Do we need a new term that embraces the wide mix of interconnected technologies and the total field in which we design, build and operate our environment?
At a reception at Building Towers last week our group talked about the fading usefulness of the term BIM. The B and the M have always been contentious as it’s not just about buildings and it’s not just about modelling. Willmott Dixon calls it ‘BIMM’, insisting on the second M for management. Laing O’Rourke calls it ‘digital engineering’, meaning the set of tools that enable their industrialisation of design and construction.
The next stage of evolution has been dubbed ‘Digital Built Britain’ by the BIM Task Group. They recognise that other digital technologies are now crowding in to the built environment sphere. The Internet of Things will provide us with data torrents, real feedback on what works and the automation of lots of facility management. High Performance Computing is making multiple simulations and the comparison of mass options affordable. The Smart City concept is connecting people and built environment across many systems, with buildings as just one category.
BIM is still the best description of Level 2 as mandated by the Government. But I doubt that we shall be using the term in five years. My vote would go for ‘DBE’, Digital Built Environment. That embraces the wide mix of interconnected technologies and the total field in which we design, build and operate our environment. What is now called BIM will still be there inside the mix, but evolved to Level 3 and using the far wider toolkit that is in prospect. It was a useful word while it lasted.
Richard Saxon CBE is a client adviser at Consultancy for the Built Environment