Level Up Your BIM!

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series xyHt in print, April 2016

BIM is soon to be mandatory for certain public works contracts in the UK, driven by expected cost-benefits. We asked a UK geospatial design expert (and xyHt contributor) to give us a look at what a few years forward may hold for BIM on this side of the pond.

If you didn’t know already, the concept of Building Information Modelling (BIM) will deliver the promise of a truly sustainable design, build, and management process in construction. Yet, for many, the thought of another “standard” and another “process” fills us with dread.

BIM is about bringing fundamental and transformational change to the design and build process. You don’t need to worry; at its heart it is about the efficient collaboration between various elements of a building project. You can wrap BIM up in various complex terminologies, workflows, and software if you like, but underlying it all is a desire to have us work well together.

The good news is that we have probably all been working on BIM projects of one kind or another. It is just a question of at what level? (See levels below.)

Now, if level 3 doesn’t make you have sleepless nights, what will?! According to the NBS International BIM Report 2016, there is a “Current nervousness in the industry around issues such as copyright and liability.” That is probably an understatement!

Working nicely at levels 2 and 3, of course, requires strict workflows, systems, and compliant software to bring it all together. Kindly, the big software vendors are there to help. So, too, are a variety of organizations to push as well as assist us to a workflow that give us truly efficient building design, construction, and management. If that wasn’t enough, some governments (like the UK) are making it official policy.

  • Level 0: 2D CAD, mainly for production information, and the outputs are paper, electronic, or a mixture of both.
  • Level 1: Mixture of 2D CAD and 3D CAD for statutory documentation and production information. No collaboration between disciplines; each publishes and maintains its own data.
  • Level 2: Collaborative working defines this level; everyone uses their own 3D model but data and information are shared between different parties. The data exchange must be to standards. In the UK, the government has said all work on public sector projects must be at this level of BIM in 2016.
  • Level 3: The destination we should all be aiming for where a single centralized data repository is held for a project. All parties access and modify the same model. This is Building Lifecycle Management (BLM).
  • (This information is a heavily edited version of a table from NBS (an organization owned by the Royal Institute of British Architects that covers the UK, Canada, Denmark, Czech Republic, and Japan.)

With that in mind it is still surprising how many of us have not had contact with a fully fledged BIM level 2 project. Even those who have are possibly not doing it all. A quick read of the International BIM Report 2016 by NBS suggests that the majority of BIM projects primary usage may be for 3D visualization.

The underlying reason to implement BIM cannot be just about pretty pictures, can it? Happily, the report shows an increasing number of professionals using BIM for clash detection as well as performance analysis. It is in these areas that the key selling points for increased adoption of BIM across the industry will happen. The 3D visuals are just an easy win.

For a simple concept of working nicely together, true BIM (level 3) is anything but easy to achieve and understand. There are hurdles to overcome and software to be purchased, not to mention issues of interoperability.

We live in a world that now collects and stores an abundance of information. The next stage for many industries is about joining it all together to help us and our environment.

One final thought: Did I mention geodesign, smart cities, City Information Modelling (CIM), CIM2BIM, 4D, 5D, and 6D yet? I’ll get my coat….

Helpful links:    

NBS: www.thenbs.com/  

BIM Task Group:


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