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Government Level 3 strategy

paves way to ‘Digital Built Britain’

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The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has unveiled the government’s strategic plan for Level 3 BIM – setting out how the industry can look forward to greater efficiency and profitability in “Digital Built Britain” when BIM-driven construction and procurement exploits synergies with built environment data capture in the Internet of Things.

The strategy is being referred to as “Digital Built Britain” as it sees construction as one element in a technological step-change towards Smart Cities and data-driven public services, for example, in traffic, energy, waste and water management.

It also provides more detail on the definition of Level 3 BIM, which is split into four delivery stages, A,B, C and D, and three themes: commercial, technical and cultural.

In the technical stream, for instance, Stage A advances work on BIM that has already begun, such as developing e-regs and the interoperable IFC file system, while Stage D amounts to becoming a world leader in setting standards for the Internet of Things.

Although the document itself doesn’t discuss future dates for the implementation of Level 3 BIM, an FAQ section on the new Digital Built Britain website says that dates will be set in due course.

The unveiling of the document, by business secretary Vince Cable on Thursday, is timed as the industry approaches completion of the Level 2 BIM Toolkit – the final pieces of the jigsaw are due to be completed by NBS in April (the Digital Plan of Work and unified classification system).

But while its bold ambition to build on the progress made on Level 2 and keep ahead of the international curve on BIM has been welcomed by many, others see its release as premature and lacking in force - and government funding. 

Robert Klaschka, a prominent BIM advocate at architect Klaschka Studios, believes the message of the document is undermined by the fact that direct government funding allocated to the BIM Task Group in the Autumn Statement was lower than expected. “You can’t argue you’re committed to Level 3 BIM when you cut the funding to the BIM Task Group three months ago,” he said.

He also said that software and technology development wasn’t yet developed enough to be able to discuss IFC-enabled Level 3 BIM. “If you go back to the start of the Level 2 BIM push, Paul Morrell said he didn’t want to set a target that wasn’t achievable with the current technology, and that’s still where we are: the software platforms don’t talk to each other, and the developers have an adversarial attitude to each others software.

“We may have three or four software platforms that are okay for design and construction, but talking about Level 3 BIM when we’re struggling with Level 2 seems bizarre. To me, it’s Level 2 re-badged, to give the impression we’re moving forwards when we’re not.”

Casey Rutland, a BIM specialist and associate director at Arup, acknowledged some of the points raised by Klaschka, but took a more upbeat view of the document. 

“To maintain our global position in Level 3 BIM it’s a good thing. To me, the big leap is getting people that weren’t working digitally into the digital era in Level 2 – once people are used to it, then developing IFCs will happen a lot quicker when people are actually working digitally. That’s what’s happened in other industries: when more people are trying, the issues are resolved much quicker.

“And with software at the moment we’re entirely capable of delivering Level 2 BIM,” he added. 

Rutland said the strategic plan was strong on the commercial advantages of “Digital Built Britain”, especially for digitally-enabled SMEs and suppliers, and the opportunities that flow from feedback and performance improvements via “Smart Cities” sensor technologies. 

“Digital transactions between larger companies and smaller ones will happen in an easy way. If you’re a small plasterboard company working in a digital way, you’re giving the same information as a larger competitor.”

Peter Trebilcock, director of BIM at Balfour Beatty Construction Services UK, told BIM+: “The report is a welcome and sensible reaffirmation of the government’s commitment to embedding technology in building and maintaining the infrastructure of the future. It is ambitious, exciting with enormous potential for beneficial change.”

The document was written with input from BIS, the BIM Task Group, and University College London and its associate dean of engineering Professor Jeremy Watson, the new chair of BuildingSMART UK. It also says that Level 3 BIM will need to be supported by further work from academic research partners.

Main image: Flickr/Anupam_ts

To me, the big leap is getting people that weren’t working digitally into the digital era in Level 2 – once people are used to it, then developing IFCs will happen a lot quicker when people are actually working digitally.– Casey Rutland, BIM specialist and associate director, Arup