08 December 2015

The Government has a vision, outlined in its Digital Built Britain strategy, that technology will become second nature to construction.  That, just as smart phones have become an integral part of our daily lives, using virtual modelling, cloud-based technology and real time data will become an inherent part of the construction process throughout the whole supply chain.

This Digital Built Britain strategy builds on the achievements of the Level 2 BIM programme, which is reported to have achieved cost savings of £840 million on capital projects in 2013 to 14, by defining a route towards fully integrated or Level 3 BIM.

What is Level 3 BIM

Seen as the Holy Grail, or in other words a long way off for many, Level 3 BIM represents full collaboration between all disciplines with a single shared model which is held centrally.  It extends BIM from design and construction modelling through the whole supply chain, enabling better sharing of information with new Open Data standards, as well as analytical and asset performance modelling to achieve a predicted 33% saving on capital expenditure.  

In fact, by turning its BIM attention to the entire infrastructure supply chain, the Government estimates there is a £10 billion cost reduction opportunity. 

BIM and the Internet of Things

Over the next decade, the Government wants to use BIM technology to revolutionise the construction industry and become a global leader by combining the Internet of Things (objects embedded with electronics, software, sensor and network connectivity which can collect and exchange data), advanced data analytics and the digital economy to enable the UK to plan new infrastructure more effectively, build it at a lower cost and operate and maintain it more effectively.   

Level 2 or Level 3 BIM?

Although it is important that the Government vision for Digital Built Britain is observed, generally the focus should be on Level 2. There is concern that more focus should be given to helping companies to achieve the more immediate BIM challenges, rather than talking about something that could be ten years away.

In reality, it is inevitable that businesses will be at very different stages of the BIM journey and this isn’t something we should shy away from talking about.  People’s experience of BIM depends not only on what company and sector they work for but also what projects they may have been involved in. 

For those not involved in centrally funded or large private design and build projects, there’s a good chance they won’t even have needed to have an involvement in BIM yet and architects, project management companies and large main contractors are far more likely to be engaged with BIM than sub-contractors.  At Marley Eternit, we developed BIM components for our roofing and facade materials at a very early stage because of our close relationship with architects but, there are manufacturers who don’t even have BIM objects yet.

The approach and level of BIM required varies according to each project and the clients’ requirements.  While some clients and design teams are asking for all suppliers to be BIM Level 2 compliant and are even providing free training to help them, others haven’t started to use BIM yet. Some clients, architects and main contractors have invested in BIM and have seen the benefits.

What is clear is that BIM shouldn’t be done for BIM’s sake; it has to be done to meet a business need and because the financial return will justify the investment.  For those just starting out with BIM, particularly sub-contractors, the key message is not to go out and buy expensive software or training.  First of all speak to clients and find out what, if any, BIM requirements there are for projects you are working on and then decide whether it can be done with existing software and resources or whether you need to invest in technology and training. 

Fully digital construction?

Moving towards fully digital construction is a huge culture change for the industry and it will be a gradual process.  As a manufacturer, we also have a role to play in this journey and we know that over time design teams may need closer online integration with suppliers like ourselves or, in future, they may require different or more sophisticated BIM components. Therefore, we are open to working closely with architects and contractors to develop our BIM offering as the industry’s needs evolve towards a fully digital built Britain.


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