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Ten year journey to BIM3 begins

The government has launched its building information modelling (BIM) level 3 initiative with the aim of improving data security and accessibility, scrapping paper contracts and driving infrastructure spending efficiencies.

Government BIM task force chief - and BIM working group chair - Mark Bew said “BIM3” would bring every aspect of an infrastructure project into one central plan that each construction team member had access to.

Its predecessor, BIM2, must be used on all government projects from next year. That means client, contractor and designer will be working from data-rich models - but not necessarily the same one.

The government has now begun a 10-year journey towards BIM3, which Bew believes will improve the design process and make it more efficient.

“We’ve got worse at briefing, not better, and we need to refocus our efforts.

“Having much better access to other resources, such as manufacturing data, and having manufacturers being able to feed straight into models will improve this,” he said.

BIM3 will allow a significant shift from traditional agreement forms to “much more transparent and paperless contracts,” said Bew. “Moving from traditional contract forms is going to take some time,” he warned.

“We want to get to 2025 and the industrial strategy targets with it there. So instead of starting in 2024, we are starting in 2015.”

Underpinning this is accessibility via any device.

“You get people using quite complicated software in big machines which limits [accessibility] to a community of designers and engineers,” Bew said. “It needs to be accessed by anyone onsite or in the building via iPhone or iPad.”

Bringing all the information together into one project file also improves data security.

“BIM3 will allow us to manage security through design. So in effect [data will be] secure by design - not secure by accident.”

BIM3 will also improve the understanding of existing assets, which will “aid planning and forecasting around need”, said Bew.

He added that this would allow for improvements in the design and planning process through the better modelling of building physics, people and traffic flows.  

“It is about maximising availability and capacity of networks of infrastructure, essentially using technology to push more rolling stock down existing railways and more cars down the same piece of tarmac.”

Bew believes the data gathered from BIM3 will feed into the smart cities and smart services of the future.

“The aim is for construction to become much more focused on customer and community need rather than asset oriented,” he says.

“So the asset is created for the provision of a service not the other way around. Once this matures it will enable us to control social wellbeing and the cost base of the nation.”

However, while the potential of BIM3 is clear, challenges over adoption remain.

“The issue is growing capacity and the rate that we can train people in these methodologies,” said Bew.

He pointed out that cracking the project lifecycle was a challenge, because engineers commit to projects for three to five years and only retrain once a project is finished.

“This doesn’t help rapid learning and we need to recognise this in the strategy.

“The answer is to start with graduates and dip into people as they reach the end of projects.”

Bew said plans for BIM4 were only just starting to evolve.

“It’s a long way away, and is only ideas at this stage,” said Bew.

“It is likely to focus on the relationship between infrastructure and social outcomes. And post-2025 that’s what we will be focusing on, because it’s one of the largest costs on the balance sheet.” —

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