Advancing towards the BIM objective

BIM, building information modelling, NBS
Progress towards the BIM ideal — Ian Chapman.

While it is true that there is some way to go to get to the point where BIM is delivering all of its intended benefits, giant strides are being made, and there are reasons to be cheerful. Ian Chapman of NBS looks at the progress that is being made.

I read Andy Sneyd’s article* on why BIM isn’t working yet with great interest and in a fair amount of agreement. At NBS we are working hard to help the Government and the industry develop robust systems, products and practices that will give the industry the BIM it needs. It is encouraging to read articles such as this that share the challenges and motivate industry to embrace the change that is needed.

At the heart of the issue is the construction industry — that behemoth that spans everything from domestic house extensions to the HS2 high-speed railway from London to the north of England.

Compared to other industries, the construction industry’s adoption of technology is relatively slow. This must change. We must industrialise the construction industry in order to create buildings that offer better value across their entire lifespan. Let’s stop building the way we have for centuries and build using modern methods that mean less waste, less risk and more predictable outcomes.

In addition, traditional procurement has historically been quite adversarial. Experience demonstrates that greater collaboration within project teams can make a huge difference to the success of a project, so let’s make this the norm rather than the exception. The motive for BIM, as set out in the Government’s construction strategy, is to develop and promote a more collaborative environment with the belief that the right culture of co-operation can yield some great results.

While it is true that there is some way to go to get to the point where BIM is delivering all of its intended benefits, giant strides are being made, and there are reasons to be cheerful.

One is the development of a digital toolkit that completes Level 2 BIM. Work on this free-to-use tool by an NBS-led team is well underway and it is due for launch in Spring 2015, allowing ample time for feedback and further development prior to the April 2016 deadline. Funded by a £1 million grant from Innovate UK on behalf of BIS and the UK BIM Task Group, the toolkit will be a pan-industry tool and will available freely to all those involved in construction projects.

Put simply, the project involves devising a standardised digital classification system and a digital plan-of-works tool. This will create a unified, single, classification system for use within construction and will provide an easy-to-use web portal that guides users through the construction process, defining who is doing what and when.

The classification system will be a new version of Uniclass that will be based on the international ISO/DIS 12006-2 framework. This will build on the work NBS has already carried out over recent years under commission from the Construction Project Information Committee (CPIC). By completing this classification system, the industry will have a unified structure that will provide mapping and guidance, so objects can be configured at a project level to have the correct multiple classifications where required.

BIM, building information modelling, NBS

Thousands of templates are being developed, setting out guidance for levels of detail (LOD) and levels of information (LOI) for construction objects. Initially these will be spaces, systems and products for architecture, building services, structural engineering, landscape design and civil engineering. The templates will be freely available online in both IFC and MS Excel format and will form the ‘construction language’ that all project teams can use to define their information exchanges for a particular stage of a project.

The digital plan of work will enable the project leader to clearly define the team, responsibilities and an information-delivery plan for each stage of a project, who, what and when — in terms of documents, geometry and property-sets.

NBS has also recently published the BIM object standard. Drawing on more than 40 years of developing structured information, we have written a standard that describes the minimum requirements for the creation of BIM objects for Level 2 BIM. Defining the minimum levels of information, geometry, behaviour and presentation for all BIM objects takes the UK forward and towards an environment where products can be easily integrated in the digital world to form high-quality project models.

We recognise that designers, contractors and product manufacturers will continue to author objects; by using this standard they can ensure that their objects can operate in a common data environment, removing one of the huge barriers to real collaborative working. The NBS BIM object standard offers assurance, efficiency, quality, compatibility and opens up opportunities for global trade.

Creating BIM objects to a known and recognised standard will undoubtedly result in greater use of the digital model during a building’s in-use phase. This will release the true benefits of BIM — better environments to live and work in, with a better understanding of what works well and where further improvements can be made.

Continuous improvement through BIM is within our grasp.

Ian Chapman is director of the National BIM Library at NBS.

*See second link below to view the Andy Sneyd's article

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