London Underground is gearing up to requiring Level 2 BIM for all projects starting after April 2016, John Downes, head of engineering governance and services told BIM+, meaning that its contractors and consultants will also have to operate at this level.
Although London Underground is not directly subject to the government’s BIM mandate on using Level 2 BIM, it does receive government funding and has therefore chosen to pursue BIM as a priority.
Downes explained: “We're keen for the government to continue to invest, it is not unreasonable for them to expect us to be compliant. Level 2 BIM will be available for use on LU projects by April 2016.”
London Underground is taking a stepped approach towards achieving Level 2, by first ensuring that new projects can achieve Level 1. This strategy was agreed with the Rail and Underground panel – the body chaired by Sir John Armitt that oversees parent organisation Transport for London – in 2012.
At the same time, it was agreed that the rail-based operations of Transport for London would lead the way in BIM, as making the whole organisation BIM-enabled was seen as too big a task.
Downes says: “We decided to move forward in a progressive form as it [installing Level 2 BIM] would have been too much of a jump in one go.”
London Underground then embarked on an “exploration phase”, where LU worked on trial projects, including the Victoria and Bank station upgrades, to trial and test different BIM applications and implementations.
Last week it formally committed to use Level 1 BIM on all projects where possible, having developed the tools, capability and management system to enable projects undertaken by LU to use Level 1. However, it will not insist that every scheme uses BIM.
“Theoretically, now, any new job will be operating at Level 1,” said Downes. “But we will not slavishly follow it. If a project manager wishes to deviate from the BIM path, they will have to justify it in terms of efficiency and cost. Although it's difficult to see how they would make a sensible and logical proposal not to use BIM.”
The long-term goal is not only to gain value, during construction, but also in the operation and maintenance phase. However, as the owner of assets built over 150 years, this is an extremely tough task.
LU is not yet attempting to create digital models of the entire network; instead, its focusing its attention is on individual upgrade projects.
“Our strategic direction is towards a digitally enabled future, the only question is at what rate we can develop it. Everything we're doing is driven by value and benefit, so we won’t collect data that we don’t need,” said Downes.
“It is a long haul to get the whole railway upgraded but we are seizing the opportunity. Every year we don’t move forward is potentially another £1.6bn of wasted opportunity.”
Downes believes that BIM will definitely help make the Underground more efficient: “Even if the government saving prediction of 20% is not true, whatever fraction is true is still a significant sum of money to save,” he says.
Level 2 BIM efficiency will be an important part of persuading the government of the value of funding improvements to London’s transport infrastructure, believes Downes. “Making our case for further funding is a critical challenge; we can’t rest on our laurels. Level 2 compliance is one key step to ensuring we can convince government that they are making a sound investment and we can keep London moving and growing. It’s vital that we invest in transport infrastructure so that we can continue to provide an efficient service to Londoners.”