Infrastructure BIM is coming along fast

NCE reports on the panel fallout from a webinar discussing the UK industry’s BIM-readiness in advance of the 2016 mandate.

In November, NCE joined forces with sister title the Architect’s Journal to co-host a live webinar analysing the industry’s progress towards the government-mandated Level 2 adoption of BIM. The view was there is still a long way to go.


Engineers and architects who claim to be working in a full BIM environment were hit with a wake-up call late last month. A panel of BIM experts convened by NCE and sister title the Architect’s Journal united in the view that no-one is yet operating at what is known as Level 3 BIM. That is a stage of BIM adoption where all participants in a project are working collaboratively using a single, data-rich, cloud-based model.

It is one step further than the Level 2 UK government has mandated must be used on all its projects by 2016. That simply means that client, contractor and designer are working from data-rich models, but does not require them to be fully integrated – merely that the data can be easily exchanged and shared.

The panel, convened for the first ever joint NCE/AJ live webinar “Level 2 BIM and beyond”, were responding to a live poll of webinar participants which asked them to rate their level of BIM adoption. While almost three quarters of the 410 respondents admitted that they were not yet operating at Level 2, over a quarter revealed that they had not even evolved to using 3D models.

Studio Klaschka director Robert Klaschka gave the small proportion of respondents claiming to be operating at Level 3 already short shrift, saying that the answer just went to prove their lack of understanding around what true BIM is. “The poll is really helping you understand that people don’t know what they are talking about,” said Klaschka. Up to 90% of his firm’s work now comes through because of its BIM readiness and capability, plus willingness to share information, he said.

“There is still a belief that Level 3 means the consultant team and maybe the contractor are working together. But that isn’t it. It’s a much bigger picture. It’s an integrated model which everybody including the operators of buildings, specialist contractors use, and there is no project where that is happening today.”

Anne Kemp, Atkins director and chair of the ICE’s BIM action group, said the result was “interesting” and that it was unfortunate that there was a “competitive” element of firms’ vying to be BIM leaders, saying that it would be better if people “shared the journey”, with best practice and learning shared to really understand what Level 2 is about.

She also warned against firms claiming they are something that they are not, with accreditation in the form of PAS 1192 on its way. This standard will specify the requirements for achieving BIM Level 2 and will be in place well ahead of the 2016 deadline.

“Within the next 12 months there will be accreditation and there will be training in place. So be careful everyone, as you will be caught out,” she said, adding that people should use real caution when describing themselves as Level 3 compliant as government itself has yet to truly define it.

“Level 3 is still being defined so be ever so, ever so careful when claiming that.”

Bentley Systems senior director of construction Stephen Jolley, said he was not surprised by the poll result and that moving away from “my BIM” to “collaborative BIM” was going to be a big challenge.

 “Level 1 is really, this is my BIM, this is where I work, and I share information where I need to, and that is really reflected in the poll, with 50% of people there or below. Adding “It is interesting that 25% of people admit to still being on paper, which is probably a fair reflection where the industry is.”

Ahead of the webinar NCE caught up with David Philp, head of BIM, at the UK government’s BIM Task Group, who said he felt that the pace of take up was on track to meet the 2106 target.

“We are halfway through a four year programme and probably exactly where we need to be. We have done the heavy lifting, we have created a programme. We have created the processes that assist data exchange, and we have got guidance out there.

“We have tested the hypothesis with early adopter projects especially with the MoJ, that show we are getting value for money but also getting better outcomes.

“So we are spot on where we need to be.

Philp added that in the supply chain there were now more than 30 companies working in BIM4 groups sharing tools, ideas and case studies – “both good, bad and ugly” – and regional BIM Hubs were now active.

Kemp said there were now good project examples emerging. She has been working with the Environment Agency and Highways Agency to get pathfinder projects up and running.

For them, as clients, ownership of good non-graphical data will be of huge use and is the main reason for BIM – being able to drive down whole life costs through better informed decisions during maintenance and operations.

But they also gain from better-delivered capital projects, which is also to the benefit of those delivering them – using the collaborative, data-rich model to – among many other things – do more detailed optioneering at design stage and then better programme work and identify clashes during construction.

A second poll showed that that is clearly accepted thinking, with the overwhelming majority seeing the main benefit of BIM to be a combination of saving in time, improved quality of the asset and increased profitability. Just 1% of those polled saw BIM purely in terms of an opportunity to boost profit.

Which is encouraging. But are clients doing enough to pull the industry up to Level 2 standard? Because as Klaschka said, at the moment most of the benefit is going to the contractor in terms of increased profitability.

“At the moment most of the benefit is going to the contractor and it’s not going to be the client until the client starts to engage properly and that’s perhaps one area where we are a little bit behind, “he challenged.

Jolley agreed. “The value of BIM is further downstream but historically BIM has been focused on the front end and the process of creating those deliverables,” he said. “So most technology was initially focused on products that help with creation of the deliverables. But that is changing,” he saidThere is of course, a danger of information overload.

Kemp said it was about asking the right question. “If you’ve done your job right, you’ve asked what is the data we really need?” she said.

Klaschka agreed. “Perhaps at the moment we are dumping too much information on the client. But that’s just an interface issue,” he said. “It’s just like if you want to buy shoes online, you wouldn’t say, well, I want all other information on the internet to be deleted.

“it’s about finding the right data for you,” said Kemp. “It really is stepping back and thinking what your business is and what the data requirement need is going to be.”

Data, and sharing of it, brings in the challenge of interoperability. Enter COBie UK 2012, the information exchange schema, and COBie for All now under a period of consultation.

“Interoperability has always been a challenge,” noted Jolley, accepting that software suppliers simply have to make it work.

“It [the data] has got to be open,” echoed Klaschka. “There are so many things to do with the data that we within the industry haven’t thought of yet, that it has to open to all.”

Philp said that there were challenges, but urged the industry to engage with the ongoing consultation on the standard.

Kemp agreed it was work in progress and also urged people to share their views and get involved in the consultation, but all panellists stressed that interoperability is not a show stopper.

They agreed with Philp that the biggest challenge to adoption is actually people’s attitudes and culture.

“The biggest challenge is people and culture, shedding off some of our baggage and moving forward. We have to try not to think about BIM as disruptive technology, and see it as there to help us build better, “he said.

So who takes the lead? Who manages the information? Said Jolley: “In theory, for the intelligent clients, it should be them – as they have most to gain. But for those unable to do that, maybe to an extent the ownership could change through the lifecycle of the project.”

Klaschka said it may be a specific role on the project; and that professional architects and engineers are ideally suited. Kemp agreed; that all her engineers were thinking of themselves as information managers.

It is an important role, as there is a balance to be struck – not everyone on a project will need access to a BIM model.

And, as the panel agreed, 2D drawings will continue to have a role. “You can’t dismiss them,” said AJ technical editor Felix Mara. “There is a view that 2D drawings dumb down data and that is not the case. Klaschka agreed: “Plans are a great way of conveying information. After all, it’s why we’ve been using them for years.”

Nethertheless the panel agreed that the move towards digital data will be relentless. Looking 10 years hence, Klaschka was clear on what he wanted – complete separation between the data and the tools that then use it. “That’s the main difference,” he said.

For Kemp it is about managing information, collaborating across the supply chain: “That is where I see a real difference. “I am really focusing on the collaborative working,” she added.

And Philp? He wants BIM to have been and gone. “We need to be preparing for the end of BIM,” he said. “BIM should become part of business as usual.”

Watch the webinar, free and on demand at


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