The Digital Estate: Driving innovation and investment

Digital Estate
Engineer in working on computer laptop in office.

Leading information management specialist GroupBC recently released a white paper on the challenges of engaging owner operators with BIM Level 2 when they are focused on existing estates rather than new builds, and summarises the process Sainsbury’s underwent to create a Digital Estate that drives its investment plans

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is not solely about delivering new capital projects. When organisations need a rich information management resource for investment in and operation of existing built assets, their thoughts might not turn immediately to BIM as it is still mainly associated with the design and construction of new builds rather than existing assets.

Indeed, part of the challenge the industry is facing is that the name “Building Information Modelling” itself suggest a technological change, and much of the focus around BIM has been about 3D models and their data in connection with new build projects.

But BIM is more than a technology tool for design. It is effectively a digital transformation of industry culture and processes. It enables a more collaborative and joined-up approach to a whole-life process: planning, procurement, design, construction, commissioning, handover and future operation and maintenance of built assets.

Let’s step back to understand why the UK government mandated the use of BIM in the first place.

During the recession of the late 2000s, the government resolved that it needed better value for money and carbon performance from its public sector projects.

Successive government and industry reports had identified the industry as inefficient and wasteful, with deep fragmentation, inefficient procurement and contracting processes repeatedly blamed.

The objective of BIM is to refocus the industry to the needs of the client and the overall lifecycle of the asset. BIM allows owner-operators to work with the supply chain at the earliest stage to optimise the facility’s design to make it energy efficient, cost-effective to maintain and productive to work in.

Implementing standards and processes relating to information delivery through BIM at the earliest stage will create efficiencies throughout the asset’s lifecycle, benefitting the client and the end user in the long term.

Clients are no longer just buying a physical asset – they are effectively buying data or the ‘digital twin’ of the physical asset that will be maintainable across its whole lifecycle.

BIM is part of the much wider digital transformation that is beginning to impact just about every sector of the economy, due in part to the UK government’s push to exploit ‘connected data’ through innovations such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, Smart Cities and artificial intelligence.

Sainsbury’s is an example of how BIM can be used to manage an existing estate too. Familiar with BIM on their new builds, they saw the potential to use the standards and principles of BIM across legacy information. Faced with changes in the retail industry, plus its acquisition of Argos and Habitat, the focus for the organisation has moved from new build to ‘sweating their assets’.

While some owners might start by laser-scanning existing premises in readiness for BIM, Sainsbury’s adopted a more innovative approach, digitising and categorising historical 2D drawings and information using BIM standards to create a Digital Estate.

Existing data sources are also integrated, reducing reliance on reworking and duplication.

The Digital Estate enables colleagues and partners to quickly answer questions about what they have in their estate, how many they have and where they are located. This allows them to find information and gain insight to make strategic decisions around their assets. It enables them to plan future investment in its stores and other built assets.

Having secure, connected ‘digital twins’ of our built assets will make it easier for their performance to be measured, and for their economic, social and environmental benefits to be ascertained.

While levels of BIM adoption are still variable across the construction industry, trends are clearly pointing towards BIM becoming ‘business as usual’. Some designers, contractors and other supply chain members now routinely deploy BIM for their clients’ projects and, having invested, they see no point in reverting to project delivery processes reliant on outdated technologies and disjointed communication methods.

Transforming your existing estate into a digital estate can deliver great benefits to owner-operators, helping to deliver innovation and insights that drive your investments plans, now and in the future.


Erica Coulehan

Content Marketing Manager


Tel: +44 (0)118 902 8543

Twitter: @GroupBC_Ltd

LinkedIn: Business Collaboratorlimited/


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