Modelling in practice


February 20, 2014 Chris Pedder │

Mention was recently made in Inside Housing about Nottingham City Council’s pilot to use Building Information Modelling (BIM) for a 54-house scheme.

BIM is not a new concept but is high up on the radar of the government, which intends all central government-funded projects to be using ‘Level 2’ BIM by 2016 to help meets its strategy of reducing construction and operation costs by 20%. 

However, use of BIM by social landlords in the delivery of housing has been slow.

BIM has several key features:

  • A 3D system utilising collaborative software as a shared platform supplemented by cost elements and programme and facilities management (FM) information.  
  • Information on the shared platform is consistently labelled and is exchanged digitally within a specified timetable of design production through ‘data drops’;
  • Location and attributes of all building components, including durability, maintenance requirements and operating instructions, can be stored in one place;
  • Enhanced ability to detect conflicting design – ‘clash detection’.

Government trials have reported time and cost savings by integrated working and developing initial designs through BIM.

But there are challenges to implementation.

The Construction Industry Council has produced a BIM protocol which is intended to be appended to appointment documentation and is a good start.  The protocol suggests social landlords, in their role as developer, appoint an information manager to manage the processes, although this role is intended to shift from designer to the contractor prior to start-on-site.

The procurement process will also need to be structured to establish a collaborative framework between those involved  in design and construction.

Appointment documentation of designers and constructors needs to ensure that they reflect collaborative working in a BIM environment and that each is clear on acceptance of responsibility for documentation they produce within a shared platform – otherwise the social landlord, as the ultimate client becomes responsible for any ‘gaps’. Let’s call this ‘gap detection’.

This delivery model runs counter to accepted structures commonly used in construction. The protocol has provisions that should be closely looked at in terms of risk for the parties before being included. In itself the protocol seeks collaborative working but does not incorporate processes to achieve this.  This can only be achieved through the appointment document on a wider basis.

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