BIM mandate one year on – no bolt-on optional tool but a fundamental plank in our digitally-led future

One year on from the mandated deadline for all publicly funded construction projects to be procured using Level 2 BIM and the UK finds itself as the global leader in digital engineering. 

It is an interesting situation, given that when then-chief construction adviser Paul Morrell persuaded the Coalition government to embrace BIM in 2011, it was primarily as a way to control spiralling construction costs and bridge the gap between public infrastructure spending ambition and a stagnant post-financial collapse economy.

Achieving BIM Level 2 adoption has indeed prompted a transformation across the UK construction sector as it has embraced technology, the use of information management and more collaborative ways of working. But, as we will hear during the UK BIM Alliance “Climb every mountain” meeting at the GEO Business event in May, we are still just scratching the surface of what is possible – and what needs to happen to truly benefit from the power of infrastructure asset data.

For all the last six years’ industry angst and hand wringing over the need to get to grips with and invest in new technology, the reality is that embracing BIM and reaping these benefits remains a cultural not technology challenge.  Certainly, we need to do more to attract the best skills – and the Women in BIM meeting at GEO Business will make clear the low representation of women across construction is a critical issue for the future of the industry supply chain. But we do now have some of the best and most experienced and data-aware professionals ready to build on what has been achieved and continue the sector’s transformation.

The drive for greater productivity will become increasingly important in a post Brexit UK. While the full consequences of last June’s referendum remain uncertain, for the UK to thrive independently in the world market we must transform to raise significantly our industrial productivity and ability to support international growth. The UK BIM Alliance is the new single industry voice to develop the practical implementation of BIM and its meeting at GEO Business will tackle head on “one of the biggest challenges of our built environment: digital transformation of our industry”. For all the fanfare and success of BIM to date, you don’t have to speak to very many working professionals to understand that it is still seen by large numbers across the supply chain as a cost and a gravy train for specialist suppliers.

This is clearly wrong. But as a view it needs to be addressed – as a priority if the industry is to continue to springboard from the pain of Level 2 adoption to the glory and long term benefits of a Digital Built Britain.  As technology develops, the challenge will increasingly become one of managing cultural change, people and processes. Technology is, of course, a vital component but only as a means to access information. Understanding what you need that information to do, and how it can help you to work better with others, becomes the critical issue.

The vision is to see BIM converge with the industry and its processes, not least with the geospatial industry which has a critical role in setting the strategy for information gathering and putting in place the protocols that will enable teams involved across a project lifecycle to access it.

Certainly BIM is making an impact on every sector of the industry. For example, at GEO Business, the BIM4Heritage will ask how BIM can help to the understanding and preservation of the historic environment and the Survey4BIM will address the issue of engaging with industry to geo-enable BIM. Across every discipline it is helping to change the way that business is planned and carried out.

The UK must continue to invest in infrastructure to drive growth, rebalance the economy and serve communities better. The use of BIM and digital technologies will be integral to these solutions, not as tools to aid construction and speed delivery, but as fundamental elements of a joined up sustainable society where the impact of combined investment in transport, housing, healthcare, education etc can be measured and properly balanced.

The mandated use of BIM Level 2 certainly got the ball rolling. But the convergence of BIM, the Internet of Things and Smart Cities and the embedding of whole life value and creation of better outcomes for society is the bigger prize. This is the start of something much bigger.

 


This article was written by independent editorial expert and journalist Antony Oliver, who regularly contributes industry content for GEObuzz. Find Antony on Twitter @_Antonyoliver_

 

GEO Business 2017, 23 – 24 May 2017, Business Design Centre, London UK

The geospatial event for everyone involved in the gathering, storing, processing and delivery of geospatial information. Incorporating an international trade exhibition, a cutting edge conference and a programme of live commercial workshops sessions, featuring the technology and services used by those working with spatial data.

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