BIM: Reaping the rewards

Source: PSE Feb/March 2018

Although austerity has been a barrier to adopting Building Information Modelling (BIM), continued investment in these tools can greatly benefit the public sector and its clients, writes Alan Muse, global director of built environment at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

In a divided political world, all are agreed that value for money in public spending is essential. Construction and facilities management, and related expenditure on professional fees, accounts for the largest category of procurement expenditure in local government. Hence, technological developments that improve efficiency and productivity in this industry, such as BIM and related developments, are significant.

Central government departments have already seen the potential and re-engineered their processes to support BIM. Evidence of the benefits can be seen by reviewing the trial projects, showing numerous time and cost savings. This change is sometimes not easy. It entails new forms of procurement, ensuring legal frameworks support a collaborative work environment and new thinking. Critically, it demands an informed and enthusiastic client to set the culture and aspirations for the whole team.

Of course, professionals support the client, particularly at the early stages of projects, and they need to be able to articulate the possibilities and benefits of using BIM. As a professional institution, therefore, we have worked closely with the government and other professional bodies to develop guidance and standards to support the use of BIM. We have separate guidance on BIM for chartered surveyors practising as project managers, quantity surveyors and building surveyors. Supporting this, and by collaborating with other global professional institutions, we have developed international data standards for the profession to support BIM. One example is International Construction Measurement Standards. In addition, we have developed numerous online training courses in BIM and our BIM Manager accreditation.

We have also worked with the Construction Industry Council (CIC) in developing interdisciplinary BIM guidance, such as the CIC BIM Protocol, to enable a supportive legal framework. Other government initiatives, such as the three new recommended procurement models, are also inextricably linked to enabling BIM.

Much talk about BIM is design-centric. If clients are to more clearly see the benefits, BIM needs to incorporate time, cost and operational impacts – and this is where most of RICS professionals operate. BIM will continue to be used in the construction phase, enabling contactors to contribute ‘as built’ data and add documents such as product warranties, and that it will go on to be a tool for asset managers, facilities managers and maintenance engineers during the operational phase. BIM should therefore facilitate early involvement of facilities managers to address lifetime operation and maintenance costs and ‘maintainability.’ BIM is also seen as key to more effective design for manufacture and assembly, and therefore to making off-site manufactured solutions more readily available.

Councils are generally enthusiastic about the potential of BIM, and a significant number are deploying it either in-house and/or via their procurements. Manchester’s £100m central library restoration and town hall extension project (pictured) is a well-known early example. BIM helped the council deliver this prestigious project, completed in March 2014, on time and under budget. Sandwell came to prominence as another early adopter with its plans to mandate BIM Level 2 on a Homes and Communities Agency-funded programme of building 2,000 new homes plus leisure centres, care homes and other public buildings. This includes inviting bids through virtual public viewing models in BIM.

However, as in so many respects, austerity has been an impediment to wider adoption. Investment in software tools and hardware upgrades plus change management, training and ongoing maintenance is required for in-house deployment (i.e. where the council has its own design practice). If BIM is mandated via procurement, the concern is that this will be reflected in higher fees/prices. Also, council construction client teams are frequently very thin these days, and this also impacts on their ability to adopt innovations such as BIM. On the supply side, regional and local contractors may also lack capacity.

So, is BIM a tool to prompt wider change in the industry, or will the wider changes enable BIM? Either way, a fragmented, information-intensive industry will greatly benefit from technological integration, and clients who spend significantly on construction are poised to reap the rewards providing they are brave enough to embark upon the first steps.

(Top image © George Sanden)




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