and materials to be applied, instead of trying to apply off-site prefabrication to a traditionally designed [often over-engineered] structure with working drawings already in place.
    Who knows, maybe even the Prelims will be taken into consideration as well.

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  • Maybe we could do something much better than fancy looking buildings, something that really does take into account the whole life cycle of a school, from paper concept to completed building and it part to play in the local community all at a decent cost per sqm. Partnering and companies not trying hog all the work and trusting partners.

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