Back in April last year the UK government’s BIM mandate came into force, requiring all centrally procured public sector building projects to be BIM Level 2 compliant, which represents a significant milestone on the journey towards the digitalisation of the built environment.
However, despite BIM being very much the industry ‘buzzword’ many people still do not fully understand BIM, its capabilities or where we are on the roadmap towards Level 3. This was highlighted in the results of NBS’ 2016 National BIM Survey, which revealed that: 41 per cent of respondents are still unclear on what they need to do to comply and 90 per cent perceiving the construction industry as not ready for BIM. So what does Level 2 compliance actually mean, what are the benefits of it and what challenges does BIM face now and in the future? Nigel Blacklock, Technical Director at flat roof manufacturer Bauder investigates…
Introduction to BIM Level 2
Until now most organisations have been operating at BIM Level 1, which involves them publishing and maintaining their own data. Level 2 distinguishes itself from this with the introduction of collaborative working, not in the way in which 3D models are shared but how the associated information is exchanged between various parties throughout the delivery of a project. Design information about all the key components of a building are shared through a common file format in order to make a federated BIM model, encouraging people to consider the needs of others involved in the design process. This is the method of working set as a minimum target by the UK government for all publicly funded construction work from April and is defined in greater detail in the government’s standardisation document PAS1192-2:2013.
Benefits of BIM
The adoption of new technology and processes are always going to be met with a certain degree of resistance, however if BIM delivers all that it promises to, regardless of what your role is in the construction of buildings, it will benefit you. The fundamental benefits outlined by the government are lower costs (through the reduction of waste), faster delivery and lower emissions; but beyond this is the opportunity for greater levels of quality control, collaboration, efficiency, asset and risk management, maintenance, sustainability and exploration of ‘what-if scenarios’. These benefits will be experienced throughout the supply chain from designers, surveyors and engineers through to suppliers, contractors and main contractors, but arguably the greatest beneficiary of BIM will be facilities managers who will not only be better informed about the composition of their buildings but also have the opportunity to become more involved in a project earlier on and influence design decisions. Using data provided in the standardised ‘Construction Operations Building Information Exchange’ (COBie) spreadsheet format, the UK government’s chosen exchange for BIM object data, clients and project teams will now be able to compare and select products based on value and life cycle costing rather than just price, which is obviously a far more sustainable approach to construction and something that fully matches our ethos at Bauder.
Challenges for BIM
The UK is undeniably at the forefront of BIM development and adoption, much thanks to the lead and support of the government, however for BIM to realise its transformative potential further investment and change must occur. One of the key challenges that needs addressing is the broad gap in BIM knowledge and skills across the industry, with 28 per cent of NBS’ survey respondents describing themselves as not confident in their BIM understanding or capabilities. BIM is currently being led by the design and construction community, however it is the responsibility of all us in a position of knowledge to help educate and encourage those who are yet to embrace BIM, so that we as an industry can move forward.
Another significant challenge is the sheer lack of BIM objects currently available and more specifically the lack of bespoke objects available, which may explain why, according to NBS, only 37 per cent of people use the models from project inception through to completion, suggesting that for most people BIM is restricted to design stages. Generic models definitely serve a purpose and for some products are sufficient, however for companies such as ours where many system permutations exist it is paramount that as the project progresses through to construction the objects are entirely accurate and therefore have all the relevant COBie data, which can only be delivered as part of a bespoke model. Obviously specifiers can easily alter the objects themselves, however this may have a detrimental effect on associated guarantees unless verified with the manufacturer and also defeats one of the main objectives of BIM, which is to reduce the amount of time and resources needed to complete designs and projects.
Bauder and bespoke BIM
At Bauder we fully acknowledge these challenges, which is why we actively support our clients and suppliers with the development of their own BIM knowledge and objects, as we realise that this can only be beneficial for everyone involved. This is also why we have created a comprehensive library of BIM objects that includes models for all of our bituminous, single ply, cold liquid applied, hot melt and green roof system options, which can easily be dropped into 3D models and plans. These objects follow the specific standards set out by NBS that support best design practice and are available for free download in Revit format both on the National BIM Library and our own website.
Last year we extended our BIM offering with the launch of 19 new generic waterproofing system objects and we can now also provide totally bespoke objects, which incorporate full model data in COBie format and can be accessed in many of the other popular software programmes, such as Vectorworks and Bentley, via a plug in. In fact, our ever-evolving BIM object library now includes well over 100 models for our single ply waterproofing systems alone, covering every possible build-up permutation. In order to receive a bespoke object and the associated guarantee you will need to register your project with us so that we can in turn provide you with the required technical support to ensure that the object is most suitable to meet the exact requirements of your building. An example of this is providing project specific wind uplift calculations, as they can obviously differ significantly based on a building’s location and surrounding environment.
Future of BIM
Despite the various challenges highlighted, it is clear that while BIM continues to have the backing and financial support of the UK government it will continue to grow in popularity and adoption both in the public and private sector; with there already being significant evidence of BIM implementation in private housing, offices and leisure. This forecast is supported by the findings of NBS, where 86 per cent of respondents stated that they expect to be using BIM on at least some of their projects in a year’s time.
Now that the Level 2 mandate has been enforced it is natural for early adopters to want to race ahead towards Level 3, which involves full collaboration between all disciplines through a shared project model, however Level 2 should first be consolidated before we as an industry look to take on additional complexities. BIM is still very much in its developmental phase and with 65 per cent of NBS’ respondents believing it is not yet sufficiently standardised this will clearly be one of the industry’s initial focuses. This standardisation relates not only to BIM objects but also the development of Product Data Templates (PDTs), which give manufacturers of less complex products that may not warrant the creation of an actual BIM object the opportunity to provide the necessary information in a standardised format that is required for Level 2 projects.
Another key area of potential development will be in the refurbishment sector, with the focus to this point having been very much on new build projects. Old building stock is the main contributor of energy loss in the built environment so it seems logical that people will soon look to BIM to help facilitate solutions towards this pressing issue. What’s more, with there already being laser scanning technology available that can create digitised models of existing buildings it seems reasonable to expect significant growth in this sector to occur sooner rather than later. Realising all of the benefits of BIM may not quite be on the horizon, but with the way that the industry is now wanting its data BIM clearly represents the future of how people will be constructing buildings, and it may well get to a point where if you cannot provide data in the required format you simply will not be able to trade.
For more information on BIM and to download your free objects now visit: