Case study: BIM helps secondary schools stick to budget

  • Client: Education Funding Agency
  • Lead Contractor: Interserve and Kajima (JV)
  • BIM Tools: ARCHICAD, BIMx, Solibri Model Checker

Working for the Education Funding Agency (EFA) Maber Associates acted as lead designer for the delivery of the three secondary schools with a combined value of £150m.

The brief for each of the schools, Reading Girls Secondary, Westfield Academy in Watford and Longdean Secondary, Hertfordshire, was to provide a multi-functional environment with spaces that could accommodate large numbers of students that could be easily broken down into smaller areas.

This required the use of partitions and other furniture screens, and enabling the creation of enclosed spaces for smaller focus groups.

BIM was primarily used for clash reduction to reduce construction costs and keep the batch within its tight budget. The contractors, Interserve and Kajima, also used the model for construction sequencing and design logistics and the client wanted to use it for design validation, RDS exports and the export of data into its bespoke CAFM system.

As the project began in 2013 it is not strictly BIM Level 2 according to UK government definition, as only BS 1192 and PAS 1192-2 documents were available.

Westfield Academy

“We were sharing and using each other’s BIM data and creating federated models for analysis, clash detection and milestones,” says Simon Graham, BIM manager at Maber Associates. “I guess by today’s standards it wasn’t full Level 2 BIM, but it was as close as we could get with the limited standards available at the time.”

The architect, along with the engineer and project manager, became enthused with the Solibri Model Checker/Viewer, according to Graham, using it to communicate design and other issues that wouldn’t show up on a “hard-clash” report. Drawing checks still had to happen, but the software clearly demonstrated one of the benefits of BIM.

Clash detection exercises across the three schools resulted in 1,076 issues being found and communicated to designers, and resolved, faster than they would have been using traditional paper-based checking methods.

Overall productivity savings were made during design and construction. Although Maber was aware that IFC data importing/exporting could be an issue, it worked together with Arup at a very early stage to develop the best process. However, new bottlenecks did arise by adopting a BIM approach, most notably with the IFC and skill limitations causing delays in delivery, says Graham.

“In 2013/14 some developers were still only paying lip service to interoperability and some people had to perform miracles to get their IFCs exporting correctly. From 2015 things have got better.”

Graham believes that although the project was successful the cost hurdle for small organisations wanting to use BIM is limiting its adoption.

“It is extremely difficult for subbies and small practices to afford BIM,” he says. “The entry cost to BIM threatens to create a two-tier construction industry, with people who can’t afford to invest in BIM losing out on work.

“Software developers must come up with a solution to this price hurdle, and the authors of our standards must work to streamline the BIM documents,” he continued.”

Graham also believes that clients need more assistance to understand what is required of them to work in a BIM environment. 

“We now ensure that the client is educated about BIM and that their objectives are transmitted throughout the entire supply chain. The publication of BIM standards etc has all been focused on the supply side of the industry, clients are often in the dark about what can be achieved with BIM so they need assistance with this.”

In 2013/14 some developers were still only paying lip service to interoperability and some people had to perform miracles to get their IFCs exporting correctly. From 2015 things have got better.– Simon Graham, BIM manager, Maber Associates

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