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Digitally built Britain – what’s next for BIM?

Mike Plaster
Wednesday 18th May, 2016

As of April 4th, all public sector projects now have to comply with BIM Level 2, the government’s legislation that’s kick-starting a digital revolution in the construction sector. So as the industry adjusts to this advanced way of working, we consider what’s next for Building Information Modelling.

The deadline was the culmination of a five-year process that fine-tuned the development and definition of BIM at Level 2, and put forward a number of best practices for achieving compliance. BIM provides the means by which multiple teams working on a project can come together to understand how a building is to be constructed via a digital model. It’s an integrated way of working, and the recently introduced mandate will ensure all team members are working to the same standard, are able to make better-informed decisions and can rely on more efficient building methods.

In fact, BIM software allows for more insight and control at every step of the design and build stage of centrally-procured projects, and is working to bridge the gap between design, engineering and construction.

While many private sector companies will take to BIM like a duck to water, some will have had to get their heads around a whole new way of working. The process is still seen as fairly specialist and something for which many have opted to bring in the experts. For future working, though, the answer should be to ensure every member of each team uses and is comfortable with BIM, especially as the focus moves towards the quality of data collated from BIM.

Looking to the not-so-distant future

Now that BIM authoring tools and the processes behind them have become a legal requirement, the focus becomes how we best put them into practice. The productivity gains, project controls and visualisation competencies of BIM aren’t to be argued with, but the changes that this digital revolution is having on the industry must be capitalised on.

The government published Construction 2025: Industrial Strategy for Construction outlining its long-term vision to lower construction costs by 33%, lower emissions by 50% and deliver projects 50% faster in the next decade. Along with clear drives in biomimicry and circular economy, BIM will account for much of this push – not least because George Osborne’s 2016 UK Budget announced that the government will ‘develop the next digital standard for the construction sector: building information modelling Level 3’.

Taking it up a level

Level 3 will demonstrate integrated BIM and look towards full collaboration between all parties on a shared project model. It’s been announced that the government will invest £15 million into its development over the next five years. Looking to support the efficient delivery of smart cities and services, Level 3 will facilitate interconnected digital design and extend BIM into the operation of assets over their lifetime. We’re likely to see integrated design environments with models used initially by designers and then by the client for asset management.

This is an exciting time for the industry and one that won’t be without its challenges, but we’re already mastering drones on construction sites. We’ve also made headway with 3D printing, automated design programmes and there’s been an increased government spend on infrastructure. It seems everything is in favour of the significant growth of the industry. And as long as the government is willing to keep backing and funding its digital development and seeing to it that legislation is making BIM happen, we should be working with it by tirelessly developing our skillset and embracing each move to a more digital, data-driven industry.

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