In April 2016, the collaborative use of BIM Level 2 in all government procured buildings will become mandatory, with all asset information relating to a project becoming electronically shareable in a common environment.
Since the government revealed this as part of its BIM Strategy in 2011, many businesses within the construction sector have been scrambling to optimise their BIM capabilities. It is an issue that impacts businesses throughout the entire construction supply chain, from architects to contractors to product manufacturers.
However, as we stand here and now, there is a risk that many companies will be left behind. From the latest surveys carried out by the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), it is the smaller contracting firms that are currently most affected.
‘Not Ready at All’
The survey states that 54% of firms with a turnover of less than £1 million are ‘not ready at all’ for the April 2016 deadline. Of the businesses with earnings between £1 million and £20 million, 30% shared the same view. Of the largest firms, with turnovers of over £20 million, only 11% said they were not ready at all.
The real message that needs to be iterated is that BIM is not going away anytime soon and smaller building services businesses should be accelerating their adoption of the implementation process. It is the biggest change in how we design and construct our buildings since the CAD revolution in the 1990s, and should thus be granted at least an equal level of importance.
The April 2016 BIM deadline should be seen as an indication of what is to come. The commercial, industrial and residential building contracts will inevitably follow suit on a much wider scale.
When the more lucrative contracts start rolling out, who are going to be the beneficiaries? Who will architects seek to partner with? By continuing to dwell, smaller contracting firms will be overlooked for the ‘future-ready’ companies that are becoming more and more experienced with the practice.
Ready, Steady, BIM
Aside from adhering to government requirements – and the subsequent risk of lost business from government projects – the benefits of implementing BIM are hugely significant as the UK’s construction sector mobilises for a more modern approach. It will greatly improve project efficiencies that will ultimately deliver projects more quickly, competently and reliably for clients – and will generate more future business for BIM-ready contractors as a result.
It might be true that not enough information has been communicated about how small businesses can implement BIM in a way that minimises disruption to their existing and future projects. It might also be true that the costs of implementing BIM – and the potential profits to be gained – have been miscommunicated too.
It is therefore encouraging to see that as a result of its survey, the ECA has released a four-point action plan to help prevent building services SMEs from becoming frozen out. The plan includes:
+ A ‘BIM readiness checklist’ to help firms identify the necessary steps for achieving BIM Level 2
+ A ‘BIM jargon buster’ to help firms navigate the sea of BIM terminology and acronyms
+ Case study development to demonstrate first-hand how a BIM project works
+ Working with partners to develop awareness, training and deployment issues, alongside a common approach towards using BIM objects
But it is not just contractors that are feeling the heat from the pending BIM requirements. Whilst not obliged to become BIM compliant, the role of manufacturers cannot be overstated.
As BIM-driven projects become more common, the onus will be on manufacturers to supply precise data on how their products will contribute to a building’s operation. Without that information, project teams may be hampered by design mistakes that have a major impact on timelines and overall costs.
One example would be a heating products manufacturer. An effective radiator BIM object offers dynamic calculations that automatically determine corrected outputs, flow rates and pressure drops. The dimensions can be fully adjustable to accommodate the intricacies of a building’s design, and automatic scheduling and detailing can be selectable options too. These features are invaluable to the entire project team.
With the help of this data from BIM compliant building product manufacturers, it will become considerably more feasible for contractors to mobilise, safe in the knowledge that they are being supported by capable, BIM-savvy manufacturers that can provide them with sophisticated BIM objects to help inform their decisions.
Justifying the use of BIM should be everyone’s responsibility – from the government through to architects, contactors and manufacturers. It is not too late to get the ball rolling. Just because the April 2016 deadline hits, it should not mean that building services companies cannot position themselves for future prosperity BIM will bring.
And ultimately, that is the point. It is not just about hitting deadlines, it is about enhancing building processes that will benefit the UK construction industry for years to come.