The evolution of BIM and higher education

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As BIM has changed the face of the construction industry, so must BIM and higher education bodies react to the needs of the expertise required. Steve Race, Senior Lecturer in BIM and Architecture at Middlesex University explains more

BIM is a process involving the structured sharing and coordination of digital information about a building project throughout its entire lifecycle.

Initially, the BIM acronym meant Building Information Model or Building Information Modelling. Gradually, the interpretation of the acronym began to take on a wider scope and became Better Information Management.

The UK construction industry is now engaged in significantly rethinking how it operates both nationally and internationally and from the point of view of all stakeholders who create, maintain and use the built environment.

It was always acknowledged by the Government Task Force that higher education would have a crucial part to play in the development of BIM, but it could not have been anticipated just how significant this would be.

Since 2010 many higher education courses claiming BIM education have emerged at postgraduate level. BIM qualifications are targeted at practitioners with background experience in the construction/infrastructure industry who are expected to, or will be expected to manage BIM projects including architects, engineers, contractors, sub-contractors, mechanical, electrical and plumbing services, facilities managers, project managers and quantity surveyors.

At its most basic, BIM has been attached to the title of an existing course. From that base level, content has varied from a form of technology training to a far wider range of topics such as business, law, process, standards, technology and behavioural sciences at the other end of the spectrum in the better postgraduate courses.

This varied range of postgraduate courses has been the initial reaction of the higher education sector to provide a robust response to the skills shortage needed to implement BIM in the short term. They have contributed to a widening of the BIM conversation in the industry, challenging existing processes, relationships and technologies.

As a consequence, it has been noticeable how the postgraduate courses that have concentrated on a more extensive curriculum have attracted a higher calibre of entrant with a more informed view as a starting point.

In this context, teaching staff have the opportunity to take the student to a superior level of expertise on BIM which can immediately be used on graduation in either a practical project team context, as a basis for promotion, or as a pathway to valuable research.

Higher education now needs to concentrate and develop undergraduate courses which address the spectrum of ingredients and basic principles involved in BIM in an introductory form.

The undergraduate qualification instrument could provide a more focused education offering a tailored approach to different stakeholders in project lifecycle – for example designer, product manufacturer, information manager, procurement officer, facility manager or tradesperson.

As the BIM conversation further develops, the higher education sector must provide a new range of undergraduate offerings which reflect both the outcomes the BIM phenomenon has provoked, and will continue to provoke, as well as the innovation required to deal with professional and technological anti silo-ism. ■

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Steve Race

Senior Lecturer in BIM and Architecture

Middlesex University

Tel: 020 8411 5485

S.Race@mdx.ac.uk

www.mdx.ac.uk/BIM

Twitter @MiddlesexUni

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