There’s No “I” in BIM


Jason Whittall, Director of Architecture & BIM for One Creative Environments Ltd argues that the ‘I’ in BIM needs to be taken seriously if the true benefits of BIM will ever be realised…

Okay, there is technically an “I” in BIM, but the way we commonly say “there’s no “I” in team” also applies to BIM. To be successful, the process requires a collaborative approach that looks at the collective goal rather than the immediate needs of the individual. Teamwork is what a BIM ethos should be all about.

As we edge closer to the Government BIM Level 2 mandate for centrally procured projects, there is an increased level of interest in BIM. However, still persisting is the level of misunderstanding about:

  • What BIM actually is;
  • What it’s used for;
  • The Processes involved in BIM Level 2.

Fuelling this confusion are a whole host of individuals and organisations incorrectly claiming to “do BIM Level 2,” but setting a low bar for those looking to learn from them. These organisations appear to be using “Building Modelling”, as opposed to “Building Information Modelling”. They are easy to spot with their claims of the benefits of BIM merely being the increased ease of non-technical users to understand the layouts through the use of 3D models. As useful as this is, it’s probably BIM Level 1 at best, and not level 2 or 3 (and beyond) that it is often masqueraded as.

The benefit to using BIM is for all the project stakeholders receiving rich data, hosted in one place that details all aspects of the project/assets. The 3D model is an excellent start, however it’s merely the tip of the iceberg, acting purely as a host for the rich project/asset data to be attributed to.

Some consultants and contractors are promoting flagship BIM projects, where a client/user has produced an EIR (Employer’s Information Requirement), and claiming from this one project that they are a Level 2 organisation. But it’s the project that needs to be judged on its BIM maturity, and not necessarily the organisation(s) taking part.

One of the barriers to correct use of BIM is where the project owner has no vested interest in obtaining information about the asset, often due to it being a speculative project, or being operated/managed/ maintained by a separate organisation post-completion. In times of post-recession hardship, fees and profit margins are still low, and anything that does not immediately contribute to the bottom line is considered a ‘nicety’ and is swiftly axed.

Sadly, this is a situation I have seen on many projects, particularly where there is no client mandate or documented ‘information deliverables’ from the start. Asking the “BIM question” too late (or any time after the project team is already in place), leads to uplifts in fees and costs. Too many times I hear, “Oh you didn’t say you wanted that, I’m afraid that’s extra”… and once the tone is set, the potential benefits from BIM are stifled and lost.

Setting the requirements (information deliverables and format) at the outset, ensuring they are contract deliverable, and then assessing the competence of the team prior to placing contracts is the answer. As set out by PAS1192-2 – the EIR, competence assessing and MIDP (Master Information Delivery Plan) – should all be in place prior to the project commencing. If this is done correctly, then you have a good chance of justifying the plaudits of a level 2 project.

So all those out there claiming they are “doing BIM”, who are “BIM compliant” and are declaring their 3D visualisations are BIM Level 3, please take note. More importantly, clients need to document their ‘information requirements’, and be assured of the competence of their team prior to engaging them to deliver.

The “I” in BIM needs to be taken seriously and turned into a project deliverable to achieve the maximum benefits that this process can achieve; this will be when we will truly have an “I” in BIM! ■

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Jason Whittall RIBA | APMP

RICS Certified BIM Manager

Director – Architecture & BIM

One Creative Environments Ltd

Tel: 01905 362300


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