Has the UK Construction industry really understood BIM?

June 6, 2014

Has the UK Construction industry really understood BIM? (What’s BIM going on?)
It’s been 6+ months since the Government edict landed from on high on the workbenches and drawing boards of the construction industry.

So what’s been happening in the Construction industry in the intervening time? Something, nothing or is it simply too early in the 5 year adoption strategy to expect action or reaction?
Have Construction Clients started to mandate BIM on their projects? Have Designers and Engineers started to adopt BIM compliant software? Have Contractors started to reuse BIM information to drive estimation and planning?

Well it would appear that the torch has been picked up and is being taken forwards. Construction Clients and Contractors of all flavours have seemingly started to incorporate BIM as a requirement for their projects; tender contracts are starting to stipulate clauses such as:

“Subcontractor’s shall provide digital submissions of information describing its respective work in a form and manner that the Contractor may require and that can be loaded into a BIM assembled by the Contractor”.

“Subcontractor’s submissions shall be of sufficient detail to enable accurate and complete clash detection and shall be provided by Subcontractor at a point in time that is reasonably in advance of Subcontractor’s shop drawing submittals and the subsequent on site construction of the Subcontractor’s Work and such submissions shall contain such details and follow such procedures as the Contractor may require”.

But do such clauses when enacted actually change the game or result in a step change for the industry?

Sadly the answer is a resounding NO. BIM clauses are non-specific, they define only the need for information to be “digital” and for it to be able to be used for clash detection, so 3D.

These clauses completely miss the opportunity to define the quality of information that SHOULD be required; information quality must be driven by the downstream processes that utilise it. Without wishing to let the cat out of the bag; the most basic requirement should include meaningful naming conventions and perhaps the application of uniform classification notation; beyond these there are many more which this author will reserve for now.

BIM brings huge potential which will remain largely untapped until Construction Clients, Contractors, Architects and Engineers start to understand the bottlenecks in their processes and how to resolve these through the application of systems. It’s not about changing what stakeholders do; it’s about how it gets done.

An example of the opportunity IFC schema standardisation creates is its ability to drive concurrency in design.

Design concurrency is not achieved by exporting files to their native formats and storing them in a proprietary document management system neither is it saving them to the IFC data format and storing them in an IFC database. Performing clash detection on a daily basis, putting all the design disciplines in a single location or having a design manager reviewing daily inputs equally misses the mark.

Design concurrency can be achieved by systematising its validation; a function currently performed manually and unfortunately sporadically and inaccurately with the inevitable consequence that at the point of installation issues are discovered that require designers to go back to the drawing board delaying production and creating huge costs that should never have existed.

If you would like advice on what BIM can deliver and what steps you could take to leverage its benefits please get in touch.

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