Chief construction adviser Paul Morrell speaks to the AJ about radical plans to make BIM compulsory for all public projects
When will the new BIM policy kick in?
There will be a phased rollout over five-years beginning next summer, with a view to getting all appropriate projects into a 3D collaborative environment by 2016. The Summary Action Plan attached to the Government Construction Strategy contains a detailed implementation plan for Building Information Modelling (BIM), which will be announced within the next few weeks.
Will it affect every sort of public project or will some be exempt?
There are no preconceptions about setting a limit in value or size below which the use of BIM is inappropriate. Although it will eventually be the industry’s normal way of doing business, the objective for the time being is to realise its value in public procurement. If the imposition of BIM has a negative effect, there will need to be a sensible approach to address that.
Will there be any initiatives to help business adapt to the new technology?
Whether and when to adopt BIM is an individual choice for every business, just as the decision to switch from drawing boards to computers, and then to increasingly sophisticated CAD applications was.
It does, however, demand certain things of clients. For instance, how they communicate their requirements. Clients also have certain specific demands from BIM, principally the receipt of a full package of information at handover that gives them what they need to manage the building.
So while the government, as a sponsor of the industry, has a real interest in the potential of BIM to organise processes and encourage an integrated structure, it also needs to be clear about what its own requirements are by way of information issued at each stage of the work.
The principal way in which the government can help the industry adapt is to be clear about what its own future requirements will be, and to phase them into a pre-published programme so that practices have both the time and the confidence to investment in systems, processes and training. The government will help to develop protocols with the potential for widespread adoption without inhibiting innovation or the freedom of suppliers to make their own decisions about the systems they use.
Are you concerned that some architects might not be able to afford the new technology?
I would be far more worried about the cost to practices that do not adopt BIM. Every study conducted shows that there is a rapid return on investment in BIM. I’m sure there will be niche practices that can stay out of the swim, and of course genius can always write its own rules, but any practice that can’t operate in this environment will quickly feel as disconnected as one without email.
How will the change affect the way architects work?
Over time, BIM will have an effect on business models that we can currently only glimpse. The biggest challenge will not be getting to grips with new technology, but in learning how to work these new relationships. It makes no sense for designers to work in three dimensions and then suppress what was learned and hand on a 2D representation, also missing the opportunity to load the model with much other valuable information.
Nor does it make sense for a builder to know how to construct in three dimensions, and then not pass that on some of that knowledge to the owner who will have to manage the asset. Integration therefore lies at the core of this proposition. This means working without the barriers that currently exist between design and the management of construction, and between the management of construction and its execution, and between the design and construction of a building and its management as a productive facility.
Any other thoughts on the subject?
BIM’s potential to transform the industry is, fundamentally, not about technology.
Undeniably, however, technology is a tool that enables skills, systems and process to be combined and that moves a project from inception to occupation and use. One definition of the term could be ‘the intelligent use of digital data to design, construct, manage and use a built facility’. We have now got to the point at which we regard any data that isn’t digital as lost, on the grounds that sooner or later it will be.
‘We’re encouraged by Paul Morrell’s call for the whole spectrum of the profession to adopt BIM. The proposal will be a catalyst for the industry to finally adopt collaborative working after decades of dysfunction. However, the return on investment will only be achieved by robust and structured implementation and there is a shortage of independent advice and support in this area.
There is also currently a dearth of industry-based evidence of the benefits of BIM in the UK and without this, the sceptics are going to take longer to convince.’
- Peter Barker, operations director of the BIM Academy, a joint venture between Ryder Architecture and Northumbria University
Paul Morrell: BIM to be rolled out to all projects by 2016