BIM Conference 2013: A practical approach

Olly Thomas, BIM manager at the Design Buro reports on some of the highlights from BIM Conference 2013.


In a change to most of the events I have recently attended, the BIM Conference 2013 was rather local. I say this, but it still took me over an hour to get there by car due to traffic, so it may as well of been in London anyway!


Held in the Scarman Training and Conference Centre at University of Warwick the BIM Conference 2013 promised a more practical and ‘hands on’ evaluation of the BIM process to meet your business needs and how that process should drive technology selection.


Delegates were invited to learn about:

  • BIM as a business process
  • OPEN BIM as the extension to that process that enables deployment of the technology that best suits business needs
  • Current trends that affect BIM workflow, collaborative working and performance
  • BIM for SME’s
  • Utilising BIM to design low energy buildings


Mark Bew, Head of BIM Task Group who was confirmed as the opening keynote speaker for the day was unable to attend, an in turn was replaced by Mervyn Richards OBE, responsible for authoring of the BS1192/PAS1192 and amongst other accolades Mervyn also one half of the Bew-Richards curve, the infamous BIM wedge that features in any good* BIM presentation.


Mervyn gave a very concise presentation and delivered a clear message and standpoint from the government in respect of BIM. Mervyn highlighted that the BIM process has been proven and that it was the way forward. He iterated that we as an industry are to continue and refine the delivery of level 2 before we begin to strive for level 3 delivery.


Mervyn warned that we as an industry are not to think that we can’t still deliver bad information through BIM. He alluded that there has been little difference in reduction of information waste from the CAD switch over and we still are to be cautious and conscientious as not to produce unacceptable, uncoordinated and ambiguous information.


Mervyn reaffirmed that level 3 iBIM is not truly achievable at this time. Technology is on its way and standards are being developed to assist the process, but we must drag the trailing edge of the industry up to level 2 delivery before we can all move to level 3 together. In respect of a proven BIM process, Mervyn referenced the MOJ pilot scheme of Cookham Wood that is currently on site and has been a driver in dictating and forming the deliverables that are to be required in 2016.


The brief following Q&A session sparked a debate on the ambiguities surrounding the acronym LOD. Mervyn noted that the CIC BIM protocols refer to the AIA definitions of LOD but stated that these were not suitable and that the PAS1192 LOD alignment should be developed more in line with UK specific requirements. This is something that should and will be teased out of the Digital Plan of Work discussions that are currently taking place (see my next blog post regarding digital plan of work discussions!).


A fresh look at BIM – David Jellings – Director of Open BIM Network


Next up, David Jellings whom provided a presentation based around the concept of an industry view of BIM rather than a government view. In other words, the Open BIM Network is a voice for the industry.


David used the analogy of Henry Ford and the development and production of the first viable transport vehicle that took transport away from the rich and to the man in the street. David highlighted that at that period in time, a mindset change needed to occur.


Most people would have accepted a faster horse than a car and parallels can be seen within the construction industry today, where for too long we too have been trying to develop a faster horse. If our mindset as an industry does not change then we will not progress. David shared the experiences of the manufacturing industry in quickly realising how a change of mindset and introduction of a collaborative process can rapidly reap benefits.


David stressed the importance of needing to share. The need to share must also go hand in hand with the need to trust. This is something that does not currently happen in our industry.


Fundamentally David highlighted that the Open BIM Network strives to create competition in software and technology and subsequently will pave the way in forming common standards and an open BIM platform.


In order to meet the change, we must; create data in a common format to in turn exchange data in a common format.


Rob Annable – Axis Design


The first ‘doing’ BIM rather than ‘talking’ about BIM presentation of the day was given by Rob Annable of Axis Design, a small practice based in Birmingham.


The presentation demonstrated the experience of an SME using BIM not only in a collaborative way but also in a way that provides direct and clear benefits to the practice. Rob described how Axis has been able to harness the power of technology in an industry where he felt there is an under use of capacity of current technology.


Axis has a strong emphasis on sustainable design and it was illustrated how BIM can fit integrally into the environmental analysis process. Rob highlighted that the role of the architect is changing and in 2013 architects should be able to use a model to show the poetry of architecture (for example how light filters into a space) but should also be able to interrogate and identify the raw data associated with this.


Rob stated that if you as an architect are not using the full ability of the technology available, you are not providing your client the full service that clients should (now) be expecting.


Rob ended by showing a self build project that really did demonstrate how those one man bands who don’t yet see the benefits of BIM to them really could be harnessing the valuable benefits shown through this project.


I urge you to take a look at the project on Rob’s blog at


James Anwyl – Eurobuild


Following Rob, another sustainable focused presentation given by James Anwyl of Eurobuild on Hadlow College, recognised as the best example of BIM on a microcentre in the UK. Working with stringent Passivhaus standards in mind, James highlighted how the BIM process and integration to environmental design (BEM – Building Environmental Modelling) had allowed for creation of Passivhaus details that led to innovative solutions that had not been seen before.


James recognised that some great work is being done in respect of interoperability of BIM to environmental software and that this can only be a good thing for the industry going forward.


Practical Application of BIM Ken Good – BIM Consultant


In what was essentially a product demonstration of Graphisoft Archicad, Ken led us through a highly acclaimed project to demonstrate workflows and ease of use in practice.


Although heavily Graphisoft focused (which to be fair is no surprise as they sponsored the event) the presentation showed the great importance of interoperability of software and the need to clearly identify and understand what LOD the project team is working to, together with a realisaton that differing project team members refer to the same things through differing terminology. 


Following the morning presentations, the afternoon was split into a series of smaller workshops/ seminars of which you could choose 3 to attend for the rest of the day. Of the available sessions, I opted for;

  • BIM Validation and COBie Data Drops
  • BIM Objects and Components – The Intelligence of the GDL
  • Directors BIM: PII, Appointments and Contracts


Of the above, a special note must go from me to Shaun Cooper for the BIM Objects and Components – The Intelligence of the GDL workshop that albeit was Archicad focused again, the sheer knowledge that he has in respect of the software and the clear way tools and methodologies were explained was fantastic.


I hope that I will some day have BIM Authoring skills to rival these one day. In summary, a conference where by 6 presentations in and there had been no mention of Revit was certainly refreshing. The format, the variety of speakers (of whom some I had not heard from before) and the overall atmosphere on the day was great.


I was happy to see an event like this being held in the Midlands and hope it goes someway to reinforcing/ disseminating the message within the region. There certainly were some familiar faces that I recognized from the West Midlands BIM Hub meeting back in October last year and I hope to see them and many others again.


Unfortunately, to end on a sad note, I can report that many fluffy kittens were hurt throughout the day!


*BIM Bingo fans may not agree


By Olly Thomas author of BIM There Done That