If your firm isn’t using BIM level 2 by Monday, then it can’t be considered for public sector work. So what does the requirement mean for the industry - and who will be the winners and the losers?

BIM was used to manage supply-chain contributions on the Francis Crick Institute

BIM was used to manage supply-chain contributions on the Francis Crick Institute

On Monday the government’s much anticipated BIM level 2 implementation mandate finally comes into force. All firms wishing to bid for central government building contracts will have to be BIM level 2 compliant or else they will be frozen out of the procurement process and risk losing out on hundreds of major publicly funded projects. Next year the mandate will be extended to local authority construction procurement too.

This is a watershed moment in the history of UK BIM adoption. BIM will cease to be a cultural choice and will become a statutory requirement. The move will also mark the UK as one of the first countries in the world to use legislation to encourage or tacitly enforce the use of BIM. The government aims to lead by example and hopes the private sector will eventually follow suit.

However, despite this momentous change, BIM uptake rates remain startlingly low. On top of the latest NBS data on take up by individual firms, which shows that only about half of construction firms are using BIM (see news analysis, page 22), Barbour ABI data reveals that only 21% of public construction projects over the £10m threshold are currently using it.

That means that a massive four fifths of projects are not. The figure plummets to 10% on private projects. Therefore Monday’s deadline is either going to spark an unprecedented level of BIM adoption or a dramatically reduced supply chain for public sector projects.

So, does this mean the industry is experiencing a clear split between BIM evangelists and those not prepared to invest in the technology? Actually, the situation is more complex, with even those embracing BIM divided as to its impact on their professions.

BIM’s impact on the role of the architect, already massively redrawn in recent decades, has been much discussed and, even among the large proportion of architects investing in the technology, opinion is still split on whether it represents an opportunity to reclaim or rescind what remaining influence the profession still exerts over the construction process.

The contractors who have engaged with BIM have, on the other hand, generally relished the advent of BIM, grasping the opportunities it presents for centralisation and co-ordination and using this to reposition themselves at the centre of the design process. Engineers too have generally engaged with enthusiasm, seizing the chance to integrate their workflows into the beginning of the design process.

In each sector there will, of course, be exceptions to the scenarios highlighted above but what is clear is that, even among those using BIM, there are different feelings of winning and losing. To speculate on where these might lie, and to gain a more in depth understanding on how specific professions might be affected by the change, three industry experts give their view on what the momentous new requirement will mean for different firms within the industry.

BIM was used as part of the planning process for the Gatwick Airport investment programme

BIM was used as part of the planning process for the Gatwick Airport investment programme

Peter Barker

Managing director, BIM Academy

BIM mandate 2016 – who are the winners and losers? The losers are definitely those who have had their heads in the sand for the last five years and have not seized the opportunities to make their businesses leaner, enhance the quality of their output and generally punch above their weight through intelligent use of these digital tools and processes we now have. For architects, the advent of BIM into the mainstream around 2009 offered the seductive prospect of regaining leadership of the design process, which has been much lamented for years. But with a few exceptions, this has failed to materialise and the canny PM has filled the void as they did in the 1980s and 1990s. We now have the role of BIM project manager usurping many of the leadership tasks which could rightfully sit with the architect as lead consultant if there was the will to do so. Looking beyond this, however, those who have benefited are not defined by their sector or discipline but more through attitude, agility and progressive thinking – property owners and managers, manufacturers, suppliers, designers, contractors, SMEs and multinationals have all seen tactical benefits once they have taken the initiative. The greatest prize which is only now being grasped is the opportunity for owners to harvest reliable information about their assets which can flow from a well-managed and resourced BIM project. Where we have moved too slowly as an industry is in a collective, collaborative approach applying these smart technologies and management processes to realise substantial tangible benefits but the momentum is building and there’s no turning back.

And while the government’s continuing impetus towards level 3 is laudable and necessary to set the bar for 2025, we shouldn’t be distracted from resolving the real challenges faced by getting everyone on the same page and delivering real value from the level 2 process rather than just to be seen to be ticking the box.

Adrian Malleson

Head of research, analysis and forecasting at NBS

Since the first NBS National BIM Survey was released in 2011, we’ve seen a subtle shift in the roles of those involved in BIM. BIM managers and BIM technicians have come into existence, and those roles now often contribute significantly to BIM-enabled design and construction. But while specialist roles have spawned and grown, they have not replaced existing roles.

Architects, architectural technicians, building service engineers and project managers, for example, are all involved in BIM. They are positive about the benefits it can bring. Indeed, between them these professions have some of the highest rates of BIM adoption and are among the most confident in terms of their BIM skills.

All design and construction professions (if not every professional) will have to adapt to BIM. BIM design requires deep change in working practice. Will BIM do for specialist designers what Netflix has done for Blockbusters? Are traditional roles at risk? The data from our latest report suggests not. Instead BIM is being led by designers. It is providing them with new opportunities to put good design at the centre of the construction process.

BIM is collaborative. One person can’t own the BIM process. BIM requires a shared ownership of the design and construction process. The model itself (and the information embedded within it) needs to be commonly shared across disciplines and practices, each contributing their specialist knowledge and expertise at the right time, with the right level of information and detail.

This level of collaboration opens up new possibilities to design teams; coming together on a project by project basis to collaborate in clearly defined and described ways, with intellectual property pooled, rather than hoarded. We can see in other sectors that opening up information among collaborative communities has often, at first, been seen as a threat. In reality it has allowed greater innovation and greater productivity among those who take part.

David Philp

Global BIM consultancy director, Aecom

The UK government’s Construction Strategy programme for sector modernisation and its adoption of level 2 BIM has been a resounding success. We believe that 4 April 2016 is a key milestone in the continued digitisation of our sector. Government continues to support this drive, as evidenced in the recent Budget with the reiterated commitment to BIM level 3.

The winners ultimately will be the clients, especially infrastructure operators and owners. The opportunities are ripe for clients who are skilled at defining life-cycle requirements. They will have the opportunity to get better information and outcomes at all stages, especially beyond delivery, in terms of their operational assets. Crucially, they will be able to optimise performance.

For the built environment sector, BIM level 3 will transform the way we work. It is a catalyst for delivering differently, with new levels of efficiencies and more predictable outcomes.

Digital Construction Review
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