Where have you BIM?

Gary Dean of OnLevel UK looks at the rise of Building Information Modelling and urges those not yet utilising it to get on board.

BIM (Building Information Modelling) is a smart 3D model- based procedure that provides the architect, engineer, builder and designer the understanding and relevant tools to more efficiently plan, design, build, and maintain buildings and infrastructure.

BIM was brought to our attention in 2011 when published in the UK Government Construction Strategy. Since then the BIM Task Group has been developing standards and requirements to enable BIM adoption. Like most things, some were quick to embrace it and others less so.

It’s now been quite a few years now since BIM was first introduced to the industry, and for building product suppliers and manufacturers, BIM-ready product infor- mation should really be an integral part of the product offering.

What is a BIM object?

BIM is defined by the National Building Specification (NBS) in the following paragraph:

“BIM is a process for creating and managing information on a construction project across the project lifecycle. One of the key outputs of this process is the Building Information Model, the digital description of every aspect of the built asset. This model draws on information assembled collaboratively and updated at key stages of a project. Creating a digital Building Information Model enables those who interact with the building to optimize their actions, resulting in a greater whole life value for the asset.’’

A BIM object is an amalgamation of many things:

  • Product properties, such as structural load performance
  • Information that defines a product
  • Geometry representing the product’s physical characteristics
  • Functional data
  • Visualisation data giving the object a recognisable appearance

In April 2016 we saw BIM Level 2 mandate come into force. The Government 2011 Construction Strategy (GCS) required that a fully collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) was supplied as a minimum by 2016. This referred to all centrally procured Government projects.

The task now is to consolidate and embed BIM Level 2 throughout depart- mental processes. Although BIM isn’t currently required for every project, it is being taken on, and is certainly on the increase in use (public sector construction projects have been delivered using BIM since 2016).

BIM has three key elements:

  • The consistent, conventional labelling or naming of documents and data – this helps in tracking and finding data throughout the life of the asset and ensures all those working on the project follow the same procedures. A suitable process is described in BS 1192, which is already used for numbering drawings on many projects and can form the basis of a system for use with BIM.
  • A method for storing and manipulating information. On many projects this involves the use of a three-dimensional representation of the buildings in software. Essentially, a BIM is a shared representation and spatial database that records the location and attributes of every component.
  • A method for exchanging or issuing information about the building, including its construction, operation, performance and maintenance. Traditionally, this has involved exchanging drawings, schedules and manuals, in paper or electronic format and this may continue. The difference is that when BIM is used, the information will be generated from the BIM, rather than by preparing the documents separately.

What is the future of BIM?

Having been a hot topic for quite some time, BIM is clearly here to stay. As technologies advance and evolve it’s logical to assume the importance of BIM will increase. Digital processes are key across many industries and the future of the construction industry will be reliant on digital developments. The Government’s ‘Construction 2025: Industrial Strategy for Construction’ paper highlights five key points for its vision for 2025. All five points set out in the vision are strongly linked to the objectives of BIM:

  1. An industry that attracts and retains a diverse group of multi-talented people, operating under considerably safer and healthier conditions, that has become a sector of choice for young people inspiring them into rewarding profes- sional and vocational careers.
  2. A UK industry that leads the world in research and innovation, transformed by digital design, advanced materials and new technologies, fully embracing the transition to a digital economy and the rise of smart construction.
  3. An industry that has become dramatically more sustainable through its efficient approach to delivering low carbon assets more quickly and at a lower cost, underpinned by strong, integrated supply chains and productive long term relationships.
  4. An industry that drives and sustains growth across the entire economy by designing, manufacturing, building and maintaining assets which deliver genuine whole life value for customers in expanding markets both at home and abroad.
  5. An industry with clear leadership from a Construction Leadership Council that reflects a strong and enduring partnership between industry and Government. Construction in 2025 is no longer charac- terised, as it once was, by late delivery, cost overruns, commercial friction, late payment, accidents, unfavourable workplaces, a workforce unrepresentative of society, or an industry slow to embrace change.

It’s hard to predict how advancement in digital technology will specifically manifest itself in the construction industry. However, as BIM is Government-led and driven by technology and clear processes it’s likely that it will embrace further digital and technological developments and its use will become even more common than it is currently.

Gary Dean is managing director at OnLevel UK