Interview: Willmott Dixon’s Garry Fannon – Taking the lead on BIM learning

We realise that as a major contractor we have a responsibility to help the industry get up to speed with BIM, because if we don’t it won’t happen.– Garry Fannon, Willmott Dixon

Garry Fannon, head of BIM at Willmott Dixon, on new software packages designed to assess BIM project deliverables and supply chain capability, and working with clients to manage their demands for asset information.

What are Willmott Dixon’s key BIM objectives over the next five years?

Initially we wanted to focus on the softer side of BIM, rather than the technology side, and based on my discussions with senior employees about what they want out of BIM we set up a goal to embed a BIM process within the business to stimulate innovation, create efficiencies, improve profitability and ensure we are leading edge within construction.

From there we established five key objectives that are now being embedded into the business: to develop BIM knowledge and knowhow; develop people skills to deliver BIM projects; create efficiencies in what we do; use BIM to improve the way we deliver; and make sure our business is BIM ready and capable.

How is the Level 2 BIM mandate embedded into that process?

We have decided to take a march on the mandate with our major Scape framework, and committed to deliver BIM on 100% of projects from 1 July. That really puts us in a position to make sure we are ahead of the mandate, especially as the framework covers three of our key businesses: construction, housing and interiors.

We have some key targets associated with that. This year we want 100% of projects delivering BIM Level 1; moving into 2016 it will be 50% Level 1, 50% Level 2; and by 2017 it will 90% Level 2 and 10% Level 1.

Outside of Scape, as the government work comes through we will be guided by what public clients want. Committing now in the Scape framework exposes our wider businesses, staff and supply chain to what’s required a lot earlier.

Is BIM saving time or money on projects?

We have created a new software platform, called Mi Project, to measure all KPIs under Scape and give clients transparency on our contractual obligations. This month we updated it to capture and statistically measure BIM deliverables across all our BIM projects and non-BIM projects to compare their relative time, cost, reduced risk, cost certainty, quality and trends in reduced defects etc. We are now waiting to see what trends emerge.

Which is your most pioneering BIM project?

Phase two of Birmingham City University’s Parkside Building (pictured above) is very pioneering for us, we are using BIM 360 Field and the model is being used during construction as a site management tool. Other innovations include Laser Point Scan Verification, where the as-built model will be verified by clashing it with a laser scan of the actual building.

What are the key challenges the industry faces on BIM?

Educating people, clients and the supply chain. There’s still a big grey area on what peoples’ responsibilities and roles are for BIM, and more needs to be done to break down the silos people currently work in to become more collaborative and so enable BIM to work more successfully. We fundamentally need to reform the way we design, procure, construct and manage our assets to come anywhere near the targets set out in the Construction Strategy 2025.

What is Willmott Dixon doing to improve supply chain expertise?

We realise that as a major contractor we have a responsibility to help the industry get up to speed with BIM, because if we don’t it won’t happen. We have just launched a bespoke suite of five free e-learning modules for our people, clients and supply chain partners, called Mi Learning, designed to address the government learning outcomes.

BIM 360 Field has been used on phase two of Birmingham City University’s Parkside Building

After completing the five modules, people answer 25 questions designed to assess their competence in the five areas of BIM: managerial, functional, operational, technical and implementation. The great thing is people in different roles or firms can see how their own BIM performance score measures up against others in the same role and where they sit in the industry. It also helps people identify which areas need further improvement.

In addition, the data generated enables us to instantly measure the capability of our supply chain and clients and see where they sit within the industry as a whole. The plan is to get people to run the assessment again in nine months and hopefully we will see trends of knowledge improving.

Which firms are the weak links on projects at present?

There is a large area where our supply chain can’t deliver and we have overcommitted to deliver information to clients where the supply chain can’t deliver it. Part of our plan is to deliver tailored information, which the client can still use to run their asset and FM software.

We’re going down the less is more route because the current volume of information being delivered to clients will never be used and is a drain on our resources. Clients often don’t know what they want so their default response it “give me everything”, but that doesn’t work for us.

To fix that problem, we are sitting down with clients and writing Asset Information Requirements and Employer’s Information Requirements with them so we tailor our approach and have a clear brief with a clear set of deliverables. For example, we might ask, what is the value of having a balustrade modelled in BIM? If there is no value to help manage your asset, why do it? Based on those documents, we can test our supply chain on what they can and can’t deliver. The idea is to create templates we can use as standard going forward.

Do you have trouble finding BIM-literate staff in the current climate?

No, there are plenty of BIM-literate professionals on the market. We are currently developing BIM managers and information managers using a mix of our own staff and people from the marketplace. At present, every Willmott Dixon local company office has a BIM team, construction has five LCOs, housing three and interiors one.

Each BIM team is headed up by a director and a BIM manager who lead a team of several information managers who focus on technical aspects. All our BIM teams have written BIM plans covering how to implement project, train staff, and sell our capabilities to clients.

What are your biggest hopes for BIM?

People need to see the tangible benefits of BIM for them, and see an improvement in their work/life balance. I’ve spoken to site managers who have started using software like ViewPoint or BIM 360 and seen a huge personal advantage in terms of making their work smarter and more efficient. When people get BIM, they like it.

In addition, to hit the Construction 2025 targets we must be moving towards manufacturing, so it is us manufacturing a better, smarter, faster product in a safer environment. We should educate clients more to invest more in management of the asset, because that is where their return on investment is. This should make it easier for us to deliver information at the front end to make it happen.

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  1. Really good article and sensible approach to managing client expectations and content.

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