Peter Caplehorn, chair of BSI’s Strategic Committee for Construction and Deputy Chief Executive of the Construction Products Association shares his thoughts on BIM

For a very long time there has been nothing as influential as BIM or as change generating with the potential to affect the business operations of everyone in the UK construction industry. A big claim, but one I make with very good reason.

I have worked in the industry as an Architect and been involved with practical construction technology and regulation for a long time. The issue identified by Sir John Egan in his 1998 ‘Rethinking Construction’ report was that “Projects are widely seen as unpredictable in terms of delivery on time, within budget and to the standards of quality expected.” Similarly, Sir Michael Latham’s 1994 ‘Constructing the Team’ report spoke of the fragmented nature of the industry. This is compounded by the use of unreliable information in a chaotic and selfish manner, resulting in huge inefficiencies and continued risk-laden and adversarial positions on nearly every project.

In contrast, the last few decades have seen many other industries embracing digitalisation – using software to design and develop test their products and processes. Many have also employed the same technologies for procurement supply chain management and full business operations. We often highlight the aero, automotive and food supply industries as significant examples.

BIM has come into its own and has been used individually and in many locations around the world for construction projects for many decades. In the not so distant past, the architecture, engineering and construction industry relied on CAD and marked-up drawings to build. BIM creates a virtual 3D representation (embedded with all the relevant real world data) of a building using digital technology, enabling accurate construction of the design, improving efficiency and reducing costs across the process.

So valuable is this, that the recent UK initiative to organise digital approaches at a national level, set a mandated level of achievement and provides thought leadership supported by key standards in a unique manner. We have now reached a level of momentum that has invaded every corner of the industry. Clients, consultants, contractors and the whole supply chain have a growing awareness of the business benefits. This includes a move towards a faster pace of working especially as BIM acts as a traceable database for the project. Therefore all the associated costs of every design change can be tracked in real time.

There is still a lot to be done but the direction of travel and the potential have been clearly set out.

We are now just about 15 months away from the mandated deadline for anyone wishing to undertake government work to be able to demonstrate ability to maturity level 2 – a challenge as many teams at the leading edge are still not capable of this. However, the supporting methodologies information and standards are in place or being developed. We have the family of PAS documents, and the data templates and the digital plan of work will be available in spring 2015.

Most of manufacturing are now planning and developing their approach to digital supply and procurement. At the heart of all this activity is data – ensuring it is accurate and is used throughout the project being the simple and all-encompassing aim. Identifying and using reliable data results in everyone having access to accuracy, de-risks the project, provides a clear set of information about the built asset, and how it operates.

This new world means a change of perspective from the client, the consultant, and the contractor, and does so for the better. The common and binding language of clean data allows efficiencies in time cost and performance, allowing prediction of these key parameters for everyone’s benefit so we can actually design and build exactly what was intended.

This is the goal, and for it to deliver the full potential it will change every aspect of the industry, including the regulatory and planning world. Work is underway to establish how planning and planning applications can be processed in a BIM environment. Surveys of existing buildings and land areas can be undertaken digitally. Several parts of the world have developed electronic planning and regulation approaches. The UK will hope to incrementally process planning applications followed by processing of BIM models and associated data in the next few years.

Work is also underway to process technical standards digitising building regulation approval. This will start with assisting the process areas that are effectively based on relationships or numerical compliance. This will be followed by increasing digitisation of more complex areas allowing designers to design, and regulation requirements will be increasingly undertaken through software. In future years, regulations may be formatted to be BIM friendly. However, that lies some decades ahead although work on how we move to maturity Level 3 is being mapped out and ensuring the regulation world is fully integrated is clearly essential.

Back to the here and now, there is still a considerable way to go, and for the benefits to be shared by everyone confidence in the outcome is key. Some areas of the industry are investing huge sums, even the smallest of SMEs are equally committed and proportionately investing time and money to join this step changing movement.

The need however is to ensure you are aware of the business benefits and the business plan is about adapting to BIM. For more information see the BIM task group website: and download the relevant PAS documents at the BSI Shop.


Peter Caplehorn

Chair of BSI’s Strategic Committee for Construction and Deputy Chief Executive of the Construction Products Association

BSI (British Standards Institution)

Tel: +44 (0)845 086 9001


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