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Oct 17 2014

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Why the UK BIM toolkit is a key building block

The BIM ‘Digital toolkit’ should help UK firms, including SaaS vendors, adopt and then export BIM skills, practices, procedures and standards and apply them in other markets.

Just as sustainability saw an explosion in ‘greenwash’ – sometimes spurious claims about the ‘greenness’ of various products or services – so building information modelling has seen frequent ‘BIMwash’, with firms asserting that they are already delivering Level 2 or even Level 3 BIM. The fact that the Government’s BIM Task Group had not yet defined a full set of Level 2 components did not appear to hinder the hype. However, recent announcements will mean, from early 2015, that such BIM competence claims may more easily be substantiated.

NBS BIM toolkit

dPOW logoOn Monday 22 September, the Technology Strategy Board, now Innovate UK, announced that a team led by NBS had won a £1 million contract to take forward development of a “Digital Toolkit” for BIM, creating the last two building blocks of Level 2: the digital Plan of Works (dPOW) and a classification system for construction objects.

The award follows a two-stage competition to examine the feasibility of the project. The first stage, kicked off in February (post), attracted around 70 expressions of interest, including a strong submission from a pan-industry group of professional institutions (C8, which included the Institution of Civil Engineers*), but just three were selected to submit proposals for the second stage.

NBS – whose team includes the BIM Academy, BDP, Laing O’Rourke, Microsoft and Newcastle University – is contracted to deliver the first elements of the toolkit in early 2015, and then maintain it as a free-to-use industry resource for a minimum of five years. This commitment was too onerous for the C8 consortium, but NBS has since courted their continued involvement.

Richard WaterhouseRichard Waterhouse (right), chief executive of RIBA Enterprises, which owns NBS said, “We already have the backing of key organisations such as CIBSE, CIOB, ICE, IStructE, RIBA and RICS and we will be extending and widening this dialogue over the coming months.” The institutions will form part of a toolkit advisory board providing direction and also potentially undertake subcontracted work.

The dPOW will become an important resource to help technology vendors, particularly providers of SaaS construction collaboration platforms, provide a ‘common data environment’ to support sharing of structured data across a project. The classification development will see Uniclass 2 clarified, reworked and extended to ensure comprehensive and international coverage of all professions’ needs across all disciplines, including infrastructure projects, says Waterhouse.

NBS will ultimately be the ‘guardian’ of the BIM toolkit. It will be able to use expertise and experience gained in creating toolkit elements to offer other value-added products or services, but the ‘toolkit’ will remain freely available to UK construction (Waterhouse told me he expects it will need to be freely available for longer than five years as some sectors will lag in developing BIM expertise). NBS will be talking further about the toolkit at NBS live on 4 November in London (details here).

The resource should also help UK firms adopt and then export BIM skills, practices, procedures and standards – some, like PAS1192:2, set to become ISO standards – and apply them in other markets. This was something anticipated in Richard Saxon’s “Growth Through BIM” report for the CIC last year (see my recent post: A BIM boom for SaaS collaboration vendors?).

CapEx + OpEx = TotEx

While many UK architecture, engineering and construction businesses appear keen to exploit BIM, some have been adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach pending the completion of the Level 2 roadmap. Meanwhile, client owner/operator organisations are also beginning to realise that BIM can help improve the operation and management efficiency of their built assets across their life-cycles.

Ultimately, this is what will drive and reinforce BIM adoption. As clients start to insist on more efficient procurement, delivery and future management of their facilities (TotEx), their suppliers will be striving to innovate. Linking ‘smart’ built assets, connecting both historic and real-time data, aggregating it and integrating it with metrics from key business or organisation processes, will help owners identify what makes customers spend more, students learn more, patients recover faster, office workers be more productive, etc.

This may seem like utopian future-gazing, but it’s about owners’ business outcomes. Data will be the key connector, and the BIM toolkit is an important stepping stone towards that brave new world.

This is a version of a comment piece I wrote for Construction Manager’s recently launched BIM+ portal, published on 29 September. [* I am a deputy chair of the ICE’s Information Systems Panel.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2014/10/why-the-uk-bim-toolkit-is-a-key-building-block/

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