Interview: BuildingSMART director Nick Tune

The BIM open standards organisation buildingSMART UK is working on new BIM protocols, research projects and taking UK BIM standards abroad. Stephen Cousins spoke to its director Nick Tune, who also heads up BRE’s digital and data division.

BuildingSMART is developing the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) specification for open BIM, but what else is it working on?

We developed the original IFC open protocol which has now been extend to IFC 4 to enhance the capability of architectural, building service and structural elements with new geometric, parametric and other features. From mid-2015 vendors will be able to start certifying their software against IFC 4.

Also, the new Building Collaboration Format (BCF) standard has just been released, designed to streamline data exchange between projects. This strips down large and complicated IFC files into small packets of essential BIM object data ready for exchange.

Another major focus is the end user and this year we plan to push ahead with three trials of open BIM on real world projects. The first will test the quality and interoperability of different BIM object libraries, because there are lots of different ones available.

We will also trial the use of Employer Information Requirements [used to define asset information required by clients in BIM], as there are several templates available and we want to identify the best methodology and what works best for users. 

The third trial will look at how FM and asset managers use COBie data, in asset management software like IBM Maximo, and how can it be used to manage the building better.

Do you have much contact with the other BuildingSMART chapters worldwide?

Yes, an international BuildingSMART Summit will be taking place in Watford and London from March 23 to 27, where experts from around the world will meet to share standards and develop best practice. We are trying to attract more UK members and get industry people in general more actively involved in the development and use of open BIM standards so this is a great opportunity. The event is open to anyone. 

In addition, a lot of work is being done in conjunction with buildingSMART International to try to internationalise UK standards as well as harmonise our standards with standards worldwide to ensure compatibility.

The UK standards PAS 1192 and BS 1192 are currently going through the ISO process, which is a great step forward, but other countries are developing similar things. For example, Norway has its own version of our Digital Plan of Works [being developed in the UK by NBS].

A move to increase harmonisation is needed to help British firms working abroad: an international contractor like Skanska doesn’t want to have to work in Norway and have one set of standards and learning outcomes, then come to the UK and have completely separate ones. 

What direction will the organisation take going forward?

The big news is we have a new chairman, Professor Jeremy Watson CBE, the BRE’s chief scientist and engineer and a former chief scientific adviser for the Department for Communities and Local Government. He takes over from Mark Bew who decided to step down due to other commitments.

Professor Watson is concurrently vice dean and professor of engineering systems in the faculty of engineering sciences at the University College London. At UCL he was technical lead on development of the government’s Level 3 BIM strategy.

We also have a new vice chair, Dr Anne Kemp, director of BIM at Atkins, who takes over from Professor Tim Broyd. Their appointment is a very positive move as we have a huge amount of work to cover at buildingSMART, particularly with supporting the Government with their BIM level 2 and 3 programme. We need people with energy and drive to make it happen.

What are your biggest concerns around BIM?

In the UK there is a great deal of work that needs to be done making BIM Level 2 simple for industry to understand how to achieve it. Given all the hype around BIM Level 2, there are still very few projects that are actually doing it in line with BS 1192 & PAS1192 and with COBie outputs, the ramping up needed for the industry to meet the government’s 2016 target is going to have to be vast.

BRE aims to become a leader in BIM training and accreditation, what progress has been made?

We currently offer training and accreditation for individuals wanting to meet PAS and BSI standards in line with the requirements of BIM Level 2. So far, several hundred have gone through the training process.

We also offer a business certification scheme designed to demonstrate that firms have the policies and procedures in place to deliver BIM Level 2. It is based around the ISO 9000 quality management standard and last year architect BDP was the first to gain certification, for its London office. Several other firms are currently going through the process, and BDP is planning to certify its other offices under the scheme.

BRE is involved in several BIM-related research projects, which is the most exciting? 

We have just completed a £2m three-year project under the 7th European Framework Programme on use of BIM to manage energy use in buildings in real time, which achieved some great outputs.

The team, led by BRE and involving Trinity College Dublin, the University of Cardiff and others, developed a system using BIM to visualise and control a building’s energy consumption in real time. 

It takes data from the BMS, or if the BMS is not sophisticated enough, extra sensors are installed, and displays it in the BIM model. A working prototype was trialled on five buildings in Europe. The software includes an ontology, which enables a degree of learning so, for example, if the blinds are lowered and the lighting needs to be increased, the software displays the related carbon deficit, it can also generate projections of how to achieve the best carbon savings.

It can be configured so the services manager can respond to recommendations, or the system can run automatically. BRE is now looking to partner with the University of Cardiff to exploit the technology to take it to market.

Story for BIM+? Get in touch via email: [email protected]

Latest articles in Analysis