Construction chief Paul Morrell dismissed other ’unambitious’ plans at the London KBB conference

The use of Building Information Modelling will be made mandatory on virtually all government projects within five years, according to Paul Morrell, the government’s chief construction adviser.

A report by the Innovation and Growth Team last year, which recommended BIM being used on projects over £50m, was dismissed by Morrell as “unambitious”.

He said the only exceptions would be when using BIM made the project more expensive. He said: “Within five years, all government procurement will be within 3D collaborative BIM, with specific exceptions where the cost might exceed the benefit, although I have to say I’m struggling to think of obvious examples of that.”

BIM requires firms to conform to a set of standard processes and 3D modelling of projects. A formal announcement on the five-year roll-out of BIM will be made by the government in June.

The move to widen the net below £50m projects to catch all firms working for the government marks a radical departure from previous government thinking.

At the KBB conference in London on Tuesday, run by Building’s parent company UBM, Morrell said: “There’s no lower limit.”

He said: “It will lead to integration, which is our biggest problem. I’m talking to the private sector and asking: ’If this works for us, will this work for you?’”

He said he envisaged introducing BIM progressively, with the bar raised at yearly intervals, so a certain standard will be required at year one, a higher standard the following year, and so on - until, within five years, all government procurement will be within 3D collaborative BIM.

Gary Rawlings, a partner at architecture practice Make, said that the firm’s experience with BIM had generally been “positive” and that there was little cost to adopting it.

“There’s a reasonably shallow learning curve and the cost of it isn’t particularly burdensome, and we’re running it on exactly the machines that we always use,” he said.

But David Mathieson, head of public sector at Turner & Townsend, argued that applying BIM to all public sector work would not be appropriate because on some refit work the costs of surveying the building would be too high to justify using the system.

“On a fit-out or refit job, the cost of getting it on the system might be very high,” and added that this lighter work was typical of most government accommodation projects.