It’s being able to swim that is important, not owning trunks

Swimming, and BIMing, certification should be based on competency says Casey Rutland, associate director ‪at architect Arup Associates.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while now based upon the new BIM “certification” schemes that have been popping up in the UK and beyond.

Let me begin with an anecdote: I recently found a folder full of certificates from my childhood, inside was my first “official” certificate – my Bronze Swimming Certificate. I remember being quite proud, I had something to show people to prove that I could swim.

The current requirements for this certificate are:

  • To jump into water of at least full reach depth;
  • To swim 10 metres, followed by a surface-dive into water of at least full reach depth and under-water swim for a distance of five metres;

  • To tread water in a vertical position for three minutes;

  • To scull head-first on the back for 15 metres with the feet at, or near, the surface throughout.

I’m sure that these are more stringent requirements than when I gained my certificate and I’m also pretty sure there were pyjamas and a weighted sponge brick involved but the process is the same. The task is set, you demonstrate that you can do it and you receive a “pass” mark. If you pass all tasks then you receive a certificate.

What I’d like to see is a similar approach to a common BIM issue – competency. To my knowledge (and as usual, I’d love to be proven wrong) none of the current BIM Level 2 certification schemes do this. What they do is prove that you have the systems in place to be “able” to deliver within a BIM Level 2 process.

Relating that to my swimming certificate, it’s akin to saying: “I own swimming shorts & PJs, I know where the pool is and what a sponge brick looks like…”

But that’s not actually swimming is it?

Whether I’m swimming or BIMing, I’d be more comfortable knowing the people I’m doing it with are actually capable.

So how about a series of certifications proving competency rather than one grand, over-arching one that tries to do everything but in reality does nothing? It will take time to define the requirements of each and yes, they may change but I do genuinely see the need to prove competency at a meaningful level.

I guess in the meantime we’re going to have to go through the “certification” process purely to save time and money when completing PQQ responses…

This piece was originally published on Rutland’s highly informative blog the Case for BIM.

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  1. BIM certification appears to be a bit of a racket… Beyond the policy documents the implementation at the work face is in a state of flux and will remain so until the market matures, until which time…today’s training certificate will continue to be tomorrow’s chip wrapper.

  2. It may be more of a valuable process than originally thought Casey. I’ll be writing an article for BIM+ giving my take from going through the business certification with colleagues.

  3. It is the same gambit that is being played out in many other spheres, it is too onerous to actually have people prove they can do something, they just need to attend a course, tick some boxes and then they are deemed worthy. We need to change our value system to recognise real skills and not just paper skills. It is the same argument that is around with respect to organisations that claim to do BIM because they have software that says it is BIM. Or the builder who has the certificates from attending courses but has never built anything vs an established business with competent persons but who is 10% more expensive. Most choose the cheaper option but it is not necessarily the best option.

  4. I agree with JG, what I am seeing is the requirement for firms to meet certification standards in order to be accepted as part of development teams. By merely supplying a copy of the certificate, applicants are exempt from having to complete long and exhaustive questionnaires. The questionnaires however simply regurgitate all the BIM standards content that is floating around the industry. No-one has bothered to take the time to actually ask the right questions.

    With regards to certification, we are finding that part of the certification requires the office to have a BIM Manager. This in itself is a significant investment.

    If the office does have a BIM Manager, then the certification requires the BIM Managers to be certified themselves. The cost of being fully certified is STUPENDIOUSLY large!. So large, it shock you. I am talking thousands of pounds.

    The fact that some BIM Managers actually have over a decade of coal-face experience using BIM processes is not accepted by the certification process.


    This is not acceptable. This is not what BIM is about.

  5. Nice opinion piece Casey. Thanks.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but BIM Certification, aside from being a nice shiny badge, simply allows you to skip PAS91 BIM PQQ questions. Why bother?

    Do the leg work you’d have to do anyway, answer the PQQ questions, then just send in the responses with your bids. Same result. Cost £0.

  6. I’m confused, so where does swimming fit into BIM? If the so called BIM experts are going to expect everyone in construction to be strong swimmers they will be disappointed. Not many guys I know like water, let alone swim in it.

  7. I think certification and assessments do have a place when it comes to BIM but I would like to see an underlying framework backed by Institutions, Academia and Industry.

    This framework needs to be accredited to UKAS itself to give it some form of credible backing, and it needs to be regulated by industry for industry.

    At the moment it is like the wild west when it comes to this so called certification and we need a new sheriff in town.

    Think it is time for change and hopefully the new UK BIM Alliance backed by both the BIM4’s and BIM Regions can break down the silo’s.

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