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Stewardship of BIM Level 2 in question as Task Group faces end to funding

20 May 2014 | By Elaine Knutt

Funding for the government’s BIM Task Group is expected to run out in March 2015, a year before the BIM mandate takes effect across government departments in April 2016.

David Philp FCIOB, head of BIM at the government’s BIM Task Group, has stressed to CM that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – which holds the purse strings for the BIM Task Group – had not yet made a final decision on when funding will cease or if it will be continued beyond its current allocation.

But he acknowledged that discussions on building “legacy” arrangements to follow on from the Task Group were underway. Philp told CM: “No decision has been made or any date fixed on disbanding the Task Group, but sustainable options on guiding BIM beyond the lifespan of the Task Group are being explored.”

And Philp also stressed that the government's BIM mandate, and support for achieving it, were still firmly in place. “The important point is that the trans-governmental commitment to achieving level 2 BIM remains as strong as ever.”

Asked what the Task Group's “legacy” might look like, he said: “Government Soft Landings already has a strong stewardship group [in Whitehall] so some of the legacy provision has started already.”

No decision has been made or any date fixed on disbanding the Task Group, but sustainable options on guiding BIM beyond the lifespan of the Task Group are being explored.– David Philp, BIM Task Group

The government’s BIM Task Group, chaired by Mark Bew, is a group of industry consultants and Whitehall civil servants who have been championing and guiding the take-up of BIM in Whitehall and across the industry. The Task Group recently appointed Terry Stocks, formerly head of project delivery at the Ministry of Justice, as head of the Level 2 roll-out in Whitehall.

It is understood that funding for the team is only guaranteed by BIS until March 2015, with new initiatives from the Task Group likely to cease well before that date. CM has asked BIS to clarify the situation. 

The possibility that the BIM Task Group will be disbanded early next year raises uncertainty over the future stewardship of Level 2 BIM in government and beyond, and sparked fears that a loss of leadership could erode the UK's competitive advantage in BIM.

Richard Saxon, a member of the BIM Task Group in 2012-13 and currently the Construction Industry Council’s Innovation Champion, said: “There’s an argument that all departments are due to have a BIM champion by the end of this year, who will be capable of guiding them through BIM adoption. That seems to be the plan – but you can debate whether that’s likely to be sufficient.”

“There’s a question of whether the industry can run this itself. Building SMART and the BRE underlies the intellectual programme, but it also requires customer pull. 

Saxon felt that the step-change from today’s capabilities to 2015/16 would be extremely challenging. “At the moment, it's estimated that £1bn of central government work is currently using level 2 BIM, but the approximate annual central government spend is £20bn – so everything needs to be stepped up quite soon.

“And we haven’t yet finished Level 2 BIM – the Digital Plan of Work is only due to be written by spring 2015, but some people think that’s very optimistic in terms of timing. The clock on that will run well into 2015 – and that's after the Task Group will no longer be there.”

Although funding to extend the Task Group’s life could yet be agreed, Saxon feared a loss of momentum around the General Election. “It might seem to some people that the targets have been hit, and we don't need to fund that any more.”

“Then there’s the Level 3 question and the international leadership the UK has been providing because people like Mark Bew have been there to oversee it. There are lots of questions to be answered, and we need to have a debate about it.”

But other organisations are more optimistic about 'legacy' options. At the CIOB, head of policy Eddie Tuttle points to the new C8 grouping of eight professional institutes within the sector, which has just received funding to progress its plans for the Level 2 BIM Digital Plan of Work, as a possible inheritor of some of the Task Group's functions.