Everyone wins

Gregory Allouis, Strategic Solutions Director at SPIE UK, argues that the benefits of BIM apply to all projects in the built environment, large and small

The value of building information modelling (BIM) to those in the built environment has been growing as more and more businesses have begun to appreciate the value that it can add. This has been driven, in no small part, by the UK government’s stipulation that all public procured buildings must embrace BIM level 2 in order to meet the government’s targets of reducing project delivery times, imported materials, project costs and greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent.

One of the greatest challenges facing the built environment is the trend towards collaboration. This has increased the number and range of stakeholders potentially involved in a project, from designers and consultancies to contractors. Making sure that everyone is on the same page is critical to ensuring the smooth delivery of a contract to a high level of quality.

This is something that BIM is well placed to address. The introduction of BIM into the construction and design process requires consultants and contractors alike to coordinate their activities, placing the onus on everyone to work together to ensure designs are translated smoothly into reality. Moreover, use of BIM ensures everyone is working with one single source of truth.

When working with traditional drawings, one of the disadvantages is that it’s difficult to map out every stage of the project. By using 5D BIM practices, engineers are able to enrich the model with every key component required at each stage of the project. This level of detail allows for a degree of pricing accuracy that cannot be achieved otherwise. This in turn allows businesses to be more competitive when competing for contracts.

BIM has been valuable in larger projects because of the amount of data that needs to be shared between the relatively high number of stakeholders involved, and the need to coordinate the different packages in use. Once a project team is experienced in applying BIM to a large-scale project, it’s only natural to use the methodology on smaller contracts, where a smart design would also be beneficial and create value.

BIM technology is helping to create greater efficiencies. For example, software such as Revit allows the automation or semi-automation of activities such as quantity take-offs, which saves time and ensures consistency across projects. The efficiencies and cost savings enabled by BIM could benefit all contracts, regardless of size.

BIM can create value for even the smallest jobs, right down to moving a doorway. For a job this small, using BIM may seem like overkill, but it affords a level of accuracy that helps avoid errors. This accuracy translates into speed and certainty. There is no risk that the new doorway position will unexpectedly interfere with other services in the building, because the BIM model will have flagged it up. The process of pricing the job can be expedited because the estimator can see exactly what materials are needed. As a result, the work can be delivered within the expected timeframe and cost, without delays or complications, freeing up the engineers to work on other projects.

Clients, too, are increasingly aware that BIM can be beneficial for their projects, regardless of size or value. It’s not just about government targets – once customers have seen the information they can get from the BIM process, and the value to them, it’s only natural they want BIM to be used.

BIM can also deliver exceptional value for projects on sites that are sensitive or occupied. Use of the technology can be crucial in maintaining safe, continued use of the facility while the works are under way, as well as facilitating prefabrication. This mitigates the need for shutdowns while engineering work is ongoing.

For example, SPIE recently undertook to replace systems critical to the running of the School of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee. The plant that needed replacing was located within the rooftop plant room of a seven-storey building, facing the team with a significant engineering and logistical challenge. Through the use of 5D BIM practices, the engineers were able to plan each phase of the works from start to finish, demonstrating to the client how downtime would be kept to a minimum while also ensuring workers on site would be safe.

It is critical for the built environment to continue to adopt and innovate with BIM, from complying fully with level 2 practices and then moving up to level 3. To consider BIM as simply a design function is to miss the point. Not only does the technology promote and enable collaboration and coordination of contractors and resources in a live environment, it allows construction and facilities businesses to be more competitive. By streamlining the design process, projects can proceed with speed and accuracy.

About Sarah OBeirne

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