BIM or Building Information Modelling has in recent years been given an increasingly higher profile and focus in the UK. This is not simply a message from the construction industry but actually from the UK government. In fact this topic has been gaining in momentum since May 2011 when the original Government Construction Strategy document was published.
This report originally set out a four-year plan for BIM implementation that had an inherent deadline for public sector buildings to use 3D or 4D BIM modelling that was to be adopted on all Government led projects by 2016. This software generates a visual model of the building and also manages the data relating to it throughout the various stages of its design, construction phase and during its functional life. The report was formally reviewed after one year and although some minor changes were introduced, it remained mainly unchanged.
There were many reasons behind this decision to implement BIM in this way that included:
- this method was seen as offering a more collaborative way of working
- it would reduce asset costs and achieve greater operational efficiency
- the outcome would deliver significant results in terms of improved efficiencies at every point in the process from design, through to project delivery and beyond this to ongoing facilities management
- it had the potential to deliver improvements within both new build and retrofit situations.
Adopting this emphasis is not surprising when you think that the construction sector delivered around £69 billion to the UK economy in 2010 and employs c2.5 million people, which is the equivalent to the population of the Greater Manchester area. The industry is also recognised as being critical to the achievement of UK climate change targets.
Additionally around 30% of the UK construction industry’s output is heavily influenced by a range of levers that are in the control of the public sector.
With BIM forming part of the wider Industrial strategy: government and industry in partnership this sets out the goals, whose ambitions were to ensure that:
“BIM will integrate the construction process and, therefore, the construction industry. But it will also have many additional benefits for the nation. It will enable intelligent decisions about construction methodology, safer working arrangements, great energy efficiency leading to carbon reductions and a critical focus on the whole life performance of facilities (or assets). Of even greater importance are the benefits to the economy that will accrue from better buildings and infrastructure delivered by the construction industry”
Graham Watts, OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Construction Industry Council.
Are we there yet?
With the dawn of 2016 will the April deadline of ensuring all Government projects are working to BIM Level 2 been achieved (Level 2 is defined as where separate disciplines create their own models, but all project data is shared electronically, in a common environment), be met? Well certainly great strides have been made although if this will mean 100% compliance across the board is still unclear.
However we do know that BIM has become a standard pre-requisite to contractual discussions between designers and manufacturers and this is not just on government related projects. Although this can still more of a ‘nice to have’ as opposed to a ‘need to have,’ for the various links in the supply chain such as pump suppliers/manufacturers. The question of whether you can supply information in files from packages such as Autodesk Revit, which is probably the most commonly quoted software architecture, is something that has become the norm.
Additionally, we know that if BIM is to achieve its longer term ambitions i.e. Level 3 and beyond there is one key major stumbling block and that will be to ensure the correct level of understanding at each stage, all the way through the process. As if this isn’t reached then there would be real concern that BIM will fall short of its goals
Collaboration is at the heart and soul of BIM
One very unusual factor of this project has got to be the aspect that it has put public sector organisations in the driving seat in terms of being at the forefront of working knowledge and being in a position to drive and share best practice. This is not a role that they have been used to being in, from an operational perspective.
The lack of information flow is not due to any level of unwillingness, but down to there being no common platform to permit this information to be shared. This ability to successfully cascade information to all relevant parties in the right way is we believe the pivotal point upon which could mean the UK could be seen as being at the vanguard of this change.
Who’s teaching who?
Interestingly we believe there is a great willingness to take on BIM but with so many people, with varying skills who all need to understand their role in these lengthy supply chains, there are still real challenges.
Simply by looking at the role that Grundfos Pumps will play in these equations, we know that we need to interface with a range of people who are responsible for:
- technical support
- building owners
- facility management.
Add to this the fact that these roles can be at consultant engineers, 1st 2nd or 3rd tier contractors and M&E contractors and sub-contractors. Plus pumps and other similar products are often sold through national or independent distribution partners and suddenly the complexity and the necessity for the many parties involved takes on new meaning.
So who will be responsible for ensuring all the layers overlay over each other is a sensible way? At present this is not a question that can be simply answered. Looking on-line clearly demonstrates this fact as lots of companies are trying to help and have developed their own top ten BIM tips. Unfortunately they all differ from each other which can mean you end up being more confused than when you started.
A recent National BIM Survey showed growing industry interest in BIM over the previous year, and nearly three quarters (71%) of respondents to the NBS survey agreed that BIM represents the 'future of project information' and 39% confirmed that they were now actually using BIM.
However, fewer than half of respondents were aware of the different levels of BIM, despite Level 2 being mandatory on all Government projects by the end of 2016.
Will BIM make a difference?
We believe that the answer is a firm yes. There are real opportunities with BIM which aim to deliver improved buildings with accurate service data. Importantly the first to benefit will be hospitals, schools and social housing – all buildings that are at the heart of communities and to whom the benefit of improved buildings will make a significant and direct difference to society as a whole.
Companies like Grundfos Pumps are geared up to play their role in BIM, and indeed it will be down to each us to take responsibility and ensure there are no gaps for this great opportunity to fall through.