Analysis

Housing associations’ BIM queries answered

Image: 358240 © Joseph Gough | Dreamstime.com
Following the launch of its BIM toolkit, BIM for Housing Associations digs deeper into housing associations’ worries.

BIM for Housing Associations (BIM4HAs) has answered housing associations’ queries and concerns about BIM following the launch of its toolkit last month.

More than 50 housing associations attended the virtual launch, and the toolkit has been downloaded more than 300 times.

BIM4HAs chair Jack Ostrofsky revealed there were some common misconceptions and concerns about BIM and its adoption, for example that BIM is about 3D models. “The use of 3D modelling is a means to achieving some of the information milestones and it isn’t always necessary,” he said.

Another common concern was the issue of embedding BIM principles into asset management. Ostrofsky said: “Little of the software commonly used in the sector makes the use of BIM information simple for business-as-usual activities. So having a clear view of how BIM information could be used in the business from helps configure data to suit asset management systems.”

‘No one will have a complete set of data for existing buildings, and setting out a strategy for the data to grow and evolve over time will be important.’

Gary Bellenger, BIM4HAs

Asked about the top three priorities for organisations starting their BIM journey, particularly in respect of existing buildings, BIM4HAs vice chair Gary Bellenger said: “First, set out what your business wants to achieve by implementing BIM. Will your BIM strategy and implementation programme be focused solely on building safety and compliance, or will it extend to broader asset or building management objectives?

“Are construction tangibles like time, cost or quality the only key goals, or is collaboration important? Understanding what success looks like for your business will enable the implementation to be focused on delivering whatever success is for you and avoiding scope creep.

“Second, for existing buildings, understanding your data is vital. Focusing early on what data you have, what provenance the data has, and how useful it will be to you will help you focus when building data models. Understand what data systems you have and who can access them. How do you give the right people access at the right time?

“Harvesting the data from multiple existing systems and sources to begin populating the COBie format will give a good view of data gaps and where to focus attention going forward. No one will have a complete set of data for existing buildings, and setting out a strategy for the data to grow and evolve over time will be important.

“Third, onboarding people within the business, which is particularly relevant for existing buildings. To deliver ongoing benefits, BIM will need to become embedded in business as usual and will need buy-in from many internal and external stakeholders throughout.”

Incomplete data ‘a certainty’

Asked about the handling of uncertainty based on incomplete building documentation when creating a building safety case for existing buildings, Ostrofsky said: “Incomplete data for existing buildings is a certainty. No one will have a complete set of data for existing buildings and setting out a strategy for the data to grow and evolve over time will be important. Understand what you have and what you need to capture, and until you capture that, how you manage any risks from those gaps.

“Harvesting the data from multiple existing systems into COBie will give a good view of data gaps and where to focus attention going forward. The key is understanding what data is most important for your particular goals and then focusing on these over others. With good data strategies linked to harvesting information off the back of business-as-usual activities as well as targeted collection, uncertainty over incomplete data should reduce over time.”

BIM4HAs project manager Su Butcher noted that in drafting the toolkit the team had learned that asset managers in different housing associations commonly organise their data in different ways. “They do tend to use similar names for things, but these are often different to the standard construction industry names. This is why mapping of terms has been so important for our project thus far.

‘There is still a piece of work to be done in educating housing associations on what information within their organisations needs capturing, and what BIM-enabling tools are available to help do this.’

Sue Butcher, BIM4HAs

“There is still a piece of work to be done in educating housing associations on what information within their organisations needs capturing, and what BIM-enabling tools are available to help do this.”

Further acknowledging the issue of data structures in asset management systems, BIM4HAs is planning to develop an Asset Information Model as part of the next stage of the project.

Asked about skills gaps relating to information management within housing associations, Ostrofsky said: “Each organisation will need to evaluate their current skillset and identify which skills are lacking and make decisions about recruitment or consultancy based on their own needs.”

Evolution of the toolkit

Now that version one of the toolkit has been launched, the BIM4HAs team is looking at three areas: engaging with fellow housing associations to help them make use of the toolkit; improving the toolkit’s current contents; and adding elements for a new iteration. 

During the launch webinar, there were several questions about whether the toolkit v2.0 might address civils features, and involve the fire services and local building control services. These matters are being considered, but at present the team is planning to:

  • continue to working in partnership with the UK BIM Alliance to further enhance alignment of the toolkit with the evolving National BIM Framework;
  • develop an Asset Information Model using the learnings of the first stage of the project;
  • look at other ways in which learnings from v1.0 of the BIM4HAs toolkit can be built upon and into other tools.

BIM4HAs plans to hold a series of onboarding workshops for housing associations, their asset managers and development managers in the coming months.

Housing associations seeking more information can join the BIM4HAs forum via www.housing.org.uk/BIM4HAs

Furthermore, there will a webinar on 15 September, jointly hosted by ThinkBIM and BIM4HAs, focusing on the toolkit and the lessons learned so far.

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