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Plotting the future of BIM

There’s nothing like a deadline to concentrate the mind. So it is with building information modelling.

From 2016, the government has mandated that all centrally procured construction projects will be Level 2 BIM enabled.

The big question is whether the industry is ready.

Ever since the government’s former chief construction adviser Paul Morrell launched BIM nationally at the CIMCIG Chair’s Debate in January 2011, the industry has been struggling to understand the implications and playing a constant game of catch-up.

What’s what

First, let’s recap on what BIM actually is.

By now, everyone should know that BIM is not just concerned with how building information is produced but also with the processes associated with managing that information through preconstruction, construction and then during the operational life of the building.

“An ecosystem has grown around BIM: task groups, industry associations and vested interests have appeared faster than an MP with an expenses claim”

The information production is achieved via parametric CAD systems such as Autodesk’s Revit, Bentley’s MicroStation and Tekla’s Structures.

The process side is handled by systems such as the government’s Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) and various open formats.

All of this is intended to create a virtual building model containing fully integrated building data from all the relevant professionals and with all requisite product and cost data.

There are a number of drivers for implementing BIM, including the government’s Construction 2025 strategy, which aims to save 33 per cent on construction costs of public sector projects; better management of building assets after handover; and reducing construction waste.

An ecosystem has grown around BIM: task groups, industry associations and vested interests have appeared faster than an MP with an expenses claim.

And not forgetting a raft of new standards which have appeared – think PAS 1192-2, 1192-3 and ISO 16739:2013.

Hard to judge

Looking at how well BIM is being delivered so far is difficult.

NBS’s latest BIM Survey is positive, suggesting the technology could be moving from the periphery to being widely adopted – at least for large projects.

Awareness is rising, with BIM usage up from 31 per cent in 2010 to 54 per cent in 2014, while 51 per cent say they have used Level 2 BIM on a project.

“Questions still remain, however. Who leads the BIM team? Is it the design team, the main contractor, the FM manager, the client?”

In practical terms, BIM data is already proving to be a real asset.

Manchester’s Central Library and Town Hall recently received a £100m facelift.

This major project has been a showcase for collaboration in a BIM environment between the client, contractor Laing O’Rourke and design team.

Since taking possession, Manchester City Council has released case studies demonstrating the cost savings made due to having the BIM data available.

Outstanding issues

Questions still remain, however. Who leads the BIM team? Is it the design team, the main contractor, the FM manager, the client?

How does cost management fit into the BIM model? Is closed or open BIM the best way forward? Where does ownership and liability lie with the BIM model?

The challenge will be to ensure everyone has the opportunity to compete for public sector projects while continuing to bring together all the disparate elements of the industry to embrace BIM as a concept.

David Mycock is a senior committee member of CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group, and a marketing consultant within the built environment sector. For further details visit www.cimcig.org

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