The ECA is providing guidance for firms trying to engage with building information modelling

Bill Wright

Research from the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) last autumn, conducted with partners including Building, found that just one in six firms in the building services sector were “fully ready” to use building information modelling (BIM) on construction projects.

In fact, one in four contractors said they were “not ready at all” for BIM, despite a government mandated deadline for its use on all major central government contracts from April this year.

The situation was even more of a concern among small and medium-sized firms, with over half of SME respondents stating they were “not ready at all” to use BIM. This raised the possibility of many SMEs being frozen out of competing for a share of tens of billions of pounds of Whitehall-backed projects.

BIM cannot work properly if the specialist supply chain is not ready, and readiness starts with an understanding of what the likely interactions with BIM projects will be.

When the results came out, the ECA pledged to undertake a four-point action plan to help the building services sector get up-to-speed with the new requirements, specifically:

  • Release a “BIM Basics” checklist, to help firms ensure they are prepared for BIM Level 2
  • Create a “BIM jargon buster”, to help firms navigate through the maze of BIM terminology and acronyms and work out what BIM means
  • Develop case studies to broaden the understanding of what it takes to engage with a BIM project
  • Work with partners to develop a common approach towards the use of “BIM objects”.

Not all contractors need the same level of BIM capability - this depends on their actual role in projects

Along with CIBSE, the ECA has now made the BIM Basics checklist freely available for anyone in the industry to refer to. This contains recommendations for those who will have a relatively minor, perhaps lower tier, role in BIM, in four key areas - capability and skills, processes, software and hardware, and digital information.

However, not all contractors need the same level of BIM capability - this depends on their actual role in projects. The ECA has also produced a more advanced checklist, covering a broader range of BIM capabilities, available to ECA members.

Furthermore, alongside partners including Voltimum and the EDA, we are investigating the readiness of manufacturers with BIM building engineering services objects, via a short survey.

While, for many contractors, there is a long way to go, we believe that these initial steps will help building engineering services firms to get up-to-speed with the use of BIM Level 2, which ultimately has the potential to radically improve collaboration and efficiency within our sector.

Bill Wright is the ECA head of energy solutions. The ECA’s BIM Basics checklist can be viewed by clicking here, and is freely available until July this year. A more extensive version, containing more “Advanced” BIM requirements, is available exclusively to ECA Members only