The UK construction industry is making a good start in embracing BIM, providing the opportunity for reform and economic success as global leaders. Peter Hansford, Government Chief Construction Adviser details the value of BIM for the UK.

Technology is moving fast – including in construction. We are moving quickly towards a digital economy which is starting to have profound implications for our built environment. We must act now to ensure UK construction is, and remains, at the vanguard of smart construction and digital design, and have made a good start in embracing this through the Building Information Modeling programme. Indeed, the UK BIM standards and processes are working as a world-wide acknowledged benchmark for industry digitisation.

For the public sector, BIM offers HM Government the opportunity to industrialise and reform its built environment through a digitally enabled procurement process. Indeed, the level 2 BIM programme is already helping cement significant savings: early adopters such as the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) are reducing cost and improving quality through their BIM library concept, where they have standardised and digitised many of their assemblies. This process has also helped them drive down area requirements and determine solutions which will make it easier to ultimately economically dispose of their assets – such as courthouses – by formulating standard grid solutions compared to traditional non-standard layouts.

Our present goal is that all centrally-funded public procurement projects be delivered using Level 2 BIM by 2016, and the government’s commitment to this target – set out in the Government Construction Strategy – remains firm. It provides a strong drive towards digitising our industry and, I am glad to report, one that is going well with significant progress and appetite from the departments to adopt Building Information Modeling within standard procurement practices and operations. We are on track with our plan for getting BIM Level 2 production ready, which will position the departments perfectly for increasing the rollout of BIM across projects and making it business as usual.

With around 2.9 million people employed within our industry, the biggest challenge is not within the government departments, but raising awareness, building capacity and capability within the supply chain. Our whole sector approach to BIM is making organisations challenge preconceived ideas, and encourages techniques and incentives to standardise ways of working in which 3D geometry and data is stored throughout the lifecycle of buildings and infrastructure.

Key to this is the creation of Level 2 BIM maturity by the BIM Task Group who, along with BSI, have developed a number of standards, documents and guides to explain clearly how BIM should be applied. This is the big challenge for the supply chain: better controls and definitions of both data deliveries and data classification. The Level 2 BIM programme is a key enabling strategy for the UK developing both these processes, and open data definitions. Creating a capable, informed work force will cement the UK as the recognised leader in vision, policy, capability and results for Digital Construction World Wide.

Creating and managing digital data sets for transactions and queries is undoubtedly a step change for industry. Within the supply chain we are seeing early adopters offering levels of efficiency, reduced costs, faster delivery and ultimately, delivering buildings and infrastructure that are ‘right first time’, and offerings consistent with sectors that have made a switch to digital working and process automation. Communities such as the BIM4 working groups are helping articulate the business case for BIM, and help demystify what needs to be done within their relevant populations to make level 2 BIM happen. The fact that they can build in beta digitally and debug before executing flawlessly on site makes it all worthwhile.

The Industrial Strategy for Construction – Construction 2025 – set out a vision of “an industry that is efficient and technologically advanced”. It is therefore essential that we are prepared for a sector switch from analogue to digital given the size of the prize. Economists have estimated that the UK market for Building Information Modeling -related services will be an annual £30bn by 2020. In a global context, UK-based firms already export £7bn of architectural and engineering services. Pursuing a global leadership position in developing BIM capabilities will provide strong potential for further export growth, and enable our industry to deliver higher quality and a more sustainably built environment for future generations.

Peter Hansford

Government Chief Construction Adviser

Department for Business Innovation and Skills

Tel: 020 7215 5000


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