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Mark Bew: Why BIM is important to the UK

Last year marked an important year for UK plc and the construction industry. There were a record number of high profile BIM seminars, workshops and press articles leading up to the launch of the Construction Strategy in May with BIM as an integral part.

This triggered a sudden awakening that the government was serious about setting a course for a step change in how we design, build and operate our public assets.

The time and conditions for change are as fertile as they could ever be. Fiscal stimulus is at an end and the impact of the austerity measures to counter the deficit has evolved an increase in competition and a survival of the fittest culture.

We have all cut our overheads to the bone, honed out waste and seen record numbers of businesses exit the market place. We have to do things differently if we are to survive, develop a healthy international market and help support our national growth aspirations.

“BIM is not a silver bullet to cure all of the world’s ills, but it does bring about key characteristics that will make us think and behave in different ways.”

BIM is not a silver bullet to cure the world’s ills, but it does bring about key characteristics that will make us think and behave in different ways. From the availability and transparency of high quality data, the ability to reuse rather than waste data throughout the asset lifecycle, from designers, manufacturers, contractors, through to the opportunity of being able to brief lay people on all aspects of the project from visualisation to health and safety planning, all bringing the industry around the single focus of the BIM model and its rich data set.

The government position as articulated in the BIM Strategy and the Construction Strategy is to mandate “fully collaborative BIM as a minimum by 2016” and the need for efficiency and industry reform to realise a “cost reduction of 20% during the term of the current Parliament”. These savings will be made through the combination of all interventions being made by the Construction Strategy including lean procurement and cost benchmarking.

But BIM is the enabler for this; it gives a new angle to the built environment at a time when the need to harness graphical and specification data has never been so great.

Much has been written and studied about BIM, but this project marks new territory, owing to how deeply it has looked into client activities and needs. While better enabling the design and build process, the really big value proposition lies with the client’s ability to not only improve his own internal processes through the availability of new reliable data, but with the ability of passing data to and from the client’s operational and portfolio management systems.

The client is empowered to better operate existing assets and to improve the design for new ones. Thus the client has the ability to standardise key elements of the critical infrastructure and to ensure optimal performance both in delivery and operation, while crucially allowing freedom to deliver a built environment that is rich, varied and fit to delight its users.

This renewed focus on clear client needs has allowed contracts and plans of work to become much more specific, allowing the supply chain to innovate and collaborate in the delivery of lean focused information that is essential to regulatory and operational requirements.

With so much to be gained by all, can the importance of BIM be overstated?

  • Mark Bew is chairman of the government’s BIM working group

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