‘Facebook’ revolution, says Bew

In a discussion hosted by BIM+ earlier this week, BIM Task Group chairman Mark Bew outlined the key priorities in the Level 3 Strategic Plan – and fielded questions from the consulting, contracting and client world.

A 4 minute video with highlights of the event – attended by David Philp FCIOB, Neil Thompson of Balfour Beatty, Dave Glennon of Aecom and Sonia Zahiroddiny of Transport for London – is posted below.

Bew expanded on the industry’s journey to fully interoperable, real-time BIM by 2025, along with the cultural and behavioural changes promoted by fully transparent “Facebook-style” interactions along the supply chain.

But he acknowledged that businesses would progress up the slope of the “Bew Richards maturity wedge” at different speeds: “We drew the Level 3/4 journey as a ramp deliberately, we knew we had to bring 3 million people up that ramp to ease people along the journey and give them a decent amount of time to prepare.” 

Messages from the event include:  

  • The BIM Task Group has a “10-year plan” for achieving Level 3 BIM, with five years of preparation followed by five of implementation.
  • The first Level 3 “early adopter” projects will get underway in 2017/18.
  • Level 3 will create a “transparent” world where all transactions along the supply chain – including e-payment for subcontractors and the execution of a new generation of online contracts – are as intuitive as posting on Facebook.
  • The industry needs to draw in a cohort of computer scientists and data analysts to develop the tools and apps needed to deliver Level 3 BIM.
  • The current BIM Task Group will be in place until April 2016, when it will hand over to a “legacy organisation”.

Bew reiterated the report’s view of Level 3 BIM’s five priorities. The first three are: providing more with less; maximising availability of public resources and networks, where he cited “intelligent motorway networks that use capacity in a more intelligent way”; and reducing cost and carbon.

On priority four, enabling domestic and international growth, he said this was “not only to deliver our own domestic requirements, which with urbanisation and population growth are getting bigger, but overseas, especially in high-end consultancy and in construction and manufacturing services” – thereby helping to meet the Construction 2025 target of a 50% increase in exports.

Fifthly, ensuring the UK remains in the international vanguard of the digital economy in the built environment, where Bew cited the “new engineering” of “high-end analytics, design, and Internet of Things, those value-added services. It would be nice over the coming years to get people to realise this is still proper engineering, if less tangible.”

But he also highlighted a new incicpient skills shortage for the industry – a lack of computer scientists and data specialists.

"To facilitate that growth, the industry will need to compete to recruit a generation of data analysts and data scientists – but we’re dipping into the same pool that pharmaceuticals or financial services are. So we’ve got to make ourselves massively attractive and make sure that what we do drives the profitability to make sure that people want to come into construction.” 

And addressing the criticisms that the document is premature, given the distance still to travel on Level 2, Bew said: “If we don’t set our sights on 2025, we’ll never hit it. But by starting now, by the time we’re taking it to market we’ll be doing it in a really organised way.

“If we hadn’t published it, we’d have been criticised for not publishing it, and not giving the computer software industry the pipeline for the future. It’s a cultural change where I think the only comparison is the way industry stepped up on health and safety [in the early 2000s],” he said.

But although Level 3 BIM will be transformative culturally, technically and commercially, Bew stressed that many of the fundamentals of construction management will remain in place. 

“Every project will still need really good quality commercial and design management – we need to train people in the skills of project management, commercial and design management, and we’ll need more people capable of managing complex scenarios,” he added.

We drew the Level 3/4 journey as a ramp deliberately, we knew we had to bring 3 million people up that ramp to ease people along the journey and give them a decent amount of time to prepare.– Mark Bew, BIM Task Group

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  1. The Digital Built Britain (DBB) Strategy raises major issues, because it widely exceeds BIM, being tied to data analytics, Augmented Reality, additive manufacturing or 3D printing, and “ambient intelligence”.

    Therefore, BIM clearly seems a bridging and temporary acronym, although it appears so pervasive.

    Likewise, BIM Level 2 means mainly the attempt to manage a transition, as conceived from an evolutionary point of view, while BIM Level 3 entails a transformational challenge, to be deployed over the long-term (until 2025, at least).

    Some interesting, high-performing and valuable metrics have been proposed and made available in order to measure the BIM maturity levels.

    Nonetheless, does it really make sense to try to measure the DBB Strategy?

    DBB might equate to the transformation of the “construction industry” into the “industry of the built environment”, renouncing the erection of boundaries, and aiming at widening the significance of the market.

    Consequently, apart from distinguishing betweeen L3 A, L3 B, L3C andL3 D, it is a very hard task to assess such a radical innovation.

    Moreover, the main question seems to be: will the Industry be willing and able to bear or sustain such a change of paradigm in ten years?

    Obviously, the main assumption lies with the capability of building data analytics and data metrics into the traditional skills: it causes a difficult change in educational and training programmes (probably, it will force, on 2025-2030, a full generational replacement).

    However, the transformation of the construction industry will undoubtedly force us to accept different players as newcomers and competitors (ICT companies, public utilities, etc.) following some innovative business models, close to social networking as collaborative working.

    How visionary or unrealistic might such an option be?

    It is a hard question to be answered: it depends on how the conventional players and stakeholders would be able to change their roles, identities and responsibilities in order to be more reliable and attractive in front of the policy-makers and share-holders.

    Although Information Management and Modelling has been adopted because of the prospect of cuts in public expenditure, the ultimate goals will be different.

    Operational clientship might become the main game changer because the contractual frameworks will be more and more focused on operations, involving relational, flexible and dynamic contractual clauses to be based on simulated conditions, to be viable by means of “gamification.”

    It will take a long-lasting time span, of course.

    Nevertheless, it implies that, within the internet of buildings, grids and infrastructures, client- and user-centrisms have to be coupled as key drivers: and general construction and civil engineering would be increasingly become “servitised” markets selling data services.

  2. IoB!

    Great concept to be developed.

    Thanks Angelo.

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