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BIM Level 2 is now widely embedded in construction… but was it worth it?

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Six months after the government’s deadline for BIM Level 2 to be used on all centrally procured contracts, NBS director of design, innovation, research and development, Dr Stephen Hamil, asks how well it is working in practice and whether government investment in BIM has paid off. 

It’s perhaps worth taking a moment to define what we mean by BIM Level 2. It’s the standard process as defined in the PAS 1192 standards, it’s not just BIM equals a 3D model.

Was it worth it? Well, if you look at what has been achieved and how we are now viewed in an international arena against how much it has cost us – then the answer has to be a resounding “yes”.

The cost of the investments has been very small compared with the contribution the construction industry makes to the UK economy. The funding has been spent on running the BIM Task Group for five years, the development of the standards and investment in technology through Innovate UK.

The return has been a set of standards and tools that define a standard process focused around digital information exchanges where a project team can be assembled and it can be clear on who is doing what and when. This makes projects more efficient and lowers their risk and gives better value and a better outcome to the client.

When asking “was it worth it”, it is worth reflecting on what the alternative is. A project team comes together, made up of many organisations, and they either: start without agreeing responsibilities and the process; or they spend unnecessary time discussing what process to follow and potentially having to learn a new process for each new project.

If you look at the strategic analysis led in 2009/2010 by Paul Morrell, the then chief construction adviser, on reflection the main themes are all still valid.

Five years on, in terms of international positioning, the whole world is looking to what the UK has done.

As part of my job, I have been to the US and Europe a number of times over recent years and, worldwide, the construction industry is looking to what we have done. Many countries are only just now starting out on the journey that we started six or seven years ago.

It’s not perfect, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it.

I asked on Twitter recently. Around 40 people put their views forward as to whether BIM Level 2 was “worth it”, with the options to agree, disagree or state that only time would tell. By the time the poll closed 53% said only time would tell and 47% agreeing that BIM was worth it. It was pleasing to see that nobody said it wasn’t worth it. 

If we are honest, it’s not fully working yet. Aspects of BIM Level 2 are now commonplace on public and private sector projects across the UK, but there is also more that can be done.

What is working:

  • A standardised process;
  • Clarity on responsibilities;
  • Co-ordinating information (Drawings from 3D model, specs plus model, clash detection);
  • A framework to support clients;
  • Common data environments.

Where there is more to do:

  • Further guidance;
  • A central body controlling certification;
  • Better technology around COBie (and IFC);
  • A properly-funded project providing clarity on “data dictionaries”;
  • A focus on digital from manufacturers.

Looking at where there is more work to be done, there are a number of initiatives to keep pushing this on. At the ICE BIM Conference 2016 Mark Bew launched Digital Built Britain.

This announcement included support for BIM Level 2 adoption. UK and international guidance will be published on the official BSI website later this year. In addition, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service has been appointed to establish a certification scheme for Level 2 BIM.

In addition to the BIM Task Group, the newly formed UK BIM Alliance will now play a big role in supporting BIM adoption in the UK.

If we are to make BIM Level 2 fully work it’s now time for the whole industry to get behind it, collaborate and make it work. Government, industry and academia must work to push this forward.

This article was first published on the NBS blog

Worldwide, the construction industry is looking to what we have done. Many countries are only just now starting out on the journey that we started six or seven years ago. It’s not perfect, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it.– Stephen Hamil