BIM Level 2 and the importance of lean principles


Dr. Bhargav Dave, Senior Researcher at Aalto University, explains how achieving BIM Level 2 relies on state-of-the-art construction management systems, processes, and operations, including lean principles…

The UK Government’s BIM Level 2 deadline has arrived, and like any other major change, the Level 2 requirement has generated significant anxiety in the industry regarding what it entails and how to achieve it. There are some companies who adopted BIM early and have already achieved certification, however, the majority are still trying to figure out how to achieve it.

At the outset, BIM and the Level 2 seems like a technological challenge, something that needs significant investment in technology and can be achieved by either hiring “experts” or outsourcing to technology consultants. However, in reality, BIM is much more about an efficient construction process that is based upon a sound product modelling platform. The government’s BIM roadmap has been designed to ensure that industry will adopt it in the right way. In essence, the government’s BIM Level 2 requirement attempts to integrate/unify the product and process management for construction projects. The guidelines as presented in the PAS 1192 (Publicly Available Specification), cover the construction process from initial concept development (assessment and need), procurement and post-contract to mobilisation, production, handover, and maintenance.

While there are significant technological implications from the government’s Level 2 requirements, a large proportion of it involves effective collaboration and how stakeholders share information with each other. The guidelines themselves have been developed in collaboration by leading industry and government bodies in order to take into consideration requirements from different perspectives, i.e. client/owner, designers, and contractors. From process efficiency and collaboration within the industry, lean has long been identified as the path forward, as recognised by several industry reports such as those prepared by Egan, Latham, and Wolstenholme. From this perspective, PAS-1192 also acknowledges the importance of lean while implementing BIM. It mentions in the introduction “wherever possible, the principles of lean should be applied to reduce the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the employer.” It goes on to list some of the wastes that can be avoided by embracing BIM such as waiting and searching for information; over-production of information; over-processing information; defects due to poor coordination. Lean principles recommend that technology should not be the driver behind the change of design processes, rather technologies must be chosen based on design processes and seamlessly integrated. If BIM and other technologies are used from Flow and Value view as well, then additional benefits could be achieved.

While lean principles are addressed by BIM implementation, there is also evidence to suggest that lean can directly help in implementing BIM and the Level 2 mandate. Lean principles of “pull planning”, designing for “flow and value” and “decide by consensus, consider all options” will be some of the most relevant ones from this point of view.

Application of pull planning techniques means working backwards, from the goal state and only releasing work and information on the request of downstream customers. Here, the work is produced in small batches, following just-in-time principles and avoiding the waste of over-processing, waiting and redundancy. This directly supports the goals set by the Level 2 requirements, as rather than developing a large isolated BIM model, the teams would work collaboratively to produce models and design in small batches, minimising discrepancy and rework. From a practical viewpoint, lean projects are significantly more collaborative and embrace a partnering (rather than silo based) approach within the supply chain. Tools and techniques such as collaborative planning (The Last Planner®), big room and value stream mapping also provide an ideal platform for technology adoption such as BIM.

From a technical perspective, there are many tools that support collaborative creation and sharing of BIM information. Project extranets, model checking, visualization software and version control software are now quite commonly used on most projects and will be crucial for Level 2 delivery. However, a new range of software is entering the industry, one that directly attempts to integrate the lean process with BIM. Additionally, mobile software that allows for rapid feedback from the field and supports instant communication between team members will change the game forever. These tools are reducing the latency of information in the entire construction lifecycle – from design to production and handover. Tools such as VisiLean ( which integrate collaborative planning with a BIM model and support distributed planning and tracking can be used to coordinate the design and production work.

BIM is not just a tool, but also a process that enables and even requires new ways of thinking and working. BIM facilitates project teams with greater flexibility, predictability, and more comprehensive information. Due to this impact of BIM, structural changes are also necessary to fully utilize the benefits of this technology. Incorporating BIM into the state-of-the-art construction management systems, processes and operations, like lean construction, have proven to deliver greater value by cutting out waste.

There are numerous events organised across the country to raise awareness and help the industry embrace the change. The Lean Construction Institute (LCI-UK) organizes regular events and training sessions to raise awareness and provide training on various aspects of lean.

A Lean Construction Training Day – Developing Lean Expertise will take place on 26th October 2016, along with the annual LCI-UK Summit, which will take place on 27th October 2016, at the Birmingham Metropolitan College.

For further details, please view the LCI website:

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Dr. Bhargav Dave

Senior Researcher

Aalto University

Tel: +358 504364717


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