Off-the-shelf BIM beats benchmark costs

Having a design already in place means design time is reduced. That means the client saves on fees related to design development, projects start on site more rapidly and construction is faster.– Tom Ridley-Thompson, Scape

Tom Ridley-Thompson, architect within the design team at Scape, explains why BIM is not yet being mandated on Scape frameworks but how BIM is transforming Sunesis, its standardised building joint venture with Willmott Dixon.

What is Scape’s BIM strategy?

Scape runs a national framework for major public projects valued at £2m and above, and a minor works framework for anything up to £2m, each of which are relet every three or four years.

We have drawn up a plan for our current major works framework, with our main supplier Willmott Dixon, which will guarantee that by next year 100% of projects will be either BIM Level 1 or 2, and by 2017 90% of all projects will be at least BIM Level 2. By the time the next major works framework is tendered, we will be in a position to make it mandatory.

We have also been encouraging all clients to use BIM, but up to this point we haven’t been able to mandate its use by tendering consultants and contractors. At the moment it would be too onerous for them and for clients, some of which are still reluctant to use it.

The minor works framework is more of a challenge because many projects are under £0.5m, so to mandate BIM would be impractical.

Do you require consultants or contractors to have any BIM knowledge to qualify for frameworks?

For the major projects framework we ask questions about their BIM expertise, such as whether they can work to BIM Level 2, PAS1192:2 and within a common data environment, and produce a BIM Execution Plan.

What do you see as the major challenges with BIM right now?

There’s a lot of uncertainty around how the mandate next year will be implemented in reality. How mandatory will it actually turn out to be? What interpretations of BIM Level 2 will be accepted and what will the cut off be in terms of the value of the project? The technology and software itself is less of a concern.

Scape is closely involved in the East Midlands Property Alliance regional framework and as part of that we have been working with the National Association of Construction Frameworks to develop methods of gearing up for next year, especially in terms of how to encourage more clients to use BIM.

Do clients understand what BIM can do for them?

Clients on major projects are more familiar with BIM although we are often still having to lead them to understand the benefits. Clients on smaller project are aware of it and the general benefits, but because there is so much technical speak and acronyms, many are reluctant to take the next step and champion it on projects. For them, BIM is not really on their radar as a significant issue and they just want to get on with the job at hand.

That’s a great shame because BIM can still benefit smaller projects, however a lot of the guidance, things like Employer Information Requirements, which set the whole BIM process in motion, are not really suitable for smaller works.

We are currently looking at developing a simplified BIM-lite version of an EIR for smaller-scale projects that would enable those clients to see the benefits.

Scape was set up to speed up the procurement of public projects, does BIM tie in with that? 

It goes hand-in-hand with it in terms of continuing those efficiencies and streamlining the process through subsequent stages of design, construction and operation. 

Scape is also known for the “off-the-shelf” standardised schools brand Sunesis. We have several standardised designs for entire primary and secondary schools and new designs for two-, four- or eight-classroom extensions buildings, called Connect. All of these have been developed as fully worked-out and coordinated BIM models including architectural information, structural design, and M&E.

We always use the feedback to improve the models, so Sunesis is much more like a product than a traditional bespoke architectural design. All the models have standardised BIM objects for all the kit of parts components. That information is passed to the main contractor and cost consultant team to carry out costings and programming direct from the model. It’s not quite as sophisticated as car manufacturer yet, but we’re getting there.

Is the ability to easily adapt pre-designed BIM models saving time and money on schemes?

Our framework QS consultant, Pick Everard, has run comparisons with projects of a similar size we carried out traditionally and the BIM projects have regularly come in under the benchmark in terms of cost.

Having a design already in place means design time is reduced, although schemes must be adapted to suit each individual site. That means the client saves on fees related to design development, projects start on site more rapidly and construction is faster.

So most manufacturers are able to supply BIM objects with all the necessary data?

A lot more data suppliers are providing data you can feed straight in. However, this can become an issue in the early stages of projects, as when you import their components you are effectively committing to them as a supplier when you should be allowing others to compete for the project. 

In theory you should be developing a very generic model in the early stages and making it very product-specific once it has gone through the tender process.

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