What is BIM and why you need to know about it
With the April 2016 Building Information Modelling (BIM) mandate making the use of Level 2 BIM compulsory throughout the construction of all public buildings, it’s time for everyone involved to get clued up on the ins and outs of BIM and it’s benefits. Here Stuart Cameron, senior mechanical engineer at Morgan Tucker, highlights the key aspects of BIM and explains how end-users can benefit in the longer term from its use.
Although it may seem complex, the key concepts are simple. BIM is a collaborative process by which all involved in the construction of a building, work from one platform. Inputting their data into one single model, from the architectural structures, through to the manufacturers specifications, stored in one file. From this, BIM creates a three-dimensional virtual construction model of the building. This allows all suppliers to visually see the building and eliminate potential errors or service clashes before work begins, reducing the risk of confusion and helping deliver cost savings and better time management.
Morgan Tucker’s BIM Implementation Plan means that a BIM Coordinator within the team is assigned to mobilise the associated departments and disciplines. This ensures all work streams are achieving measurable deliverables, reducing costs through early operational understanding and de-scoping on non-essential items.
However, with the majority of an asset’s lifecycle being consumed in the operational phase, customers need to be included in these conversations and brought up to speed on everything BIM if they are to see the benefits long term.
BIM makes everything run more smoothly during the construction and specification stages. However, it has an often untapped potential when it comes to aiding the transition between asset construction and asset operation. Making end-users aware of BIM means they have the ability to visualise how the premises may look and are therefore able to make requests or adjustments before construction commences. By co-ordinating with the end-user during these initial stages, designers can make better strategic decisions based on function and, as a result, the building stands a better chance of meeting the needs and expectations of the client during its lifecycle.
To encourage this end-user inclusion, an initiative labelled ‘Soft Landings’ was introduced. Working in association with BIM, the Government Construction Strategy described Soft Landings as ‘the process of aligning the interests of those who design and construct an asset with the interests of those who use and manage it’. However, with many clients only employing a facility manager at the handover stage, once the building is complete, many of the collaborative benefits that can be gained from this scheme are lost. The hope, however, is that as awareness grows and conversations on BIM are sparked between constructors and end-users, the implementation of soft landings will be considered as more of an essential.
The benefits of BIM for end-users do not end here though, continuing long past the construction phase. For example, should there be a fault within the asset later down the line, the end-user has total transparency as to what stock their building has, through consulting the blueprint, and can seek out correct replacements parts with little hassle. From the data, they can also retrieve the installer’s details, meaning they can reach out for extra assistance should it be needed without having to fork out for unnecessary, intrusive surveys.
So, if BIM is a key tool during the design and construction stages of an asset, streamlining the process across all disciplines, why is a similar collaboration not taking place with the customer they are building for? Clearly, there is much that an end-user can gain from being informed on BIM, but it is up to the teams involved to engage and educate them at the early stages so that the benefits can be realised before the building becomes occupied.
--Morgan Tucker 09:53, 28 Apr 2017 (BST)
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- BIM articles.
- BIM glossary of terms.
- BIM maturity levels.
- BIM resources.
- Collaborative practices.
- Federated building information model.
- Government Construction Strategy.
- PAS 1192-2:2013.
- PAS 1192-3:2014.
- Step-by-step guide to using BIM on projects.