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BIM Digital Plan of Work bidders wait for news

15 April 2014 | By Elaine Knutt

Industry organisations bidding to devise the Digital Plan of Work that will give the industry a vital template on how to manage Level 2 BIM are due to shortly hear whether their proposals will be funded by the Technology Strategy Board. 

The TSB is running a £1.5m procurement exercise on behalf of the government’s BIM Task Group to find a project team that will put together a free-to-use system for managing the flow of design and construction information via BIM.

The tool is scheduled to be completed by spring 2015, giving the industry a year to trial it on live projects before the government’s BIM mandate take effect.

Mark Wray, lead technologist in the Low Impact Buildings group at the Technology Strategy Board, told CM: “The BIM Task Group has established the skeleton framework of BIM, but we’re interested in some of the flesh and muscles that make it work. Under the Small Business Research Initiative we’re running a competition to create a digital tool for BIM, in effect we’re procuring a service on behalf of government.

The BIM Task Group has established the skeleton framework of BIM, but we’re interested in some of the flesh and muscles that make it work.– Mark Wray, Technology Strategy Board

“The digital Plan of Work could be a suite of documents accessed electronically, or it could be an ‘app’, or a mixture of both,” Wray added. But he stressed that the final product would go further than simply updating existing plans of work for the data-sharing age, describing it as “game-changing”.

Wray said that the TSB would be awarding Phase 1 feasibility grants of £50,000 to up to 10 bidding teams to develop their ideas by the end of April. “They’ll work up the detail of how they’ll deliver the overall contract, then there’ll be a single award for Phase Two, which is a contract for up to £1m to deliver the tool. The applicants can elect to work together or independently. 

“They’ll undertake an eight-week feasibility study from mid-May to mid-July. We’ll then assess their proposals for the £1m contract, and then the winning team will have six months to develop and deliver the tool [starting in October].”

Wray said that some of the applications were “very strong” and that the organisation was confident that there would be suitable, innovative and novel proposals.

In a second BIM contest, the TSB is currently inviting applications for its Digitising the Construction Sector competition, which offers £6m in total to collaborative R&D teams made up of at least two companies or organisations. 

Teams from across Europe will be able to submit expressions of interest until 30 April, if they have registered by 23 April, with the TSB then inviting fuller applications from promising proposals.

Awards are expected to range in value from £200,000 to £2m. 

Wray said the preliminary workshops and events had thrown up a number of promising topics. “People are looking at how you digitise existing data, for example the survey data that building owners might have, or historic photos, or the vast amounts of geographical, environmental and ownership data that government holds. One team wants to look at how you rationalise two billion pieces of point cloud data, creating a tool to do that, and others are looking at the size and volume of BIM data we can expect in large projects – the days of gigabytes of information are long behind us.

“Then at the lower levels of the supply chain, how do smaller companies get their data into the [BIM] system and ensure it is in a common format, do we need a data ‘gateway’ for SMEs? It’s a very broad call [for proposals], we’re looking for anything that’s innovative, market-driven and needs a digital solution.”

The TSB’s work in BIM is part of its £30m-£50m overall investment in digital design and engineering under the Low Impact Building Programme, an £150m five-year programme. Wray said that more details of the TSB’s commitment to BIM would be revealed in a delivery plan for the LIBP, due in the summer.

“With a 2016 horizon, BIM is a pressing imperative. We’ll look and see what sort of things we have in store, but we can safely say, these two competitions are the start of the process and we’re expecting to do more over the next five years,” he said. “We’re also happy to talk with businesses to identify their process needs and help shape future competitions and calls.”