BIM Level 3 & Beyond


The BIM Level 3 & Beyond | Moving Forward After Level 2 event held on 29th June 2016 at the University of Manchester proved to be a successful day devoted to answering the ongoing questions of how Level 2 BIM will be the staging post for further developments to a Digital Built Britain…

The event intended to start the conversation around what is meant by BIM Level 3 but also raised some contentious issues regarding the journey to it. However, formulating and understanding what lies beyond BIM Level 2 has to be faced head on.

The supply chain has to be transparent and cooperate within the relationships between conceptual, design, planning, construction and whole life cycle stages. There will undoubtedly be challenges, not least of ownership and liability.

BIM Level 3 will be a big leap. Having to focus on the concepts of big data, openBIM and the sharing of information, the event examined copyright wrangles created by ownership read/write permission issues and also investigated the subject of liability & shared risk by inviting discussion on procurement routes.

The morning plenary

Chairing the main plenary session was Professor Jason Underwood, Programme Director of the MSc. in Building Information Modelling & Integrated Design, within the School of the Built Environment at the University of Salford. He opened the session highlighting how the last five years have been an exciting time, seeing the development of BIM and acknowledging that many in the industry still have doubts. Underwood, however, claims that he “has the faith” and went on to say:

“We are at a key milestone by achieving critical mass on BIM Level 2 – getting the industry to adopt Level 2 as we move forward onto BIM Level 3.”

He continued:

“I’m still hearing doubts about whether we should be looking at BIM Level 3 before we’ve got BIM Level 2 adopted, but it’s good to have a vision and where this is all taking us.”

Introducing the Hollywood ‘A’ List of speakers, Underwood highlighted how the day would be informative and productive.

First up to speak was Dale Sinclair, AECOM’s Director of Technical Practice, Architecture responsible for EMIA. He has recently been appointed as the CIC BIM champion and is on the board of BuildingSMART UK. His presentation examined the importance of working towards the vision of a Digital Built Britain and the UK Government plans for the next steps in our construction strategy and the impact on our built environment (working towards BIM Level 3).

His presentation was a vision of the future – how construction will evolve through a rapidly changing technological landscape. He began by applauding that BIM Level 2 is being implemented with a suite of documents which will need to be refined over time. Level 3 will be fundamentally how we can get better outcomes and improve society through what we do in BIM. It’s about better performance of our buildings.

He said:

“As designers, we will still need to look at what we do outside of the whole Level 3 suite of documents. The themes alluded to for Level 3 are the right ones – how we move to a better performing environment.”

He emphasised that the changes will happen – we are going digital – it’s an unstoppable train. One of the obstacles, however, is whether education professionals can keep up with the rate of change. With a digital environment rapidly changing, how will we approach whole-life learning? He also emphasised how the roles within construction industry will change as new technologies come into play – the traditional ‘brickie’ is likely to be replaced with a robot on large schemes – many professions will become redundant, so we must prepare for the future.

He concluded by saying that the transition from Level 2 BIM to Level 3 will be an exciting one, and one in which industry, not the government, should take the lead.

The second speaker of the main session was Terry Stocks. Terry is a Director with Atkins Faithful+Gould and is their UK Head of Public Sector and Director for BIM. He’s the former deputy Director Estates for the Ministry of Justice and is the current UK BIM Task Group Delivery Director for BIM Level 2 across government.

His presentation centred on the issues of BIM implementation and what the requirement will be going forward for public sector projects. He highlighted the vital importance of the construction industry – contributing around £90bn to the UK economy and has created around 2.9m jobs. The size of the construction industry does mean that it’s difficult to evoke change, but Level 2 BIM and the Digital Built Britain strategy does open up opportunities for all.

The UK Government have been looking at BIM across two strands. The first is the focus on domestic service delivery and infrastructure asset management, and the second focus is on the global trade expansion and enterprise. Stocks said that through the Government Construction Strategy, many of the aims will be achieved and need to be maintained, and we are now laying the foundations for the disruptive change that will take us from Level 2 to 3 and beyond.

Stocks outlined the vision of Digital Built Britain – what it means as part of a Smart, networked world. He said that UK government departments are all at Level 2 BIM now and are starting to move into Level 3 A by collecting data to take into operations. He says they will start to develop their OIRs, which will, in turn, provide their asset information requirements, which are all enshrined within the EIR which they check through data validation through the system.

He ended by assuring the support from the government for Digital Built Britain and the aspirations for implementation across central and local government supporting a growing maturity in UK supply chains. He also outlined the continued support for SME’s.

Richard Petrie, Chief Executive of buildingSMART International, was next to take to the stage with his presentation detailing the OpenBIM initiative which looks at the issues going forward as we head towards BIM Level 3 using the open buildingSMART Data Model.


Petrie explained what OpenBIM is by using the analogy of a smart phone: “Imagine the IFC (Industry Foundation Class) as the operating system for the digital built asset economy, the apps (MVDs) are there to deliver the functionality – all of which are available in the cloud for workflows – and through the buildingSMART Data Dictionary you would have the protocols for data connectivity so you can rapidly exchange the information you need with others. The power (battery) is supplied by the buildingSMART members.”

He outlined the need for common solutions – one of which involves growing the standards. He said that:

“We need consensus to get the value out of the digital economy – something which needs working on together. We want to bring forward the development of the LODs at an international level.”

He urged everyone to get personally involved with buildingSMART as an industry community, along with companies and organisations – the creation of open and shared practices is a common effort.

Raj Chawla, Vice Chair BIM4SME and executive member of UK BIM Alliance
Raj Chawla, Vice Chair BIM4SME and executive member of UK BIM Alliance

Next to speak was Raj Chawla. He holds several posts including Vice Chair BIM4SME and is an executive member of the newly formed UK BIM Alliance.

He began by outlining what it is:

“The UK BIM Alliance are an industry facing group and are taking over the baton from the UK BIM Task Group, which will morph into, and continue with the Digital Built Britain agenda. What we are trying to do is to make sure that BIM Level 2 isn’t forgotten. It is crucial that we make sure the entire industry understands and starts to implement BIM Level 2 in their workflow processes.”

He recognised that there is still a long way to go to get industry to implement Level 2 BIM, but by 2020, the UK BIM Alliance wants to see it as ‘business as usual’.

More information about the UK BIM Alliance is available on the PBC Today website but do get in touch with Chris Witte with any questions:

The last speaker for the morning’s main plenary was Andrew Bellerby, Managing Director at Solibri, who wanted to outline how to deliver value from BIM model data. He pointed out that verifying data is crucial for the industry along with how we ensure the correct data is utilised. That’s where there Solibri Model Checker comes into play. For more information, please visit the Solibri website .

The event then split out into four separate lectures which were repeated in the afternoon. One topic included a public sector and industry in partnership panel debate with Terry Stocks, Paul Surin, Hugh Boyes, Duane Passman and Samuel Radziejowski (available here ).

The afternoon plenary

Professor Jason Underwood returned in the afternoon to chair the session which began with Alan Muse BSc (Hons) MSc FRICS – Global Director of Built Environment Professional Groups RICS, looking at how collaboration among professional institutions is a BIM Level 3 imperative.

He highlighted how the new technological opportunities would act as a catalyst for change and offered some thoughts on how professional institutions can be at the centre of this conversation. He began by asking if tradition has any real relevance to the construction industry in the 21st century. There is a tradition of knowledge passed from one generation to the next in all professions proving that all knowing is tradition-dependent. He said:

“This ensures continuity of thought, but a healthy tradition necessarily involves a degree of conflict – knowledge is defined and re-defined. Hence, quite radical changes and ‘traditions’ can co-exist.”

He mentioned that too many projects are not built on time and to budget, and that litigation is rife, saying:

“The value of disputes in the UK was £17.2m in 2014 – and only £4.5m at the beginning of the decade. The average global dispute value is £32m.”

He also asked how we can have an ‘integrated and collaborative environment’ when promoting better performance when we work for separate organisations with differing aims and we are trained in narrow specialisms? He referred to the Edge Commission Report on the Future of Professionalism published last year – Collaboration for Change – which identifies ethics, education, research and collaboration as areas where the institutions could, through joint action, enhance their relevance and value. The RICS report – Our Changing World – also identifies areas of action in education, ethics, technology, sustainable cities, new business models, collaboration and leadership.

But he said:

“The major areas of collaboration amongst the construction professions are no doubt in education, thought leadership and the international sphere.” One fundamental precept of Level 3 BIM is that it will demand new ways of working encompassing the whole life cycle, and these new ways of working will require definition and standards.

Muse asked:

“Which professional institutions will write these standards? How will professionals be trained to accommodate these new ways of working?”


Muse believes that as the industry moves from Level 2 to Level 3 BIM, there are various cross-cutting disciplinary themes such as Smart Cities, sustainability improvements and whole life asset performance which would benefit from collaboration.

Similarly, the connection between data science and the existing professions needs much greater exploration. The construction professions need to work with the technologists so that we can develop data sets that provide a feedback loop between expectation, design and actual performance of buildings and assets.

He concluded the presentation saying that:

“We have a rich tradition of professional institutions. They still need to develop expertise in their own profession, set qualification standards and act as a voice of their profession. However, there are many fruitful areas of potential collaboration to meet the many challenges that we all face. And technological change will emphasise our demarcations.

“But this could be just the beginning. A more productive, effective and attractive industry could result. Which is why everyone in this room should take away one message: of course you are concerned with your own professional development, but also encourage your professional institution to collaborate more, both nationally and internationally.”

The afternoon session also saw a presentation from Richard G Saxon CBE, Chairman of the Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) who examined the topic of shared risk procurement. Standard contracts are part of the Government Construction Strategy to ensure consistency, speed and something which has been tested.

Saxon said it would take many years to determine how the JCT will react to a complete change in how we do business as a consensus will need to emerge as time moves on. He mentioned the nature of Digital Built Britain which has an emphasis on collaborative teamwork and collective responsibility – something which can horrify some clients and lawyers. After all, their whole raison d’etre is to pin things down in a contract.

Saxon welcomed the £15m announcement in the Spring budget for a five-year development and implementation of Digital Built Britain, as it recognises that Britain has the potential to be the focus of the move to digital working methods – which would be a potential source of wealth for the country.

Saxon outlined where we are now but how Digital Built Britain will transform our industry. He used the slide below to show the journey we will take, from the design application toolkit we use now to the high-performance computing (or computational design) and analytics that will form part of our future.

He explained in detail how we would see progressive improvements to BIM, the impact of the Internet of Things and the rise of new business models enabled by these two factors.

As an example of a new business model, Saxon mentioned the Integrated Project Insurance concept. This sees the client taking out a collective insurance (instead of individual members having their own insurance) where the insurer vets the design as it emerges so they understand the risk involved. Turning to what JCT is doing, Saxon said that:

  • A working group has been formed to consider contracts for Level 3 working;
  • JCT Constructing Excellence contract is one of the viable forms for collaborative working;
  • Standard form FM contracts are under consideration, for stand-alone and whole-life procurement;
  • JCT are participating in discussions with many parties about the way to travel.

The final speaker of the day was Shona Frame of CMS Cameron McKenna LLP, who discussed the legal implications of BIM Level 3, which she referred to being like needing a crystal ball. She believes it’s crucial to get the legal framework right for the journey from Level 2 BIM to Level 3, which would see a shift away from contracting as we currently know it.

The rights and liabilities of parties need to be addressed when considering collaborative working where things may go wrong on a project. The contractual structure needs to go beyond the design and construction phases of a project to operational and facilities management aspects (a totex approach essentially).

Frame believes the way forward is through multi-party contracts where everyone is signed up with rights and liabilities between all of the contracting parties. This multi-party arrangement is the one being used on the Cookham Wood prison project where they are using the PPC2000 form.

When contracting for the life-cycle of a building, Frame noted that four particular areas require particular notice: Pre-construction; Construction; In Use and Interfaces. For Pre-construction and construction, the key point is to enter into contracts with an eye on the future use of the building. For the ‘in-use’ phase, it has been suggested (to meet GSL) that people who design and construct buildings, should be required to prove their operational performance for three to five years after the handover of it. This is in line with the approach of the whole life cycle aspect of Level 3 BIM.

And, for the ‘interface’ Frame said that:

“Arrangements would need to be made between the construction contract and the FM contractor because of the overlap period of potentially three to five years, where both of them have obligations and liabilities in respect of that building”.

Regarding contracting for data ownership, capture and use, Frame admitted that nobody really knows yet how this will be solved. She said we would need to involve intellectual property lawyers to work out how it could be done.

“There are clear tensions between open data sharing versus protection of ownership rights along with liability considerations where data is being used over a long period of time – subject to change and updating” she continued.

She alluded to the importance of ensuring the security of the data of a built asset, especially for large infrastructure and preventing data from falling into the wrong hands. However, Frame did not want to end on a negative note. Instead she urged that we get contractual arrangements right for the next phase of the industry’s progress.

In conclusion

We are right to concentrate on getting BIM Level 2 to a stage where it is ‘business as usual’, but that’s not to say we should ignore or be unprepared for what is inevitable: the development of technology that will enable the Digital Built Britain thinking. It is certainly clear from this event that many experts in the industry are already asking the questions around ‘how we get there’ and ‘what do we need to do’ and there is a commitment, drive and enthusiasm to make it work. ■

The event itself and presentation slides are available to view online from the ActiveFocus events website at


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