Interview: Mark Taylor – BAM Construct’s Formula for Level 2

Mark Taylor, digital construction manager at BAM Construct, on how the contractor is gearing up for the Level 2 mandate – with an eye on Level 3 – through training, technological innovation, and exemplar projects.

What is your pace of BIM adoption and how many projects are at Level 2?

Public contracts account for 55% of our work and by next year all of them will be delivered to Level 2 BIM. Currently, we are delivering at least one Level 2 project in each of the seven regions to ensure we are prepared for the government mandate and on top of that it is being implemented on large projects for private clients, such as Great Portland Estates and Argent, which have well-defined BIM strategies.

We have more than £450m of work planned in the UK, which will all be Level 2 compliant and 80% of which is for the private sector. We are also building a £5m primary school project in Leeds to Level 2, which is reflective of the type of work we expect to get from the government so it’s a great test bed to help us deliver consistently next year.

What are your first impressions of the government’s Level 3 BIM strategy?

The ambition to align ourselves with other industries, such as Formula 1, using data analytics, makes for exciting reading but we need to be pragmatic. Part of BAM’s focus so far has been to identify the need to have an agile BIM process that is adaptable so we can understand the challenges and respond to them on a day-by-day basis. Delivering on Level 2 effectively should provide the foundations for delivering Level 3 if we continue to build on the learning from previous projects.

Are clients proactive, or on a learning curve, when it comes to BIM?

It varies a lot. On current projects we try to deliver as many as possible to Level 2, but it depends on getting client buy-in at the start, which isn’t always the case. On every job we try to incorporate as much as we can without a requirement for Level 2 from clients, but delivering information, such as large COBie datasets, isn’t going to be helpful unless the client has the software and processes in place to make use of them.

What has been your most advanced BIM project so far?

The 110 Queen Street mixed-use office/retail project in Glasgow (pictured above) was an exemplar Level 2 BIM project designed to incorporate 3, 4, 5 and 6D BIM, with a particular focus on 6D, using BIM for asset management and during the operations phase. We’re learning lessons on every project to reapply to new projects, there’s a definite step change in approach every time we start a new job.

What have been the major benefits of using BIM so far?

Improvements to programme, quality and health & safety. Being able to pre-plan the design and programme have a massive benefit. BIM has enabled us to use offsite fabrication more to reduce time on site where there are large programmes of work, or when delivering multiple facilities simultaneously.

There isn’t a one-size-fits all approach with BIM and we are trying to adapt it to work with a range of construction types and different client requirements. BIM isn’t a standalone thing, it ties in directly with lean construction, programme management, health & safety management – it’s just another tool to becoming a more effective management contractor.

How about cost savings?

It’s hard to quantify overall cost savings, but improving the quality of the build has meant less defects and late stage design alterations, which has financial implications. The adoption of BIM can help contractors radically improve the efficiency of delivery, which is going to have real cost impacts over the next couple of years.

What are the main challenges going forward?

The industry is going through a steep learning curve as we essentially attempt to change the way we have worked for over 100 years in the space of less than 10 years.

There’s no point implementing BIM if the process simply stops in the office, so we are doing a lot of work developing the tools we need to connect work completed in the design sphere to the site where the built asset is produced. 

We are already using several products to deliver models and drawings to tablets, which have mobile site management software installed to check quality, task management and health & safety checklists. We’re also looking at ways to connect model information to setting out equipment using robotic total stations [which can be controlled at  distance via remote control].

It’s important not to lose the momentum and take advantage of the rapid advance of the technology while developing the BIM skills we need.

Is it difficult finding staff skilled in BIM?

It’s particularly hard to get hold of someone with BIM experience at a contractor. Most people with experience have tended to reside at consultants and architects, but over the next couple of years that will change. BAM is in the process of scaling up the knowledge to make it transferable because BIM is going to be so fundamental to how we work in future.

What training do you have in place?

We have a training programme based around delivering the 2016 mandate. Having implemented new business systems to align with the Level 2 approach, and updated our systems to provide a common data environment compliant with the Level 2 mandate, we are now training our teams to use them to deliver Level 2 projects. We’re not doing it just for the government, we recognise it as a better way to work in general.

Have you noticed firms lower down the supply chain responding positively to BIM?

We recently worked with external consultants to show our internal partition suppliers how to extract quants and costs out of a model, and use other tools to develop detailed fabrication-level models using model information provided by the designers. The BIM process provides them with model information they can rapidly develop costs from and rapidly re-cost if the model changes as we’re getting closer to construction, where before it was a long drawn out process.

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