How is BIM continually transforming construction?

Building Information Modelling (BIM) has hit the UK construction industry with full force since the government implemented the BIM Level 2 mandate as a ...

Catherine Sturman
|May 27|magazine14 min read

Building Information Modelling (BIM) has hit the UK construction industry with full force since the government implemented the BIM Level 2 mandate as a minimum requirement within construction and design companies back in April 2016.

This approach and transformation has since been felt worldwide, altering the way in which designers, architects and construction workers collaborate and utilise data, increasing performance and enabling sufficient cost savings through the reduction in unnecessary waste. Originating from traditional CAD software, BIM 3D modelling has since enabled the development of tools and processes which have influenced industry standards and required training, with the aim to also improve the quality of information provided throughout various operations. 

Responsible for delivering a large number of 3D projects within a number of architectural practices, such as Lovett Fields in Milton Keynes, is Director of BIM at the Building Research Establishment (BRE), Paul Oakley. Also encompassing a background in consultancy, Oakley is behind the implementation of the entire BIM agenda and UK Construction Project Information Committee (CPIC), which has enabled the creation of standards and development of current BIM processes. He has also been spearheading the development of new software which will ensure sufficient cost savings within new and upcoming projects. He says: “I’ve worked not only with designers and architects, but for contractors and manufacturers, all with different points of view.”

BIM Level 2 has now been in operation for over a year, where BRE has been continually working to resolve a number of challenges within standardising methods and procedures. Oakley discusses the current issues of delivering efficient BIM data, placing increased emphasis on the regulation and performance of current BIM tools. He says: “Traditionally, you create a model to specific requirements and put information in, but this doesn’t work in practice because the data standards are completely inconsistent with the people producing it.” BIM Level 2, therefore, is supporting the implementation of new methods to ensure the delivery of tasks through sufficient information management, embedding new roles, responsibility and an element of ownership into upcoming projects. Oakley adds: “You need the process of how you are going to go about doing the modelling, but on top of that you have the whole information management process.”

LEXiCON & COBie

In order to deliver efficient information flows and standardised processes, alongside efficient training and application development, BRE is working in collaboration with the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) and the Construction Products Association (CPA) to improve data standards and develop essential tools, such as a new template tool. Whilst BRE initially aimed for a basic data tool in rectifying data standards, the extent of the issue became larger than originally expected. Consequently, the templated tool will now work to support and enable the hosting and management of new and improved data standards.

Oakley explains that this process also feeds into the Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie), where traditional designers are now asked to produce data related to life cycle management, an area that needs to be embedded into COBie. “Traditional designers have been doing BIM, and the problem they have is that they’re not used to structuring data to be delivered through the design process, which then filters through to construction, operations and maintenance,” he says. Whilst designers are solely used to producing standard deliverables for paper or electronic paper which highlight a basic time frame or windows of delivery, they are not used to implementing standards and undertaking significant construction data that now needs to feed into the life cycle management of projects. “They can produce a COBie file because the software will put this out, but the quality of the information means that that data is unusable by those people who need it and there are no controls in place for this,” concludes Oakley.

Although British Standards are firmly embedded within construction and building practices, Oakley is only too aware that such requirements lack precision and specific detail with regards to the role and responsibilities for individuals, an area in which the BRE are keen to establish with this new template. Such developments will help provide ownership and sufficient data structures, enabling individuals to input information into new BIM tools which will then be exported into COBie, allowing for higher quality information.

Moving forward

Such developments are paving the way to further transformations within an ever-changing industry. “The whole way we are going to work is going to completely change,” adds Oakley. “When we start talking about things like production and waste, carbon, life cycle, asset management, facilities management - these are all sorts of tools which can be developed in the future.” Whilst very few people make bad decisions based on good information within the construction industry, it is imperative that higher quality information will support the decision-making process within construction operations. Consequently, such changes will allow for new tools, technologies and business models to emerge. Oakley uses Tesco’s club card as an example, stating that this has allowed Tesco to gain vital data on products and services which should be bought into store, exceptional results and further opportunities for the retail company.

In April, BRE will be presenting further solutions within BIM prospects, which will reflect on how the industry has progressed since the implementation of BIM Level 2. Whilst there have been a multitude of challenges to overcome, Oakley admits to thriving off solving these various problems, noting that it is essential for workers within construction to continually reinvent themselves and put time and effort into learning new skills and acquiring appropriate skillsets to meet upcoming needs within the industry. In order to make the process efficient for all individuals who work within building, construction and design, Oakley concludes by stating that collaboration is absolutely key to changing the way in which entire the industry works, to deliver high quality results and move forward for the future.