Housing Needs Level 3 to succeed in the BIM revolution

Housing may have to wait until Level 3 arrives to fully take advantage of BIM, says Nigel Walley, founder of proptech start-up Chimni.

The house building community is having numerous difficulties with the adoption of BIM that were exposed in the findings of the BIM4Housing group workshops held around the country.

We broke down the challenges house builders faced in each of the key development phases: concept design, detail design, and construction. Each posed problems, particularly for small and medium size builders.

However, the biggest challenge we flagged up was in the fourth phase – operations and maintenance. House builders told us that there is currently almost no BIM user case at this stage in most housing developments and this therefore removed a significant push to adoption.

We made the case that in a small number of “structured” housing sectors, such as social housing, there are FM models emerging that can use BIM output. Many of the current commercial initiatives to integrate BIM output into FM models and software will eventually be applicable to residential apps targeted at the social or managed housing sectors.

However, the wider housing culture, and particularly the new “homebuild for sale” market has yet to address this potential source of benefits. 

The industry has to recognise the context is changing. The process of owning and managing new homes is increasingly being digitised. While only a small number of new homes are being built using BIM models full of useful, digital information, other aspects of home management are leaping ahead into the digital world. 

As the traditional “handover pack” is being digitised, homeowners are increasingly dealing with utilities and other service providers who are driving an online relationship. No one foresees a time when we will be handing BIM models over to new homeowners, but there may be ways that BIM data can be used to create new products and services that support the homeowner in this increasingly digital market.

This is consistent with the industry’s vision for the next iteration of the BIM revolution, BIM Level 3, or ”iBIM” as it is sometimes called. This will be the point where BIM adoption in housing leaps ahead.

The Chimni project is the first in the market to look at how to deliver useful consumer outcomes using BIM data. Our starting point is not the BIM model or its data. Our first focus is on consumer behaviour. We have looked at the needs and interests of the homeowner through the complete lifecycle of buying, maintaining, developing and then selling a home.

We then constructed a potential service vision around each of these stages, looking at how we could use data to revolutionise the way a homeowner managed their home. Only then did we ask the question: where can BIM data help us deliver this?

The challenge we are facing in BIM Level 2 is that the industry has yet to establish a culture of open and free flowing data sets necessary for the iBIM revolution to take place. It will come, but we are only in the first stages of establishing how data could and should be formatted, packaged, and distributed freely around the industry.

Beyond the new homes market, there is a strong argument to say that the retro-fit and refurbishment of existing homes will also benefit from the BIM revolution if we can get the services model correct.

The BIM object data now being created by manufacturers of products and systems used in retro-fit can also be brought into this new consumer-friendly iBIM world. Products like central heating, and home security, where significant amounts of user instruction data, maintenance scheduling and remote diagnostics data is will be created are perfect for this new world.

This data being created in this first generation of BIM objects is currently targeted at new build contractors, but it has huge potential if it evolves through BIM Level 3 to support consumer services and apps.

To get there, we need manufacturers of property tech and IoT devices to work closer with the industry bodies pushing the development of BIM in the housing industry. We need both industries to work together in the process of creating data formats configured to support consumer apps and services for retro-fit equipment.

This is not futurology – any homeowner with a British Gas Hive, or Google Nest attached to their central heating has already made a leap in this direction. It is now time to bring BIM into the consumer services industry.

It’s likely that the initial areas where BIM and proptech can collaborate will be in areas around data for performance and maintenance. It is likely that there are areas of potential collaboration that are hard to define at this stage.

However, to manage for this in the long term, both industries will need to develop a shared vision for how people will expect to manage their homes in the future and the data they will require to do that. For the BIM industry to play its part in this, may require Level 3 capability to be embedded in the house building industry first.

Image: Keith Wheatley/

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  1. Nigel’s comments on the lack of homeowner operations use cases is spot on. This is one of the main reasons why I have developed my own home to BIM Level 2 on my blog “There’s No BIM Like Home”

    There is SO much value that can be gained from a ‘digital homeowners pack’. In fact, Nigel’s comments about retrofit are exactly how I am using my home model.

    A big gap I can see now is how to get my IoT devices to connect to my model; surely my Nest Thermostat wants my room volume information? Let’s hope that Nigel and Chimini can help get us there.

  2. Level 3 BIM is not F&M data/iBIM. Is there some confusion even here? Level 3 is the single building concept – the single shared model, many years from being adopted.

    This is the UK definition & one we should be sticking to in a UK centric publication. There is too much confusion out there for people just beginning to understand BIM without clouding the issue further.

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