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Letters: Industry needs to take up BIM


The potential for improvement through what is now called BIM has been advocated since at least 1989 when I presented a paper on improving the use of IT at the international conference CivilComp 89.

A copy of the proceedings of the conference is in the ICE library. In this paper I advocated electronic sharing of design and documentation from concept to completion. Even then I had evidence of final drawings in electronic formats being provided to clients.

Having worked in engineering management and design with clients, consultants and a specialist supplier I have witnessed the confusion than can be caused by the difficulties involved in distributing design information among the many organisations involved in even the simplest of projects.

Using a shared 3D framework with all participants involved would surely result in reductions in errors and changes throughout design and construction, leading to faster completions and reduced costs, and a better return on investment for clients. It is time for the industry to take advantage of the technology that is available.

  • Barry Tuckwood (F), Barry Tuckwood Associates,

I refer to the editor’s note against George Muir’s letter entitled “Don’t bang on about BIM” (NCE 23 February) and wish to add my voice in support of Muir’s opinions. I would also question the validity of your own comment that the

UK construction industry is resisting the need to fully embrace this technological revolution.

It is my experience that our industry has been applying this technology for several decades and is indeed one of the world leaders in its application. There is nothing revolutionary in that which is currently being promoted as BIM.

What we are seeing is evolution in the way we manage information, making best use of new technology and software as it becomes available. Where such advances bring efficiency and economy they are being applied.

That has not required government intervention, industry initiatives or evangelistic promotion but the application ofsound judgement by knowledgeable professionals.

However, what I find concerning is the prospect of enforced application of BIM technologies to all projects without proper assessment of the additional costs and actual, consequential benefits. Every project is different and each will almost certainly generate different cost/benefit ratios for the application of BIM.

Should there not be properly informed judgement, rather than government dictate, determining what forms, and to what extent, currently available technologies are applied on each individual project?

As an industry, and as a nation, we cannot afford to waste time and effort where there is no net benefit.

  • Iain McAlister (F), associate director, Acutus, 65 Chandos Place, London WC2N 4HG

There’s a hint of mockery in the editor’s response to George Muir’s point of view on the apparently-proposed blanket adoption of BIM as a means of revolutionising the industry, which I don’t think is appropriate (NCE 23 February).

I’ve had it pointed out to me by a colleague at work that he’s been doing what BIM does for years, one way and another, without the label of BIM being attached to it and, given that he’s a long-term draftsman/GIS practitioner, I believe him.

My understanding of what Muir is saying is that it will have its application in some, but not all, situations, and I would agree with him. In my career I’ve seen many panaceas come and go - Early Contractor Involvement, management construction, or was it construction management - and look at the debt which the NHS has to deal with as a legacy of the PFI contracts.

Panaceas should be approached with caution, and applied judiciously, not greeted with enthusiasm until the downside has been thoroughly investigated. Everything has one, it’s just it’s not always obvious.

  • Alan Mordey,

Editor’s note. Any hint of mockery was certainly not intended.



I’m a talented student, so show some respect

I am a fourth year civil engineering student at Cardiff University and while applying for graduate civil engineering jobs have been appalled at the general attitude towards applicants.

As a very talented student I initially chose to study medicine at Imperial College, London, where I was impressed by the enthusiasm and strong support network available to prospective professionals throughout their studies. It has become increasingly apparent to me that the engineering community lacks the drive, direction and encouragement I met while studying medicine.

Academically I am at the top of the pile - a high first in my degree to date - and on top of this have a vast array of extracurricular achievements. However, because I do not wish to work for my previous engineering employers and would like to gain professional experience with other companies I feel like I am at a serious disadvantage.

I have applied to a number of companies and have heard back from one who invited me to an assessment session but three weeks later I have heard nothing despite a number of probing e-mails. I know a number of students who have also attended interviews and have been promised feedback, which they haven’t received.

As civil engineers we stand at a great cross-roads in our history and it is clear that with increasing global pressures we need to adapt and show ingenuity, something that will largely, if not wholly, come from the graduates of today. We should be handled with great care as precious stones in a fiercely competitive market.

The recruitment process needs to be treated seriously to ensure that not only the best candidates are being awarded the jobs but that they are being encouraged and inspired by proactive and enthusiastic companies.

  • Jonathan Meredith,


Basements raise many concerns

I refer to the item regarding The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s proposal to tighten regulations for the construction of new basements(NCE 23 February).

My structural consultancy office deals with a large number of Party Wall and neighbourly matters and we are dealing increasingly with cases where damage has been reported and some proposals even report predictable damage.

Many of the more suburban basement proposals do not include a site specific soil investigation or any design statements to demonstrate they have considered the neighbourly implications and specific Party Wall matters.

Many proceed on a Building Notice with generic calculations and drawings from the house down the street. A lot of the schemes support Party Walls on the developers’ new “basement box”, which compromise the future rights of the neighbour.

They are becoming as standard as yesterday’s loft conversions and yet the consequences of getting it wrong are much more onerous.

With more local authorities and estates offices changing their policies in response to public concern, it is for engineers to be at the centre of these far reaching policies so that we can provide clear technical guidance both to protect the public and to allow well designed schemes to proceed with the appropriate reassurances.

I would suggest that all designs include specific statements to demonstrate that they have considered the neighbouring property, they should have site specific soil testing and trial pits and Party Wall Surveyors should be involved as early as possible.

I think we need an industry wide technical group to provide best practice advice in this area.

It is not very often that a new building fashion comes along where engineering plays such a pivotal role. We need to balance our design skills for clients against the wider neighbourly concerns to provide social responsibility.

  • Simon Pole (M), Pole ­Structural Engineers, Wimbledon,

Severn offers a drought solution

United Utilities’ proposal to build a pipeline from northern England to the south east (NCE last week) is about 400km in length. But it is much easier and cheaper to pump water from the lower River Severn above Gloucester into the headwaters of the River Thames.
There are several possible routes of about 16km to 19km in length. There always seems to be plenty of water in the Severn at Shrewsbury and downstream it is reinforced by the Avon and Teme.

  • David HT Smith, The ­Thursfield Smith Consultancy, 25 Grange Road, Shrewsbury SY3 9DG

Measured response

In response to John Thackray’s letter “Water meter argument is biased to the south east” (NCE last week) I would like to point out that in my original comment to NCE I said that measures need to be introduced to better manage demand but actually made no specific mention of metering.

However, some form of metering and associated tariff structures deserves further exploration and is one of many issues being considered currently as part of our State of the Nation: Water report, due out in June.

  • Michael Norton, chair of the ICE water panel, One Great George Street, London SW1P 3AA

A cure for“‘bad projects’

I was alarmed at your report “Bad projects not bad project managers lead to cost overruns on public projects”, which highlighted the abdication of accountability for bad projects to a collective body, namely the government. The fact is that projects, no matter how ill-conceived, can be made or broken by the project leader.

An expert client project manager who is fully aware of the cost, time and legal implications of his or her decisions is one far more likely to ensure that the necessary details are adhered to and the unnecessary ones are ignored, thereby reducing escalation. That expertise needs to be retained by the project manager otherwise advisers or consultants are prone to muddy the waters.

There are never any straight answers in engineering, only more expensive ones. Spending millions retraining unsuccessful managers might help them to understand risk better.

Either way, an expert client making informed and measured decisions that don’t lead to cost escalation to any party involved will no doubt be welcome by all except the lawyers.

  • Abigail Kiernan (M),

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