Are we ready to manage without the BIM Task Group?

If the UK government is seeking to increase the percentage of public sector contracts won by SMEs then shouldn’t the funding for BIM Level 2 be focused more towards SMEs rather than simply closing down the grants?– Graham Clarkson

The recent news that funding will be withdrawn from the BIM Task Group came as a surprise to the industry. The BIM Task Group was set up to raise awareness of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in advance of the government’s 2016 deadline, but is now planned to wind down in 2015.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) which provides funding to the Construction Industry Council to help BIM adoption, has issued a statement confirming the shutdown of the group. A BIS spokesperson said: “The department provides the Construction Industry Council with a grant to assist in the adoption and roll-out of Building Information Modelling (BIM). The grant will come to a managed close in March 2015. The department currently has no plans to fund the grant programme after this date, but will consider any legacy requirements that industry might have as part of the process of the managed close.”

Having discussed this with Mervyn Richards OBE, author of BIM Standard PAS 1192:2013 and John Eynon, chair of the South East BIM Hub, I understand withdrawal of funding only applies to the CIC grant to prepare for the implementation in 2016 of the Level 2 BIM mandate – where models are held by separate disciplines. 

Further funding to support adoption and roll-out of Level 3 – where disciplines can design together and the model includes 6D project lifecycle management information – is expected be forthcoming.

Presumably this means the UK government feels BIM Level 2 adoption has reached a point where the supply chain is now pulling the sector into Level 2, rather than the UK government pushing us towards it.

Certainly the results of the most recent National Building Specification survey suggest this is the case. 

The fourth NBS National BIM Report 2014, which looks at how UK building design professionals are adapting to the use of BIM, found that out of those who responded, 58% had reached Level 2.

It would be interesting to find out the size of companies responding.

From our findings in supporting and delivering the South East Centre for the Built Environment FutureFit Built Asset programme – designed to raise awareness among SMEs in the south east on BIM and Government Soft Landings – there are very few, if any, SMEs who are using Level 2.

This is particularly concerning when only 31-38% of public sector contracts are won by SMEs – this percentage is only going to reduce when all public contracts are to be delivered using BIM Level 2 in 2016. 

If the UK government is seeking to increase the percentage of public sector contracts won by SMEs then shouldn’t the funding for BIM Level 2 be focused more towards SMEs rather than simply closing down the grants?

One of the other challenges faced by our industry is that without continued support from bodies such as the BIM Task Group, BIM could simply be reduced to a 3D modelling tool.

This is already happening where designers are submitting 3D models in response to a design competition and major contractors are demonstrating their ability to deliver projects with a time-sequenced 4D BIM model, both of which bear little relationship to the three forms of model – design, construction and as-built – laid down within PAS 1192 Part2.

There is a danger that all the collaborative working engendered by the use of BIM Level 2 could be lost if BIM descends into a sales tool. This collaborative working is necessary to achieve the ambitious targets set within the UK government’s Industrial Strategy for Construction 2025.

From my experience we have a long way to go in changing the culture of the industry and central government, as one of the major clients of the UK construction sector, still has a large role to play affecting this culture.

As an organisation, we work for a number of local authorities, many of whom have barely heard of BIM, let alone have the knowledge of how to procure projects under BIM Level 2. It would be useful to hear from readers how many public procurement notices they have seen requiring Level 2 as we are only two years away from the government’s mandate when many projects procured in 2014 will just be coming to site. We have not encountered many.

Is it too early to declare that we have reached the tipping point or are we convinced that early adopters will change the culture of what is still a deep-rooted traditional industry? 

Graham Clarkson is managing director of The Clarkson Alliance, a firm of consultant project, cost and information managers based in Oxford and London. The Clarkson Alliance is currently delivery partner for the FutureFit Built Assets programme, an ERDF funded programme offering free support to SME’s to enable them to adopt BIM.

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