BIM 2014: What does it mean for you…?

Barbour Product Search brings to you ‘a beginner’s guide to BIM’.

BIM has been big news in the built environment for the last few years. As part of a government initiative to reduce building costs, the Cabinet Office published the Government Construction Strategy in 2011. This strategy announced that all government-funded construction projects will “require collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) by 2016”.


With less than two years to go to the government’s BIM Level 2 deadline, we have been looking into what BIM will mean for those involved in the life cycle of a BIM project:


·         The Architect

·         The Building Product Manufacturer

·         The Contractor

·         The Facilities Manager


The Architect

BIM modelling has been gathering momentum whilst having a major impact on the construction industry. This digital media tool allows architects to create a virtual building information model. While the word ’BIM’ might strike fear into an architect’s heart, the reality is it should be embraced.


The BIM visualisation model will allow for much more scope in the design process of projects. With BIM, a building can be modelled with greater detail, covering things like plumbing, partitions and internal layouts, getting into the heart of a building at the early stages. This is a great improvement on current modelling tools used such as 3D studio Max and AutoCAD, as architects will now have the power to go into detailed design at the early stages of the overall process. Moving forward, this means a great deal of time and money can be saved in the later stages.


One of the most beneficial features of BIM for an architect is ‘clash detection’. Put simply, this is an application which allows computer processes to check certain rules like code regulations and any possible structural issues with a building. Identifying these problems at an early stage might prove crucial, rather than only discovering any potential issues late in the day, when the cost has the potential to be much more excessive.


Like any new technology or system introduced, the initial feeling can be one of hesitation or uncertainty, until it is used more frequently, when it then just becomes the ‘norm’. BIM modelling is no different. Embrace this product, and architects will find a revolutionary tool, and one in which will have a fundamental impact on the way buildings are designed and built.


The Building Product Manufacturer

“BIM is NOT scary for building product manufacturers” claimed John Tebbit from the Construction Products Association in his seminar “BIM for the Terrified” at Ecobuild 2014. This proclamation is a big statement for many building product manufacturers who are treading carefully when it comes to BIM. But with the 2016 deadline looming, and government projects accounting for around 60% of all UK construction projects, not being BIM-ready by 2016 is a big risk for building product manufacturers.


Project information is embedded within a 3D BIM model meaning information from all disciplines can be extracted from the same source model. Implementing BIM will see projects evolve from the traditional linear “design-bid-build” delivery. The BIM model is housed in a “Cloud” allowing all disciplines simultaneous access resulting in more collaboration earlier in the process.


This collaborative way of working should be embraced by building product manufacturers. Having your products available as BIM components will allow specifiers the convenience of dropping your products directly into their design. Once in the model, products become an integral part of the proposal and are, therefore, less likely to be re-specified further down the build process.


BIM is not solely a design and build tool, it is also able to deliver information to building operators throughout the life of the building. This makes BIM an invaluable tool for product manufacturers as they are able to supply building operators with integral information about their products. Maintenance requirements, operating instructions and spare part information can be included in a manufacturer’s BIM offering meaning that a building operator’s first call if there is a requirement for product maintenance or parts is back to the manufacturer.


There are a number of resources out there that can help you when implementing BIM. Read BIM for product manufacturers FAQs, and download the “BIM for the terrified” guide from the Construction Products Association for a great in-depth introduction.


The Contractor

A recent report by McGraw Hill indicated that just 11% of contractors were frequent users of BIM, compared with 60% for other consultants. There are different reasons as to why this may be the case, one of the main ones being that contractors are not primarily involved with which design systems are used, their involvement comes later. It seems there is a consensus amongst contractors that BIM is solely focused on the initial design elements and it ends there, thus meaning any involvement they may have with BIM will be minimal. However, when used correctly, BIM can be used collaboratively throughout the whole construction process.


One of the main benefits of this for contractors, as is the case for architects and the rest of the supply chain, is that the process should be quicker. This will ensure contractors can be ready to begin on site at a much earlier date than perhaps would be possible with CAD drawings. Moreover, using BIM, contractors can separately create models for estimating, fabrication or a simulation of what the construction will look like, without sharing the models. When you think of this benefit, and take into account the fact that contractors will also be receiving more comprehensive data from the design team, including a fully detailed prototype of the building model for inspection, the statistic of just 11% seems surprising.


The Facilities Manager

A recent paper published by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) states that “it is widely accepted that it costs up to five times more to operate and maintain a building than to construct it”. With this in mind the real value of BIM becomes clear. The technology is about the lifetime value of a building not solely about the design and build process yet many facilities managers cite initial investment as a concern when it comes to implementing BIM.


BIM is capable of providing facilities professionals with reliable data about their properties which has the potential to offset any initial investment concerns. The technology can help create facilities that are more efficient with lower carbon emissions making them less costly to run. BIM can also hold information on products and materials used in the construction of a building. This means that maintenance, repair and replacement of building products can be simpler to acquire after the initial handover period is complete, significantly reducing maintenance costs.


As well as the benefits of BIM in maintaining a building the data from building information models can also be used for space management, disaster planning and to create accurate depictions of the physical conditions, environment and assets of a facility.


The benefits of BIM for facilities management are far reaching and should be embraced. As with the other sectors collaborative working is key for successful BIM implementation. By collaborating with those involved in the design and construction of a building, facilities managers can more effectively manage the space and assets in operation and maintenance for the life of the building.



A recurring factor for those hesitant to adopt BIM in 2014 appears to be initial investment in new technologies and processes. When looking into implementing BIM we must, as an industry, look beyond the initial problems and embrace this new way of working. There is a lot to gain that more than offsets the upfront costs of BIM and so it is in everyone’s interest to make it work.


By Barbour Product Search, the online building product directory brought to you by the people who created the Barbour Compendium.


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