2016: The beginning of the end of BIM?


Jon Frost, BIM Leader for BWB Consulting and BIM4SME Leadership Team Member summarises the history of how BIM came into being, and crucially, where he believes it will take the construction industry

2016 has long been talked about by those in the BIM community. It’s the year the government say BIM will be mandated on all their projects (April the 4th is the exact date). There are numerous articles hailing this as the time the construction industry finally gets its act together and catches up with the rest of the world. There are many more saying that we will never be ready in time for the 2016 BIM mandate, and you don’t have to go far on social media before you find people arguing about what ‘BIM Level 2’ actually is.

The truth is everyone is right, those at the forefront are already reaping the benefits and pushing the boundaries of everything BIM can do. There are a whole lot more just getting to grips with it all, only just finding out about it or burying their head in the sand hoping it will go away.

When it comes to what BIM Level 2 actually is, this is a conversation that will never end! It varies from project to project with some requiring every last standard and procedure and some picking and choosing the concepts and tools that have the most benefit to the project. Regardless of the amount of ‘BIM’ involved on a project the overall concept is the same:

  • Define what is needed from the project both the physical requirements and digital requirements;
  • Develop a plan to ensure these requirements are produced, validated and delivered taking into account the entire project teams requirements & capability;
  • Do all of this in a digital, connected environment. Promoting collaboration and data-driven delivery.

Easy right? Well, it would be if the industry was equipped to deliver projects like this. Unfortunately, as I discuss later, it’s not, or at least it hasn’t been.

But here’s my take on the 2016 BIM mandate: April 2016 will see the start of BIM disappearing from our industry.

And to explain why, I’m going to take a look at how we have got to where we are now and where this all might be going. Probably full of holes and very skewed by my experience, but here we go.

Back when I was still at school a couple of reports were produced analysing the state of the construction industry. Admittedly I haven’t read them, but I think it’s clear they thought the construction industry was broken.

The first, ‘Constructing the Team’, written by Sir Michael Latham and published in 1994, identified a very inefficient and wasteful industry, subtly describing industry practices as: ‘adversarial’ ‘ineffective’, ‘fragmented’, ‘incapable of delivering for its clients’ and ‘lacking respect for its employees’

The second, a response to the recommendations in the Latham report, was produced by an industry task force led by ex-Jaguar cars chief exec Sir John Egan. Published in 1998 and titled ‘Rethinking Construction’, it took experiences from other industries (not surprisingly manufacturing) and identified some key areas of change required, one being integrated processes and teams.

Both reports recommend a focus on collaboration, and combined with another Egan report, ‘Accelerating Change’, which identified the importance of IT in achieving greater integration, they went on to inform the government’s 2011 construction strategy, which sets out their commitment to BIM.

One of the many initiatives to come out of these reports was the Avanti Project, better known today as BS 1192 (the document which underpins almost all of the information production requirements for BIM). The Avanti project set out to structure and standardise the way information is produced in the construction industry using IT to support collaborative working.

Whilst pilot projects were a success and the benefits well documented it failed to gain much traction in the industry. Why? Well let’s be honest it’s not particularly interesting and even less so to a creative industry focused on design, and without rigorous policing and training on a project, was difficult to implement.

But then along came BIM. Well actually along came <Insert name of favourite 3D modelling package>

Advances in technology meant this type of software package became more affordable, and hence more mainstream, and this did gain traction in the industry. Why? Because it’s new, and flashy and you can spin it around and colour it in at the click of a button.

These 3D modelling packages quickly became known as ‘BIM’. Rightly or wrongly, the industry began to accept that these 3D models were Building Information Modelling.

As the industry became more adept at working with these models, those leading the way were already realising that actually these were much more than just 3D models, there’s data in there too, and when you have data you can start to do some clever things by exchanging that data between different parties in the project.

But to do that you need to make sure your data is right, and that the people at the other end can use it. To do that you need to make sure it’s structured and standardised. Those Avanti guys were onto something then.

Whilst its now widely accepted that BIM isn’t all about 3D modelling, it does play an important part, and I believe it has been the catalyst that has helped the industry sit up, take note, and begin the move to a truly digitally enabled industry.

So as the industry as a whole is now starting to catch up with the trailblazers and more and more people begin to realise that all this is about is the data we are producing, and not those flashy models you can spin around, I have a feeling BIM will begin to disappear in favour of something else. People will stop asking for ‘BIM models’ and just start to ask for digital information instead.

As the areas of the industry that don’t produce ‘3D Models’ are pulled in, such as QS’s, Asset Managers, Facilities Managers and other sectors start to play a part, like geospatial, or IoT, BIM starts to lose meaning – it’s all about digital delivery and connected data.

A digitally connected future is where we are all heading. Big Data, Smart Cities, Smart Infrastructure, the Internet of Things, they all rely on the same concept – connecting the data. Connecting the data that is created in many places, from surveys of existing things, from the design of new things or from sensors monitoring the performance and use of those things.

The Association for Geographical Information recently produced a report looking into the future of the geospatial sector, and in many respects the wider built environment industry as well. It focuses on 5 key themes:

• Open;

• Big Data;

• BIM and Future Cities;

• Innovative Technologies and;

• Policy.

An extract from this report reads:

“This has to be one of the biggest latent and untapped opportunities for the geospatial industry. Not maps, not 3D – but recognising the latent possibilities of the data and the value-add services that can and should be delivered. What a phenomenal opportunity.”

The same can be said from every part of the construction / built environment industry, understanding the data you use and exploiting the benefits of this data for your own gain and for the benefit of your projects and clients will play an ever more important role in the delivery of your projects.



Jon Frost

BIM Leader for BWB Consulting and BIM4SME

Leadership Team Member

Tel: 0115 924 1100



Twitter: @Jon_Frost


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