BIM: developments in 2015

Most readers of this Review will be very well aware of the Government’s deadline, set out as part of the 2011 Government Construction Strategy, requiring the use of a “fully collaborative 3D BIM (with project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) as a minimum by 2016” for all centrally procured Government projects in the UK. What then has been going on over the past few months and will it assist the Government’s aims?

Current use and awareness of BIM

There is only anecdotal evidence about how successful the Government’s strategy will be, although it is only fair to say that there is much scepticism around how well the Government’s plans of implementing BIM by April 2016 will turn out.

The most recent survey carried out by the NBS1 confirms that those who have already adopted BIM have seen a number of benefits including improved cost efficiencies, client outcomes, coordination, speed of delivery and better information retrieval. NBS believes that 92% of people in the construction industry will be using BIM within three years.

However, statistics show that only a small majority of 54% agree that the Government is on the right track with BIM and even less, 25%, believe the UK to be a world leader in BIM. Having said this, there is a general agreement across the industry (95%) that in five years’ time use of BIM will be the norm. Statistics further indicate that the industry’s attitude towards BIM looks positive as some 77% agree that BIM is indeed the future of project information.2

Understandably, the move of the industry towards Level 2 BIM will be a gradual one. The Government recognises this and in collaboration with industry has already committed to the Level 2 BIM programme as a result of the 2013/14 saving which amounted to a significant £840 million.3 No doubt this is why the Government has released a new, more ambitious strategy.

Digital Built Britain

The Digital Built Britain (DBB)4 Level 3 strategy builds on the achievements of the Level 2 BIM programme. It puts forward projects such as Crossrail and the 2012 Olympics as examples of the significant learning and savings that can be made through the use of digital technologies such as BIM.

The Government believes that the current approach to designing and procuring infrastructure and assets not only adds significantly to transaction and delivery costs, but also creates artificial scarcities of key services, resources and components through duplication of activity. In order to alleviate this, DBB aims to encompass the cross-sector collaboration whilst taking the opportunity to rethink how we procure, deliver and operate our built environment going forward to ensure the industry meets its fiscal, functional, sustainability and growth objectives. Furthermore, it will combine data analytics and the digital economy to enable planning new infrastructure more effectively, building it at lower cost and operating and maintaining it more efficiently.

The future under the DBB strategy will enable asset owners to use technologies and techniques to create transparent collaborative relationships with their suppliers. The teams enabled by DBB will be encouraged to cooperate in developing solutions to problems which will be digitally prototyped ahead of a commitment to significant capital expenditure. However, given the breadth of the DBB strategy, including asset operation and asset performance, it is clear that the market opportunities that arise from deploying DBB cannot arrive all at the same time. In the first instance DBB will be deployed within sectors using the existing business models as an extension of Level 2 BIM.

The Government aims to make fully computerised construction the norm and ensure that the benefits of these technologies are felt across the UK and support the export of technologies and the services based upon them. As a result, the Government’s ambition is to be operating at Level 3 by 2017 and by doing so sell the UK’s expertise and cutting-edge technologies across the world and seize a share of the US$15 trillion global construction market forecast by 2025.

However, to meet these ambitions the Government will surely need to address some of the issues raised in the NBS Survey 2015 which found that three-quarters of the industry (74%) claim that a lack of in-house expertise is a barrier, and two-thirds (67%) stated that a lack of training stands in the way.

Cyber security guidance for BIM – PAS 1192-5

Underpinning the BIM project documents are a series of British Standards and Publically Available Specifications (PASs) which detail the BIM process. Completing the PAS suite is PAS 1192-5 which was issued in May this year. This provides a specification for security-minded building information modelling, digital built environments and smart asset management.

As BIM involves data sharing, its transparent nature presents a potential opportunity for hostile forces. In response the entire construction and operations supply chain needs to employ a security-minded approach and communicate in a cyber-security conscious way which both enables business function and minimises the value of information being shared for hostile reconnaissance purposes.

This new PAS goes beyond BIM and looks forward towards developments in the digital built environment that have been foreshadowed in the Digital Built Britain report. Essentially, this PAS will provide guidance on how to keep BIM models and the buildings they represent safe from cyber threats and assist not only in reducing the risk of loss or disclosure of sensitive information, which could impact safety and security, but also the loss, theft or disclosure of commercial information and intellectual property.

Central to the PAS are sections 4 and 5. The former sets out the security context and the latter deals with understanding the overall security threat and recommends the use of what is known as a “security triage process” to assist in determining the security requirements for the specific built asset in question and whether or not it is “sensitive”. The triage process is well thought through and demonstrates that this document is not out to scare employers into employing additional consultants or commissioning lengthy and costly additional reviews and protocols. If the project has a certain level of sensitivity then certain protocols should be put in place; if it does not, then they are not required. However, what is needed, and it relates to what most companies already have, is a security manager or, in this context, a built asset security manager (BASM) who is envisaged to facilitate these processes.

The PAS provides a foundation to support the evolution of future digital built environments and is an answer to the hacks and security breaches we (or our IT departments) encounter on an ever-increasing basis. The more we advance towards the DBB envisaged by the Government, the more likely it is that this security-minded approach will become an absolute necessity.

Revisions to PAS 1192-2

The PAS 1192-2 (Specification for information management for the capital/delivery phase of construction projects using building information modelling) and the BS1192:2007 (Collaborative production of architectural, engineering and construction information – code of practice) are being revised to update wording and reduce conflicts between the two standards. Given that PAS 1192-2, one of the core constituents of Level 2 BIM, was originally released in 2013, while BS1192 was last updated in 2008, this seems to be a sensible action. The consultation period on the drafts ended on 31 August 2015.

It appears from the drafts that there are only limited changes and these are largely due to the need for clarification or to avoid contradictions. One change which did cause some comment related to the definition of the Project Information Model (or PIM.) The revised PAS says this:

“3.34 project information model (PIM)information model developed during the design and construction phase of a project

NOTE The PIM is developed firstly as a design intent model, showing the architectural and engineering intentions of the design suppliers. Then, when ownership has been transferred to the construction suppliers, the PIM is developed into a virtual construction model containing all the objects to be manufactured, installed or constructed. The contractor’s model will be by replacement rather than a modification of the design model to avoid any legal problems of responsibility.

The new words introduced by the update are underlined. Some questions have been asked about this. Does this mean that contractors are now being required to remodel the whole design? Will this lead to extra costs and delays?

We think not. PAS 1192-2 already says that when ownership has been transferred, the PIM will be redeveloped. The proposed new sentence does not change this. All the new sentence seems to do is define (in reality, clarify) a line in the sand where liability is transferred, thereby generating greater certainty, which is fully in line with the reasons for the proposed update.

Conclusion

As we have said, there is a certain scepticism about whether, or not the Government’s targets for BIM in 2016 will be met. However, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Government will continue to champion the use of BIM because of the undoubted benefits and costs savings that it should bring to public projects. Equally, it is certain that technological advances will continue apace and as Level 3 BIM (and beyond) is introduced more widely, then there is likely to be further developments in project contracts and documentation, something we will keep an eye on for next year’s Review.

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  • 1. National Building Specification, NBS National BIM Report 2015.
  • 2. Ibid
  • 3. Ibid
  • 4. HM Government, Digital Built Britain: Level 3 Building Information Modelling – Strategic Plan, 2015

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