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BIM Initiative of the Year: Winner

Winner: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council – West Midlands Virtual Hospital

Every one of the BIM Initiative finalists drew praise for our judges in what was without question the highest-quality shortlist since the category’s inception.

But it was Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council’s “exceptional” application of BIM that took the top prize, with the judges describing its efforts as “miles ahead of other organisations”.

Sandwell created the West Midlands Virtual Hospital as a 3D procurement directory for suppliers of a real-world development: the £353m 670-bed Midland Metropolitan Hospital, which is to be built on vacant industrial land in Smethwick.

The winning bidder for Midland Metropolitan is contractually obliged to use the virtual hospital for design and procurement, creating a fully specified digital building while supporting the local business community.

Users navigate through a virtual rendering of the seven-storey, 800,000 sq ft hospital and click on any part of its rooms, from medical equipment to structural elements.

“Sandwell is pushing at the limits and its virtual hospital is beyond expectations. You can recruit a lot of people to BIM this way”

Judges’ comment

Doing so brings up comprehensive data from a local firm that is able to build or supply the selected component.

Registered suppliers can upload their parametric objects to the virtual hospital, sharing designs, components and solutions alongside their business information, product details and specifications.

In turn, buyers, specifiers, engineers and architects can select and export all this information for consideration as part of the hospital’s design.

To date, 1,500 users have registered to the platform, supplying thousands of products and components.

Sandwell has made its virtual hospital free to use and easy to learn, with the express intention of encouraging local SMEs to engage with BIM.

It has also showed ingenuity in the face of tight council budgets by securing sponsors to fund the platform.

Sandwell runs BIM workshops through the virtual hospital, working with the Midland Metropolitan’s preferred bidder to put on sessions giving SMEs guidance on working for main contractors and encouraging them to implement key policies before tendering for the project.

The initiative’s success has led the council to think beyond the Midland Metropolitan as to how this use of BIM can be taken further on future projects and programmes, as part of its wider goal of boosting the region’s economy.

Sandwell has demonstrated huge ambition to help make the West Midlands a centre for excellence in BIM via platforms such as the virtual hospital, and to help its local firms export their expertise across the UK and internationally.

The judges were astounded with the innovation and lateral thinking shown in the council’s initiative, describing it as “an astonishing take on BIM”.


Aggregate Industries UK – M1 junction 33 Highways

Balfour Beatty Engineering Services – National Graphene Institute 

Bam Ferrovial Kier joint venture – Crossrail C435 Farringdon main station works 

Bond Bryan Architects – Bradford College and Beyond: openBIM R&D

Costain – The M1 J33 pinch point scheme

Skanska UK – 66 Queen Square

Viewpoint – 4BIM

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