66 Queen Square, Bristol

Analysis

Interview: Skanska's Malcolm Stagg - ‘BIM projects always fare much better’

6 August 2015 | By Stephen Cousins

Some people still think BIM is the software, when it is really a way of working collaboratively based on data and information. The software is merely a tool that shouldn’t be influencing people’s general decision-making.– Malcolm Stagg, Skanska UK

Malcolm Stagg, director of BIM and digital engineering at Skanska UK, on its incipient BIM certification, educating clients and the supply chain, and high hopes for augmented reality.

What are your key BIM objectives over the coming months?

We are focused on becoming a BIM Level 2-capable business, in the true sense of delivering it in practice, we expect to achieve certification very shortly. We are also looking at other aspects likely to become part of BIM Level 3, although the definition is not fully defined yet and there’s a lack of clarity in “Digital Built Britain”.

What has Skanska UK learnt from the global organisation?

The international group meets monthly, I represent the UK, and we are about to have our seventh Skanska global BIM summit where people come together to share knowledge and ideas. There is a lot of knowledge transfer internationally.

Is BIM saving Skanska time or money on projects?

We’ve done a number of detailed studies comparing projects delivered in the past, done traditionally, versus projects delivered using BIM. In general, BIM projects fare much better. It’s not as straightforward as saying we saved money, BIM is driving lower risk and greater efficiency and productivity, and depending on the type of contract that could mean lots of different things.

The general trend is that every project partner can win using BIM: it is a better collaborative way to come together to deliver projects, making everyone faster, greener, safer, and ultimately more profitable.

What is your most advanced BIM project to date?

We have advanced projects looking at the delivery of data from construction phase into the operational phase, and use of BIM in the field. A rounded example of general best practice is Skanska’s speculative office development at 66 Queen Square, Bristol (pictured above), which won the BIM Project Application award at the 2014 British Construction Industry Awards.

What are the key challenges facing the industry’s use of BIM?

I’m very keen that our clients become more educated and demanding, the greater the clarity we can get from them, the better the project outcome will be. We want them to scrutinise more. BIM is still a relatively new thing and many of them are still finding their way in terms of how to test whether a tender return from a contractor is backed up by an extensive track record and capability in BIM.

So clients lack understanding of how BIM can benefit them?

They are becoming more aware, but there is some way to go before the typical client can be confident enough to define up-front the exacting requirements that should come out of a project and use them to add value to what they do as an organisation.

Skanska has the advantage of dedicated FM and asset management sections of the business, it also does its own development. These three strands give us the ability to be a demanding client ourselves and understand the value of asset data post-construction management. We can leverage this knowledge to help provide greater clarity to clients wanting to work with us.

Are you working to bridge gaps in the supply chain’s knowledge?

We have an engagement and assessment process that has been underway for some time now. We are working to provide some clarity to subcontractors on how we need them to work with us, and to assess what they are currently capable of. It’s something we want to do together with them, rather than impose.

Skanska puts a lot of effort in to working with people who want to try to deliver BIM successfully, providing hardware and software and creating the right conditions for it to work.

How about in-house training?

Training initiatives for staff cover two main areas. Behavioural training explains the basics of BIM Level 2, how it can help people’s work, the process and how to deliver it on a project. Technical training, either in a piece of technology or a workflow, is designed to complement that. We’ve taken the step to provide all training on demand, making it available wherever or whenever people need it.

What aspects of BIM are overhyped?

Some people still think BIM is the software, when it is really a way of working collaboratively based on data and information. The software is merely a tool that shouldn’t be influencing people’s general decision-making.

Have you had issues with the software on projects?

Not especially. Over the next five years there is going to be a large step forward in the way software becomes easier to use and the BIM workflow will become more easily embedded in the technology, which will make it easier for people to deliver projects.

Will the NBS BIM Toolkit add clarity to projects in defining responsibility?

We’re looking at it and we have projects that will be required to use it. However, it’s probably too early to say whether it will be effective, ask me in a year.

What are your biggest hopes for BIM?

That it improves the productivity and predictability of construction, reducing risk. It should also give clients a dataset that works for them so the asset they have invested in is valuable in the long term.

Augmented reality technology will be the next big step for the industry over the next couple of years, enabling us to go truly digital and truly paperless, giving people the right information at the right time. It’s very exciting.