BIM not mandatory, but COBie will be

Last month (see BIM – a new role for collaboration tools?), I wrote about the government’s “push” to expand BIM adoption across the UK architecture, engineering and construction industry (and, through its focus on asset information, into facilities management too). Today, I attended the formal launch of the Government Construction Strategy at the ICE in London, at which a lot of attention was focused on BIM.

I had been under the impression that the ‘push’ involved making BIM mandatory, but it now appears that “the Government’s BIM strategy is non-prescriptive.” Instead, it is based on an information requirement, and “BIM is the most effective way of delivering this information.” According to some BIM FAQs distributed at today’s event:

“The information provided by the BIM model will be valuable in enabling the Government Client to confirm that facilities meet performance expectations and also in providing a readily accessible source of information for the teams involved in operating, maintaining and adapting completed facilities.”

BIM is, of course, greatly encouraged – “The requirement to deliver data in a fixed format (COBie) at key project stages will be a very time-consuming and tedious task without the support of a BIM system.” – but there were plainly concerns about procurement rules and proprietary software:

“It is not possible to mandate the use of BIM within the existing procurement regulations. Furthermore, even if this mandate was possible, if we selected a prescriptive BIM tool set, we could risk failing our hypothesis criteria test of being open and competitive.”

As a result, the strategy focuses more attention on adoption of the COBie standard to manage data coming from BIM models into the client organisation, initially via exchange of spreadsheets. In the FAQs, the government has set itself a modest target, judged appropriate to the ‘trailing edge’ of the industry (though it recognises that some supply chains will aim to achieve greater levels of integrated collaborative working) – but Cabinet minister Francis Maude MP did tell industry that he wanted the UK to become a world leader in applying BIM technology.

Here we have the AEC industry’s largest single client exhorting the sector to work more collaboratively and to use information technology to support the design, construction and long-term operation and maintenance of its built assets. And as supply chains invest in the technologies, this is likely to pull other client organisations into taking similar steps. I think we have taken a significant step towards dispensing with old-style, short-termist, knowledge is power-type mindsets, shifting in favour of more sophisticated, collaborative approaches based on creating single shared, whole-life repositories of asset-related information.

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