The rise of BIM is bringing major changes to how the construction industry works. George Adams, Director of Energy and Engineering for SPIE UK, examines the opportunities and challenges this presents, and how we join up the dots to realise the benefits
Building Information Modelling (BIM) has come to play a major role in industry, not least due to encouragement from the UK government. Since April 2016, the government has required building procurement to be working at BIM Level 2 and the use of BIM and BIM certification offers many benefits. Among these are: a quicker and more efficient delivery method; improved financial benefits; better productivity and reduced programme delivery time; reduced risks; whole-life cost management; reduced defects; better maintainability; reduced waste and prevention of mistakes. Fortunately, there is a range of solutions to address the BIM Level 2 requirements.
For the uninitiated, BIM is the management of information through a building’s whole lifecycle: from design through to construction, operations, maintenance and even decommissioning using digital modelling. BIM is also concerned with collaboration in a three-dimensional virtual building environment (common data environment), sharing information across disciplines and incorporating an asset’s technical information.
Change cannot be avoided. With processes improving and new products and software tools emerging, we will continue to alter our design methods for years to come. The use of high-grade computers, software and robotic machines will combine to increase the data-driven approach to better buildings. The government targets for Construction 2025 (33% reduction in costs, 50% in time, 59% in emissions and a 50% export increase) may seem ambitious, but they will enable us to think and deliver differently.
Could BIM become a catalyst for joining up the dots for incorporating systems into a networked community of buildings and infrastructure? And might this pave the way for analytics that manage urban area systems, incorporating community energy schemes, continuous security and access operations management and features like joined-up street communication systems?
If the technology addresses the 3D aspect of delivery and there are processes and tools to manage information, perhaps the real challenge is to work collaboratively with partners and suppliers. Or, it may be about facing our collective uncertainty to achieve integration on both city and local challenges.
As the industry becomes more data-driven, we must deal with various risks such as cybercrime, and the concerns they pose for both BIM modelling and integrated networks. As we head for greater automation, aspiring to open and collective working, we should understand why so many areas of the industry have not adopted a BIM future, particularly in the facilities management space.
The government’s Soft Landings legislation requires that facilities managers are a part of the entire BIM process. We must ask why projects without adequate FM or maintenance involvement are even in traditional delivery methods. It appears to be seen as a cost barrier rather than a value opportunity. However, we know that by far the largest cost of a buildings lifecycle is post-construction. We should challenge perceptions and assumptions, such as BIM technobabble that clients and facilities managers cannot be expected to understand, and put forward a BIM business case that embraces the lifecycle approach.
Moreover, the impact of smart or intelligent building solutions and IoT on the industry cannot yet be determined. This comes down to the speed of technology development, new thinking and the real impact of natural resource depletion (current reserves of the precious metals on which technology depends are in danger of running out in the next 20-25 years).
On a different scale, the ownership of delivery models and the creation of common standards remain a challenge, with ongoing development work in various areas. Therefore, the industry requires better collaboration around how BIM will be implemented.
The technical side and creation of complex building standards are overemphasised, rather than keeping a focus on the value proposition. With the workforce becoming increasingly capable of using software, networking information around the BIM model is set to become more common and robust. Such developments will not remove the need for intelligent and creative thinking in dealing with the huge challenges that societies face in the effort to develop a more effective and sustainable built environment.
What the industry needs is to develop open collaboration, whereby issues can be resolved through teamwork and risk management. We will see a productivity boost if all professions have an understanding and respect for all disciplines involved in creating joined-up BIM solutions.
Transition to digitalisation has certainly helped the industry to improve delivery progress, but more needs to be done to address challenges of the non-technical nature. The industry requires better procurement models, improved payment terms and an acceptance that more R&D is required to cultivate better methods and solutions. Although the UK may well be a leading country for digital transformation, there remains many social and integration issues in our sector that need to be resolved. To build a better industry, what is paramount is that we embrace a more collaborative way of working.
Director of Energy and Engineering
Tel: +44 (0)20 7105 2300