A Data-Driven Approach

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Paul Marshall, of the Landmark Information Group outlines why a data-driven approach is vital for the construction sector…

Within the last month, we have seen the deadline come and go for the adoption of Level 2 BIM. It was five years in the planning since the government announced its original plans to direct the construction industry in to the adoption of BIM, and the deadline was set for 4 April 2016. Now, only those Level 2 compliant firms will be considered for public sector construction projects.

A piece of research conducted by NBS in the final run-up to the April deadline found a mixed response regarding the take-up and preparedness for BIM. Of the 1000 respondents in the survey, it was reported that only 1 in 10 believed the industry was ready for the deadline, although figures confirmed that over half are actively using BIM – at 54%.

While the head of the BIM Task Group expects the industry to catch up in due course, 55% were concerned they may get “left behind”, although, from a positive stand-point, those that are using BIM are seeing benefits of improved collaboration and project visualisation.

Time doesn’t wait for anyone, however, and we are already looking ahead to BIM Level 3; particularly given the fact that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has confirmed that it plans to invest £15m in Level 3 BIM over the next three years.

This new level takes BIM to a fully integrated and collaborative era, which will see processes enabled via online services.  It is hoped that all members of the professional and construction teams will have invested in the right technologies. It is also hoped they will have trained staff, and also delivered design information, due diligence data, costs and project planning information (and a range of other relevant data and materials) into the single, centrally managed BIM model, so that everyone can access and update information.

By doing so, we will see collaboration extend from sharing isolated files and data between various sources and systems, to instead having all relevant data and materials being fed concurrently into one single model that can be accessed and modified by all parties, in real-time, using open data standards.  In my view, this is where BIM starts to come alive.

With the BIM Level 2 deadline now behind us, we are already looking ahead to 2018 where the Level 3 deadline has been set.  Between now and then there is a lot of work that needs to be done to bridge the gap between the construction process and the ongoing asset or facilities management while ensuring that all information that is delivered, assessed, and managed through the model is appropriate, current and available to all stakeholders.

It is the accuracy and breadth of data that I believe is the linchpin to the success of BIM.  It is called Building INFORMATION Modelling after all, which is no coincidence and, without the correct information being incorporated, maintained or available, BIM will fail to deliver on its original objectives and the model, which is meant to address the lifecycle of a building, will be at risk of becoming outdated.

Where BIM comes into its own is the ability for all stakeholders, at varying phases of the lifecycle of a building, to add, query, amend or update information in the model to support their own role and share this data with other relevant stakeholders, at any time.

For example, essential geospatial information, which contextualises the overall surrounding of the building, campus or site is an important element of a model.  By having insight to data relating to the surrounding location, in addition to technical documentation, legal conveyancing search documentation and key environmental risk analysis, such as flooding, ground stability or land contamination, must not be overlooked in the model.

With it, however, comes a large information management requirement.  After all, as projects progress and time moves on, factors can change and therefore the data needs to be regularly updated and maintained.

It is imperative, therefore, that such updates are fed into BIM to make it truly about the lifecycle and not just the construction phase. Without making this happen, it could break the link in delivering accurate information into the model, which has the potential to affect its overall validity.

Collating all information for a construction project on its own is a huge task – managing any ‘big data’ project requires a huge amount of coordination, backed up by robust software and technology.  For BIM, a Common Data Environment (CDE) provides a structured, organised online hub where collecting, managing and disseminating information among all stakeholders takes place, however, the management of this is vital to ensure the data is current, secure, and follows agreed BIM protocols.

While the industry continues to get fully up to speed on BIM Level 2, I do believe that the full extent of BIM is yet to be fully realised. It’s only as it becomes the ‘standard’ way of working by all parties, will we see how a fully collaborative approach works for organisations and projects of all shapes and sizes.

The secret to making this happen is down to the data.  Without the correct information being fed in, shared and maintained, it ultimately fails to deliver.  I believe data bridges the gap between the design, construction or redevelopment phase and the ongoing building operation and future asset or facilities management requirements of any site or building.

We recently attended the BRE BIM Prospects event in Watford. It was interesting to hear not only from firms already utilising BIM for their projects but in hearing about the work that continues to take place to upskill existing workforces. This is in addition to the work universities are doing on their current and future approach to BIM to ensure students are equipped and prepared for BIM compliant working upon graduation and entering the workforce.

While greater collaboration and data sharing will bring with it a huge information management requirement, there are obvious and clear benefits to it, and we welcome the advancement to the next phase of BIM and a more data-driven, connected approach.

Paul Marshall

Account Director

Landmark Information Group

www.landmark.co.uk

Please note: this is a commercial profile

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