QSs may adopt BIM more quickly if they stopped thinking of it as a 3D tool. BIM’s about more efficient ways of working not just computer models

Building Information Modelling is having an image problem. The perception of BIM by industry professionals seems to be squarely focused on the need for 3D modelling of built assets to unlock the many cost reduction and planning benefits of BIM. If this was indeed the case, then the vast majority of existing building stock will never form part of the BIM journey as more than 90% of buildings in the UK are over ten years old and therefore exist in 2D CAD or paper drawings.

This is also true of much new build property currently being designed, NG Bailey stated at BIM Show live this month, that 60% of new build is still being designed in 2D. Major owner occupiers in the food retail sector have embraced BIM on new build and refit projects but again these projects only represent 5-10% of their existing estate each year.

So even for these most advanced BIM clients it may well be 10 years before all facilities have a 3D model. Housing is a different story again - over 20 million dwellings in the UK and very few are in 3D. So will the need for 3D modelling in BIM hold it back?

BIM suffers from a lack of real understanding about applications in the industry. Many surveyors and property professionals view it as being all about a 3D model and for the design community only, which presents a real barrier to moving BIM forward. It’s little wonder that a recent RICS survey of their Quantity Surveying and construction group showed less than a 5% BIM uptake₁, with few of the 300 respondents recognising the potential of BIM to increase fees or improve services.

One of the principles of BIM is that it’s now accepted to be about lifecycle asset management supported by digital technology. Indeed the government BIM strategy outlines the lifecycle approach as level 3 or ‘6D BIM’ for the wider industry, 3D design models are by no means where BIM starts and ends.

My experience working with owners, occupiers and operators of built asset portfolios is that they tend to work entirely with 2D information ie drawings, O&M manuals and spreadsheets independent of each other. However, there is a very valid option to generate a 3D model of an existing building using ‘point cloud’ survey technology which, although more expensive than a traditional measured survey of a building, provides a very useful dataset and tool for managing major refurbishment and on-going facilities management.

It was clear to me when implementing life cycle management software that there is a way to benefit from the many opportunities BIM offers. You can logically sort and structure many different types of building data into an online asset database without the need for 3D models. You can then use this data in the other dimensions of BIM: 4D time, 5D cost and 6D lifecycle. The only missing part in this system, obviously, is the 3D design model but does this mean it is not doing BIM? Actually, no. It means it’s implementing ‘real world BIM’, taking available data and delivering BIM in a cost effective and useful way.

Lack of 3D design doesn’t need to hold the industry back from embracing BIM. On the contrary, BIM can make an impact on improving cost effectiveness by utilising data and presenting it in a way which works from a lifecycle perspective. This is, of course only the beginning. We’re only just seeing how BIM principles coupled with emerging technology will make an impact on the industry but the signs are certainly more than encouraging.

Edwin Bartlett is the chief executive and founder of life cycle management software Kykloud