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We need to talk about BIM Level 3…

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In the third of three articles on the industry’s BIM journey, John Adams, head of BIM services at BIM Strategy, says we need address Level 3 quickly.

You don’t want to, I get that, but bear with me. 

Talking about BIM Level 3 before BIM Level 2 is embedded is a lot like taking a break to do the dishes when you’re in Netflix binge-watch mode with a cold drink and a tube of Pringles. You’ll be glad you did it in the morning, but you’d still rather not.

Level 2 has already been a success, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. Let’s face it, despite the announcement in 2011, apathy, denial and confusion kept progress in first gear for the most part of three years. Even the advent of the BIM Task Group didn’t impact the mindset that quickly, it was seen by too many as a bandwagon to nowhere.

It took the writing of the standards and the government to not blink on the mandate to force us to the tipping point with the #UKBIMcrew furiously leaping up and down on the bleeding edge to keep up the momentum. We made it, but it was a battle that could have been lost at any point. In hindsight there are lessons to learn from the experience, more communication and reducing the time that progress “goes dark” are high on the list. 

This is why we need to talk about BIM Level 3 now. Not later. We fought harder than should have been required to make Level 2 a reality, but this will seem a molehill by comparison to the mountain that is Level 3 if we don’t get the conversations going early enough.

Level 3 is not the same challenge repeated. It’s bigger, riskier, almost totally undefined, and will use technology which hasn’t been invented yet. We’re attempting to move the construction industry from followers to innovative leaders very quickly. We won’t be able to point to the automotive industry and say “we should be more like them” anymore when it comes to smart cities because it is up to us to lead. Level 2 is us catching up; Level 3 is us taking the lead. 

Therein is a big issue. If we could put all of CEOs of the UK’s top AEC firms in a room for a week to discuss BIM Level 3, would it achieve anything? Maybe… maybe not. Even if we strengthened the BIM-specific knowledge in the room by adding the BIM Task Group and the entire #UKBIMcrew, we wouldn’t be able to define the currently undefinable.

Read John Adams’ previous articles

Don’t get trapped in the BIM chasm

It’s not too late to adopt BIM... but it nearly is

It appears we have a title, an aspirational document in Digital Built Britain, and a heap of funding for L3, but there isn’t a firm answer to what happens next. With the Government Construction Strategy 2016-20 making no mention of the BIM Task Group it’s fair to even ask who we’re expecting the answer to come from. Are the same people who worked on Level 2 the right people for Level 3? 

The gap between Paul Morrell telling us all about COBie and the publication of BS 1192:4 has left COBie with an image problem when in reality it is our current best solution to structured handover data and a clear improvement on an activity we’ve been burning resources on for years. We may have already repeated the same mistake by announcing funding for Level 3 so early there may be a loss of momentum through similar confusion and apathy. 

Somebody needs to pick up the bagpipes and get the noise level up, the reluctance to even mention Level 3 needs to be addressed quickly.

A proactive approach to combat the confusion this time around is needed. We need a plan to divide and conquer the task and we need to shout it from the rooftops. The concept of how to reform our industry into a something capable of defining digitally enabled smart cities needs to be broken down into specialisms, teams and specific academic endeavours.

Maybe we need more hashtag movements to set about finding Rumsfeld’s famous “unknown unknowns”… at this point in the Level 3 journey the scope is limited only by our imagination.

Any negativity in this article isn’t intended, we are doing a brilliant, world-leading job, but reflective learning is always valuable. This is simply the reality of trying to create a rapid digitisation of the vastly complex and unique industry we call home.

So let’s take stock quickly of what we have, get organised, and make sure we start the right conversations with the right people using the aspirational Digital Built Britain document as our frame of reference. Let’s make the Level 3 journey a noisy digital carnival of UK construction showing the world what we can do.

It appears we have a title, an aspirational document in Digital Built Britain, and a heap of funding for L3, but there isn’t a firm answer to what happens next. With the Government Construction Strategy 2016-20 making no mention of the BIM Task Group it’s fair to even ask who we’re expecting the answer to come from.– John Adams, BIM Strategy