20th January Journal Column

By Stephen Hamil, Director of Research and Innovation at NBS

The Government’s April 2016 Building Information Model (BIM) mandate has been and gone –and now nine months on, we’re all wondering how well BIM Level 2 is working in practice and if it was really worth it. Well, looking at what the UK has achieved since then and how we’re now viewed in an international arena against how much it cost us to do, then yes, I’d have to say it was worth it.

At NBS we are always working with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy, and if you compare the cost of BIM investment, to the contribution the industry makes to the UK economy, it’s not very large at all.

Funding spent on running the BIM Task Group for five years, developing standards and investing in technology through Innovate UK has returned a set of standards and tools that define a standard process focused around digital information exchanges. Without the BIM Level 2 mandate, this process would be much longer with fewer decisions being made. A project team would come together, made up of many organisations, and they would either (a) start without agreeing responsibilities and the process or (b) spend unnecessary time discussing what process to follow, potentially having to learn a new process for each new project – equalling a lot of wasted time, time that most projects just don’t have.

But there is of course, more work to be done. The launch of Digital Built Britain at last year’s Institute of Civil Engineers BIM Conference announced support for BIM Level 2 adoption. UK and International guidance will eventually be published on the official British Standards Institution website and in addition, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service have been appointed to establish a certification scheme for Level 2 BIM – all examples of more support for the industry to make this a success.

The Digital Built Britain strategy looks towards putting the foundations in for a ‘Level 3’ world which will see BIM and ‘smart cities’ coming together. A big part of the ‘smart cities’ idea is the internet of things. Learning from our built environment will help us to maintain it better and also design new assets better. Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity was doing the same thing again and again and expecting better results. We need to implement a ‘feedback loop’ so that actual performance of an asset feeds back into the process of the designing and constructing the next asset.

Digital is the key enabler to allow us to build a more sustainable built environment and deliver on our climate change targets. Unless it is possible to make informed decisions based around performance, it is not possible to deliver fully on sustainability.

The UK industry has made great strides forward with BIM Level 2 – this way of working must now be embedded into the majority of projects across the country and continue evolving in the future to build on the position that the UK finds itself in as a world leader in digital construction.