Building Information Modelling – or BIM as it is more often known – has been something of a buzz phrase for the construction business since the Government published its Construction 2025 strategy in 2011.
WITH more than half of construction businesses now utilising Building Information Modelling (BIM) on at least some of their projects, anxiety is increasing for smaller enterprises afraid to take the jump and adopt the technology.
In April, the UK Government stipulated that all centrally-funded public-sector building projects above £5 million must be BIM-enabled to at least Level 2 but there are fears that some enterprises are being left behind.
The construction industry is well known for being slow to embrace change and with the adoption of BIM remaining a voluntary option for smaller level projects, Brendan Patchell, BIM strategy manager at construction specialist Morgan Sindall Professional Services (MSPS), has argued the new mandate has created a technological divide in the industry.
And with BIM expected to continue to revolutionise the construction sector for the better, Marc Pickering, BIM manager at Keepmoat, says he is concerned that smaller enterprises regard the technology as “new and scary” and are in danger of falling further behind in an increasingly digital world.
So what is BIM and why should construction businesses adopt it?
“a coordinated set of processes, supported by technology, that adds value through creating, managing and sharing a digital information model of an asset throughout its lifecycle,” says London-based chartered architect Simone de Gale, defining it as “is the way forward for the industry,”
Collaboration is where BIM’s immediate advantages lie, but it also lowers costs, expedites project completion, eliminates waste and errors, and enhances safety by reducing the amount of time spent on site.
De Gale, who utilises BIM in her own business, says the adoption of the technology “provides a fantastic tool for design development and discussion amongst the design team”.
Pickering argues that “BIM allows for design, review, alterations and revised design to take place in a virtual world, reducing costly on site re-works that we traditionally see” that it is also a tool for empowering a team to assume collective responsibility.
And while the UK government initiative and Level 2 requirement have both been catalysts for industry focus with more and more clients now asking for BIM, Jim Smith, technical director and BIM sector leader at engineering consultancy MLM Group, believes failure to adopt the technology will be detrimental because “larger contractors insist on their supply chain being able to do BIM.”
Richard Shennan, BIM champion at Mott MacDonald, has also cautioned that companies of all sizes will be left behind if they stick with the tried-and-true methods of doing things.
Each player in the sector aims to develop their businesses in a way that is as efficient and market-focused as possible using the newest technologies, he says, whether they are large or little, designers or builders, fabricators or manufacturers.
Building information modelling (BIM), despite its name, can be applied across the whole construction industry, as Mott MacDonald discovered.
The engineering consultancy was an early adopter of the global BIM programme, which began in 2010. Shennan states, “we were quick to recognise that BIM applies to all kinds of infrastructure projects,” and cites the upgrading of London’s Victoria Station as leading practise at the time, using industry standard Autodesk and Bentley software as well as Trimble technologies.
Having began their BIM journey in 2012, the MLM Group has also utilised BIM techniques on schools, energy for waste facilities, residential, medical research facilities and offices – most recently when working on the Illumina Centre in Cambridge.
“The majority of our projects are now designed in 3D and we link together our design, drawings and specification to avoid ambiguities.” Smith says of the reduction in errors and the simplicity with which adjustments can be made.
Keepmoat decided to utilise Revit on all projects in 2014 after using it for a few years on a few select ones. Keepmoat has recently used Revit on two care home projects in Newcastle, at Lawson House, and at Wylam Park in Throckley, as well as a new construction apartment project in Kenton.
The housebuilders’ primary motive for introducing BIM was to help with onsite coordination, which can save time and money during the construction process, adds Pickering.
We are utilising Revit to create 3D drawings and coordinate architectural, structural, and M&E models to ensure that everything is in sync before building begins on site, according to him. “This helps with programme and cost, with less delays and abortive works during construction.”
Overcoming the BIM obstacles
Although the BIM Task Force and the recently created UK BIM Alliance are leading the industry-wide effort for awareness, education and adoption of BIM Level 2, affordability and difficult software is often a hurdle for enterprises.
The Aconex’s Rob Phillpot says that BIM software can be tough to learn and utilise for anyone other than architects and engineers with specialised training. “It also tends to be licenced on a per-user basis, which makes it expensive and limits access.”
When it comes to reducing the cost of software, new vendor licencing choices are helping to do so. However, Shennan contends that enterprises interested in adopting BIM would profit more from a greater emphasis on standardising classification methods and extending them across all infrastructure sectors.
“While work has been done to get standards such as Uniclass 2016 in place, more effort by software vendors to increase interoperability is needed,” he says, while support from larger companies could help smaller firms because they can set out “clear requirements and communicate these to their own suppliers, allowing them time to adjust with support where possible.”
BIM is largely about people, and investing in those people will yield better outcomes than simply purchasing pricey software, as corporations must realise.
“The software will help with delivering the information, but the people will be the ones collaborating,” adds Smith. “So firm’s should communicate with their employees to help educate them and get their buy-in and recruit a BIM champion to look into what BIM is and how it will affect the business.”
Additionally, more case studies, forums for construction companies to discuss their experiences, and better-informed clients can assist enterprises who are hesitant to implement BIM while simultaneously necessitating a significant shift in methods and working procedures.
“This includes a cultural change in collaborative working and the rigour around data classification and information management,” Shennan continues.
With BIM staying high on the agenda with an increasing focus on housebuilding driven both by government policy and the demand for housing, Jason Ruddle, CEO at Elecosoft, expects to see greater levels of adoption in 2017.
“The UK government is keen to work with builders that use modern construction methods,” he says.
There has never been a better opportunity for the building industry to put all of its digital construction and BIM knowledge to good use.
Not just for buildings
Repair work on the A338 Bournemouth Spur Road in Dorset indicates that the usage of BIM is not simply restricted to buildings but can be extended across the construction sector.
Even though Dorset County Council’s busiest road, which sees about 59,000 vehicles each day, had been patched and repaired for many years, its foundations were decaying and the road surface was failing.
By securing funding through Dorset Growth Deal for a $22 million rebuilding project, Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership has become the first local authority to implement a BIM Level 2 management system for this type of project.
Construction materials and services provider Hanson UK and Dorset County Council worked together over many years to complete the project under the auspices of the Dorset Highways Strategic Partnership.
Hanson’s iPave tablet has been equipped with cutting-edge project management software so that it may be built to BIM level 2 requirements. This made it possible to capture and communicate in real time all of the data collected on-site, including photos and project status updates.
As Hanson Contracting’s project manager Ian Price explained, “BIM is now widely accepted to stand for Better Information Management and not Building Information Modeling.”
Because of its data-driven nature, Building Information Modeling (BIM) may be applied to any construction project, not just those involving buildings, to provide value and foster cooperation.
The iPave allowed the crew to have access to all of the project information and, importantly, enhanced on-site health and safety. Near misses were recorded, allowing trends to be watched and responses to be more scientifically monitored by location and type. Almost 160,000 man-hours later, the programme had no lost time injuries because of the software, which was made available throughout the supply chain.