News

BIM software should offer compliance checks

24 January 2014

The BIM design software used by the industry in 2016 should offer compliance checking for Building Regulations, health and safety, fire safety and planning requirements as standard, according to the chair of the BIM4Regs group. 

Peter Caplehorn, technical director of architect Scott Brownrigg, was setting out his ambitions for the four working groups in the BIM4Regs programme. The four groups held a workshop last week, and are shortly to hear presentations from the main BIM software vendors on progress so far. 

Caplehorn told CM: “In my way of looking at it, a clear indication of the inter-operability and collaboration we’re aiming for in Level 2 BIM is that it should embrace a significant proportion of regulation checking. That’s the goal I’ve set as chairman of the group, although it’s not official policy yet.

"In my way of looking at it, a clear indication of the inter-operability and collaboration we're aiming for in Level 2 BIM is that it should embrace a significant proportion of regulation checking. That's the goal I've set as chairman of the group."

Peter Caplehorn, Scott Brownrigg

“We’re currently building a picture of what is possible, and then we can start to map out what the software providers will have to do to step up to the plate.”

As Caplehorn described, many aspects of Building Regulations and other regulation-driven design criteria are rule-based and therefore capable of being translated into checking software. Others, however, such as compliance with disabled access rules, are more opinion-based and harder to integrate into an automated checking process.

One software collaboration that is presenting its work to BIM4Regs will be a project that automatically checks BIM design models for compliance with Part B on fire safety. It is being is being progressed by software company Solibri and NBS, part of RIBA Enterprises.

The project examined how data and software available on the market today could be adapted to produce a model-checking software tool for Part B. The team worked with a BIM model where all products and systems, such as fire doors and window, were linked to specification data in the NBS Create system. The data itself is drawn from the National BIM Library of manufacturers’ BIM objects.

The model was then exported into software-neutral IFC formats, and then imported into the Solibiri model checking sofware.  

Richard Watson, project sponsor at NBS, said: “Only a proportion of the rules [in the Building Regulations] can be checked, some are down to judgement, or are too difficult to codify. But it’s an early proof of concept – we wanted to test our methodology using existing tools.”

Watson said that NBS is currently working to identify the scale of demand for a commercial version of the checking software, which would be available as an add-on for Solibri customers. This could be used either by design teams, or by building control teams.

The NBS/Solibri project draws on earlier work at Northumbria University funded by NBS, and Peter Caplehorn said that several other academic-industry partnerships were also working in this area of the BIM field, including projects at the universities of Bristol and Loughborough. “There’s a lot of academic interest in this field, they see it as something that’s of the moment and where there’s quite a bit of demand.”

He concluded: “The software won’t be able to do everything – that’s Utopian – but it can do an enormous amount which then frees people up to achieve better results in the design, takes risk out of the process and helps make sure we end up with the building that we were supposed to get.”