The Meadows regeneration project, Nottingham

  • Client: Nottingham City Homes
  • Lead Contractor: Arcus Consulting
  • BIM Tools: ArchiCAD

Nottingham City Homes has embarked on the road less travelled, becoming a pioneer for the adoption of the Level 2 BIM in the social housing sector. It’s also taking an innovative “double blind” approach, by running its pilot BIM 52-home project alongside a similar-sized “control” project that is due to be designed and built conventionally.

The decision to get to grips with BIM originated with architect and framework consultant Arcus Consulting, which won the design commission for both projects. It wanted to move from being a “lonely BIM-er” to full contractually-embedded Level 2 BIM. Nottingham City Homes decided it was up for the challenge of running a PAS 1192:2 compliant project, even sending its project manager on a BIM course on what they should expect. 

But after Arcus and NCH contacted the Homes and Communities Agency for guidance, it found that the HCA in fact wanted to learn from their experience. “We are kind of isolated, we’d hoped others would share our experience, but we’re still on our own to some extent, when it comes to delivering projects at level 2,” says Bobby Chakravarthy, associate partner at Arcus. But the HCA, which is not mandating BIM for projects it funds but is promoting the benefits of BIM to the sector, will be closely monitoring progress of the scheme. 

Arcus was already experienced in 3D design, so designing the scheme in ArchiCAD was straightforward. The design is described as “traditional”: the team wanted to test BIM and Level 2, not construction methodologies. However, drawing up the contractual documents was a tougher challenge.

“There was nothing for us to reference back to, we had to pretty much write the tender documents – specifying exactly what the selected contractor is expected to do and when – from scratch,” says Chakravarthy.

Arcus also facilitated internal workshops with the NCH teams on setting up the BIM systems, for instance establishing what the process would look like at the end of each RIBA stage. “PAS 1192:2 is quite prescriptive, it wants to standardise how the industry needs to work. BIM is a progressive thing – the more you do, the better you get. But it has been challenging because of the lack of previous examples or references. But setting up the systems was critical as it will provide a template for the delivery of the future projects.”

NCH procures work via the Efficiency East Midlands framework, and it held an open day in July to explore how comfortable its seven new-build framework contractors were with BIM. The response – from contractors Geda Construction, Kier Partnership Homes, Robert Woodhead, Wates Construction, William Davis, Frank Haslam Milan and Westleigh Developments – was encouraging. “They all seemed up for it and most of them want to do it – it’s just that no one has asked them to do it,” says Chakravarthy.

The design and build contracts for both the BIM project and the 56-home control project will be awarded to the same contractor. “We wanted to be clear on the benefits of BIM, and by comparing with a traditionally procured project would highlight the benefits or otherwise clearly.” The project is scheduled to start on site early in 2015.

NCH is apparently already convinced, and has embarked on its second Level 2 BIM project. “The client has already seen a lot of the benefits – it helped in the planning and the [stakeholder] communication process immensely. And once the tender bids are returned, we’ll see if there is a cost benefit as well. The positive side of it is that the client will get fully developed house types and models which are full of information and relevant data compared to just getting the drawings. For a long-term asset holder like NCH, this will only future proof the asset,” Chakravarthy concludes. 

There was nothing for us to reference back to, we had to pretty much write the tender documents – specifying exactly what the selected contractor is expected to do and when – from scratch.– Bobby Chakravarthy, associate partner, Arcus

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