Level 2 BIM is just the beginning


It is widely accepted that Level 2 BIM is just the beginning. But where are we in 2016, and where are we going? Professor Martin Simpson and Professor Jason Underwood of the University of Salford determine the answer

April 4th, 2016 saw the official date for the UK Government mandate for the implementation of Level 2 BIM on all centrally procured public sector projects. Back in 2011, the UK Government launched their construction strategy with the primary driver of addressing the issues of the UK deriving full value from public sector construction and failing to exploit the potential for public procurement of construction and infrastructure projects to drive growth. Key outcomes were a formal commitment of BIM as a project deliverable and the subsequent setting up of the BIM Task Group to raise awareness of the BIM programme and requirements, ensure that a consistent message is delivered to the supply chain, share best practice and collect feedback from the industry.

In 2016, BIM is now a widely recognised acronym and concept in the construction industry, although there is still uncertainty to the challenges and opportunities it represents. The last five years has resulted in the BIM Task Group defining and delivering what is involved in the UK Government Mandate in relation to Level 2 BIM through the series of documents and standards that are referred to as “the pillars of BIM Level 2”. These include: PAS 1192-2:2013, PAS 1192- 3:2014, BS 1192-4:2014, PAS 1192-5:2015, CIC BIM Protocol, Digital Plan of Works (dPOW), Classification (Uniclass 2015), Government Soft Landings (GSL).

Where is the industry in its transformational journey given that it is five years since the government commitment to BIM through the construction strategy?

Every year a number of BIM surveys are conducted by various bodies that attempt to form an opinion of BIM maturity within the industry. An important factor in these surveys is the sample pool and demographic. For example, the NBS 2016 report had just over 1000 responses of which the majority (51%) are Architects or Architectural Technologists. The CIOB 2016 survey had 557 respondents, but more clients (82) than the other surveys. The IStructE survey had 750 respondents, 31% from SME with 10 or fewer employees and 27% from large practices (>500 employees). Therefore, it is necessary to look at a number of surveys to gain a clear picture of BIM maturity across the whole industry. In the future, it would also be useful for these various surveys to coordinate questions to gain a level of comparability between sectors and demographics.

Regarding the uptake of BIM, the NBS report that 96% are aware of BIM and 54% are currently aware and using BIM. Moreover, the NBS reports that 77% of respondents are aware of the definitions of levels of BIM. Of those, 65% [50% of total sample] are working to Level 2 BIM. 4% [3%] even reporting Level 3 BIM, which is an interesting finding as Level 3 has not yet been defined. It is also interesting to compare this to the client’s view of the implementation of BIM on their projects from the CIOB survey. Of the 82 clients responding to the survey, 24% would require Level 2 BIM on all their projects, and 28% would require Level 2 BIM on at least some of their projects. 40% would not require Level 2 BIM on their project.

With the given information we cannot extrapolate this to give an industry-wide value for the actual proportion of clients requiring Level 2 BIM by number, or value of projects. However, since client involvement is an essential part of Level 2 BIM, it would suggest that the actual number of Level 2 BIM projects in the wider industry is significantly lower than the 50% (oTS) that the NBS survey may imply?

Another outcome from NBS and CIOB surveys is the number of respondents using COBie, which PAS 1192-2 clearly defines as a deliverable for Level 2 BIM. The NBS survey suggests that 77% of respondents are either not generating a COBie deliverable, or not aware of it. 58% of respondents to the CIOB survey have never used BS 1192-4 (the standard that defines COBie). The ability for people not to deliver COBie and still claim they are working to Level 2 BIM is probably explained better when examined in the context of the number of people who have actually used/are aware of PAS 1192-2 (the standard that defines Level 2 BIM). 65% of the respondents to the NBS survey agreed with the comment that BIM is not sufficiently standardised, while only 71% of respondents state that their company does not use PAS 1192-2. This is similar to the findings from the CIOB survey where 52% of respondents have never used PAS 1192-2.

It is possible to infer from such surveys that many people in the industry ‘assume’ they are working to Level 2 BIM but are not actually familiar with the requirements, processes and deliverables. However, the good news is that the industry is certainly moving in the direction of digital deliverables envisaged by the UK Government mandate even if the actual number of people working to Level 2 BIM is probably far lower than one may initially take from the headlines. Furthermore, this is very good news for those who fear or misconceive they are being left behind, as the reality is that they are not as far behind as they may initially believe. This is particularly important when people begin to hear about Level 3 BIM before having even embarked on their journey to Level 2 BIM.

Where is the industry going on this transformational journey?

In 2015 the UK Government published Digital Built Britain – a strategic plan for the future Level 3 BIM and beyond. Level 3 is concerned with enabling the interconnected digital design of different elements in a built environment; extending BIM into the operation of assets over their lifetime and supporting the accelerated delivery of smart cities, services and grids. Some are already questioning why we are progressing with Level 3 BIM while the industry is still getting to grips with the fundamentals of Level 2 BIM. However, Level 2 BIM was only ever the first steps on the journey to delivering the potential value that the UK construction industry can deliver for clients; designed not as a game changer, but to be delivered within the current UK construction procurement routes and with technology currently available. The potential benefits for Level 3 BIM extend beyond Capital Delivery to Operational Activity and Performance Management. Therefore, BIM Level 3 represents a real game changer for the industry; requiring new skills, roles and business opportunities that are high value, highly exportable and highly desirable. However, this cannot happen unless Level 2 BIM becomes ‘business as usual’ for the UK construction industry, to provide the essential foundation for the transformation to BIM Level 3.

We are at a very exciting but critical point in the journey, and there is still much work to be done with developing the industry’s Level 2 BIM capabilities. With the BIM Task Group having now completed its efforts in defining BIM Level 2, the UK BIM Alliance has been set up to lead the industry-wide drive for awareness, education and adoption of BIM Level 2 compliance and its universal benefits by 2019. The alliance will provide clear, guiding leadership for industry on BIM Level 2 to make the true benefits easily understandable and obtainable for all. It is an industry-led coalition of over 50 organisations including representation from the BIM Task Group, the BIM Regions, BIM4 Communities, BuildingSmart UK, professional institutions, and it is continuing to grow. The UK BIM Alliance is working towards an official launch in Autumn 2016. ■

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Professor Martin Simpson

Associate Director at ARUP & Royal Academy of Engineers Visiting Professor

Professor Jason Underwood

Programme Director: MSc. BIM & Integrated Design School of the Built Environment

University of Salford

Tel: 0161 295 6290



Twitter @SalfordUni


  1. Now for a dose of reality…
    UK BIM has same issues as US BIM

    The UK BIM Level 2 requirement went into effect 4th April 2016 and little has changed.

    While the UK has come up with nice names like the “BIM/Soft Landings” initiative, etc. the design/construction/operational process has not improved.
    Like the US, the UK remains mired in ‘ad hoc’ silo-based construction and facilities management processes.

    Until Owners provide the leadership, insight, and motivation required to build collaborative teams engaging in LEAN construction delivery methods such as Integrated Project Delivery, IPD and Job Order Contracting, JOC … inefficient construction and life-cycle management of the built environment will remain the norm.



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