PROFILE: BIM is our Glue

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One Creative Environment’s journey through BIM adoption began in 2007 when we first became fully multi-disciplinary, although we didn’t know it was called BIM at the time. Prior to 2007 we had a team of Architects, Interior Designers and QS and had been successfully operating for 25 years. Since 2005, we believed that a fully integrated design team lay ahead as the future of building design. In 2007 we purchased a small M&E company, and grew Landscape & Master planning and Structural & Civil teams organically. By 2009 we had a flourishing fully multi-disciplinary practice.

Initially, we believed that by simply bringing all the design disciplines together we would improve coordination and collaboration.

Although co-ordination and communication did improve, it also became too informal. Design Team meetings began to go un-recorded, ‘actions’ were sometimes left to ‘trust’ for the teams to undertake. The success of the early days, as we found, had rested heavily on the design team leader .If they were methodical and well ordered, then the collaboration was a success. Other issues we quickly learned, were that different disciplines were using their own drafting standards, filing systems and methods of communicating and recording, as opposed to rigidly following our documented QA system. Each discipline was using their own preferred software solution, and had a choice of Mac or PC, and even utilising different versions of the same software.

The Management Team decided that we had to drive through common standards and target the project management process to regain some fundamental common ground. This proved successful, but again, the success rested heavily on individuals, which led to inconsistency between teams.

In 2011 the Government released its Construction Strategy, and set about driving change through the industry through the use of BIM, mandating Level 2 by 2016 for centrally funded projects. The release of the strategy was a welcome breath of fresh air, and caused us to take a step back from trying to solve micro-coordination issues. Instead we shaped our over-arching collaboration strategy to align our wider goals. At this point, we made a strategic decision to adopt a BIM workflow and introduce common standards and process into the practice, through all disciplines, aligned with PAS1192:2.

The challenge ahead was huge. Not only was it a change in software, hardware and infrastructure, it was also a mind-set change and a cultural change. We set about mapping the ‘business case for BIM’ to align its adoption with our own business plan and longer term goals. The early success we achieved reassured us that BIM was the glue that we were looking for. It provided an environment for all of our own design disciplines to work to common standards, on a common operating system, using compatible software to create a high degree of interoperability and standardisation through our business.

We implemented a BIM trial on a large project (£35m Birmingham Dental Hospital and School of Dentistry), whereby we had a requirement to output hundreds of room datasheets. We took our most enthusiastic staff who were most likely to be receptive to change, trained them, and supported them through a live BIM trial. The results that were witnessed on our trial project have ensured that BIM adoption spread rapidly through our office, our culture, and right through into staff that were initially resistant to change. The outcome has been a unified and collaborative approach to building design, with the project as the common focus.

We would never pretend that BIM adoption was an easy thing for us to undertake, and at times the learning curve was steep as it forces individuals to question their own ability. However, having been through this process of evolution, we can also assure you that nobody within our business wishes they could go back to the old ways! Within One Creative Environments, BIM is here to stay, and it underpins our business philosophy and our ethos.

Having each discipline able to work to common standards, using the same software platforms is a real benefit to us, and the perceived legal issues of sharing cross-discipline information does not exist within our office. We are now able to create single model files that contain all the design disciplines original authoring data. We have implemented measures to offer control and a limited degree of protection associated with altering data that another is responsible for. Initially, as BIM coordinator on our first multi-disciplinary ‘single model file’ pilot project, I was concerned, for example, that the Structural Engineer might alter data generated by the Mechanical Engineer. My concerns were never realised. In fact, to my great delight I discovered that ‘clash avoidance’ increased due to the necessary respect and collaboration that is needed when modelling ‘live’ with other disciplines. This in turn reduced the timescale needed for clash detection, as far more coordination issues were resolved ‘at source’, rather than at periodic BIM Coordination meetings.

Having multi-disciplinary models also has huge advantages when scheduling and producing Quantity Take Off, as it ensures that no information is duplicated through merging multiple models, and avoids the scheduling problems encountered when using linked models within Revit (or from differing software platforms).

Eight years ago we started our collaborationjourney and by aligning ourselves with the Government’s Construction Strategy for BIM Level 2 in 2011, we became early adopters of BIM. Since 2012, all of our multi-disciplinary projects are now delivered in a BIM workflow and where the project so requires, we work to BIM Level 2, producing data deliverables for each stage of the project.

As early adopters, our intention is not to sit in an ivory tower to look down on those still adopting. We have discovered on some projects with external consultants, that being the only ‘BIM enabled party’ provides little added value, and actually causes the same historical incompatibility challenges. The result is “lonely BIM”. At One we realise that a project is not at Level 2 unless all stakeholders are actively engaged, and there is a client driven requirement. Our approach is therefore to provide support and assistance to enable all the stakeholders on a project to meet the requirements of BIM Level 2.

If you wish to discuss BIM requirements on your project, or within your organisation please contact Jason.whittall@oneltd.com.

Jason Whittall RIBA | APMP | RICS

Certified BIM Manager Director – Architecture & BIM

One Creative Environments Ltd

Tel: +44 (0)1905 362300

Jason.whittall@oneltd.com

www.oneltd.com

www.twitter.com/Oneltd_Jason

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