New BIM standard removes barriers, but education is key to adoption

‘Adopting standards ensures that contractors, consultants and lead designers can offer their clients consistency in delivery approach and, with that consistency, a better designed and delivered product.’ Stuart Bell

Stuart Bell outlines the opportunities the new international BIM standard brings for UK construction.

In the closing weeks of January 2019, the first two parts of a new international BIM standard were published. Providing the framework for managing information on collaborative projects, and forming part of ISO 19650, the frameworks cover areas including concepts, principles and asset delivery.

But although these new international standards are set to refine the construction industry’s approach to work, what kind of obstacles are in the way of their adoption? What traction will the standards have in an industry which is already falling behind in terms of the education and adoption of supporting processes and technology?

Undoubtedly, the UK’s current PAS 1192 suite has provided a solid framework for BIM Level 2 adoption in the UK. The UK is a trusted authority with more than three years’ experience working to the PAS 1192 and is recognised globally as being at the forefront of BIM.

The recently released standard, BS EN ISO 19650, is an evolution of the PAS 1192 suite, except the new standard can now be adopted internationally, providing a common term of reference for approaches to design, construction and building operations. During a period of Brexit uncertainty, does this new international standard provide further opportunity for UK Construction plc to export its skills and knowledge overseas?

The international opportunity

UK construction businesses that are working with or targeting overseas clients and project work should embrace the move towards the ISO. Given the maturity of UK BIM adoption to date, you could argue British companies are best placed to advise overseas clients and be the information management lead on projects.

A universally accepted industry “language” and “process approach” (that has evolved from the Level 2 standards) means less will be lost in translation and clients will gain the benefits of BIM delivery approaches faster.

What are the implications?

However, while the new ISO is set to refine building standards, some are concerned the changes will only cause further polarisation between the early adopters who fully embrace BIM and those that are still catching up, uncertain of the application and benefits of BIM to their businesses. It could be argued that large tier one consultants and contractors have stolen a march over SMEs in terms of BIM Level 2 adoption, being better placed to secure positions on public sector frameworks and having the available finances to invest in training and technology.

Inevitably, as the pace of technology innovation and evolution of standards accelerates and outstrips the pace of industry’s digital transformation, some businesses are at risk of being left behind. Evidence suggests that the worst adopters are businesses in the construction supply chain that are responsible for a significant proportion of the physical construction work. For this reason, if we want to deliver real transformational change, we must ensure all BIM (systems and technology) is accessible to all.

Education is the key

Understanding the business case for change, and educating companies on the benefits of process driven technology is now fundamental.

To increase adoption, continual education is the key to recognising the benefits of BIM and the wider change it will deliver to clients and the supply chain alike. BIM is not a technology or a solution – it is a holistic approach to collaborative working that drives benefits to all project participants.

It provides a standardised framework to monitor performance across a built asset’s entire lifecycle, from initial design, through construction to real-time operation. It ensures data is consistently captured, approved and retained to support better decision making at every stage of the capital phase as well as operational occupancy/asset use.

Thus, the benefits of this approach must be articulated with this in mind. BIM should not be viewed as another tax on the industry borne out of the maintenance of standards and regulatory controls – it is a real enabler for change for a marginal industry that has historically been slow to adapt and evolve.

Educating companies on the standards is equally as important as BIM itself. As a matter of course, clients want to access trusted, reliable and secure digital information regarding their physical assets. Adopting standards ensures that contractors, consultants and lead designers can offer their clients consistency in delivery approach and, with that consistency, a better designed and delivered product.

At the same time, those companies embracing the standards have an opportunity to develop competitive differentiation and better position themselves to win more work.

At a time where the industry is under enormous pressure to deliver projects to stringent affordability criteria, attain carbon targets and meet tight construction deadlines, solutions which drive increased efficiency and quality are a must. ISO 19650 is a more unified, transferable standard which will help companies adopt a straightforward approach to managing information on digital platforms and across international boundaries.

However, while the new standard provides a solid framework for improved project and asset information management, there needs to be continual education to encourage industry-wide BIM adoption from large tier one contractors and consultants down to regional trade contractors. In doing so, we will see a more significant step change in approach and delivered value.

Only then might the construction industry be viewed as progressive rather than polarised and primitive in terms of its technology adoption.

Stuart Bell is sales and marketing director at software developer and BIM specialist GroupBC


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