The Government aims to make BIM level 2 business as usual, which should be good news for construction teams, owners and FMs. Why are they so sceptical?
By Anne Kemp, Chair of the UK BIM Alliance
Now that the deadline for the mandate on building information modelling (BIM) for government projects is well and truly passed, it would be easy to forget the urgency. It’s true the early adopters, mostly architects, engineers, major contractors and some facility managers, are forging ahead in their use and understanding of the methods. But for most of those smaller companies unaffected by the government mandate– especially those such as construction teams, building owners and facilities managers working downstream of the design/build cycle - it’s easy to leave BIM on the back burner.
Or is it? Now, the government has asked for BIM Level 2 to become ‘business as usual’ across the entire industry by 2020. The Government Soft Landings (GSL) initiative makes it clear that FMs and others should be part of the whole BIM transformation. So how can we move BIM up the priority list again in order to meet this new deadline.
The first step is to challenge some widely-held assumptions. One of these is that only architects and structural engineers are interested in BIM. This is because there’s so much BIM talk that only they understand. Not because the rest aren’t smart enough, just that some of the arguments are just too specialised and deeply technical.
Each discipline also has its own issues to concern them. For example, FMs are facing a barrage of ‘prop tech’ issues to take up their time – not lease the huge impact of smart buildings and the Internet of Things. Most are still sceptical about COBie and there’s little evidence of take up at handover stage.
This is mostly because of a lack of engagement on the development of this exchange format – and other standards. These have been more or less imposed on the industry. So there needs to be more collaboration, less emphasis on the technical and complex and more on the value proposition, so those at this end of the process can understand why it’s worth their while.
Yet nobody is blameless. For example, it’s easy to suppose that BIM means investment in expensive software and training. But, it’s easy to take advantage of several free, downloadable viewers instead of investing in a full-blown 3D modelling solution.
It’s often easier to close down conversations by talking about costs and lack of budget, without considering long-term, silent costs. Take those of a poor handover. Unseen costs might include the time spent searching for documents such as supply chain warranties, creating databases from diverse analogue information including PDFs and CAD drawings and the subsequent long-term costs of lacking key information.
BIM has the potential to solve this poor handover problem because the information is accurate and reliable – and easy to navigate. It doesn’t involve examining the building itself, going above the ceiling, for example, for information; it’s all contained in the model. Data – such as manufacturers’ information can be linked to all the objects for use throughout the building lifecycle. If contractors are compliant and keep to BIM standards, then all the information is validated and verified.
But unless everyone is prepared to collaborate more closely, we’ll miss the opportunity to enable BIM to transform the industry for the better. This means the experts upstream translating the jargon and processes so everyone – including building owners – can easily understand.
The whole industry also needs to consider procurement processes which make it difficult for a client to ‘buy’ a collaborative approach. For example, FM services are often procured separately from design and build. We need to make it easier for a building owner to choose collaboration – and in return, professionals must show a respect for everyone’s contribution and an understanding of their challenges.
There are times when long term aims have to give way to short term necessities – and this is what has happened with BIM. But now the government spotlight is shining across the entire industry, it’s time to revisit excuses and assumptions – and recognise that BIM means us too.
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UK BIM Alliance