Too small for BIM?


The deadline for Level 2 BIM has been looming for the last 5 years. Now that it has passed by more than a week, it appears it is business as usual and apart from the odd mention on social media, the actual date virtually passed me by. However, I am pleased to see more and more matter-of-factly statements appearing on my news-feed about how a collaborative 3D approach is slowly becoming the go-to option for major engineering projects.

But what about the small ones? What about a town centre 2-up-2-down terraced property in need of refurbishment? Surely the initial data gathering and preparation effort far outweighs its use? Well, that depends on the use of the data, of course. Lets look at the different stages during which such a property can benefit from up to date 3D spatial information:

1. Purchase/Sale
Accurate dimensions are available for the Estate Agent to market the property. Furthermore, potential buyers have the ability to visualise the property better than a floor plan would allow them to. What is the view like from the bedroom window? Will our piano fit through the hallway door?

2. Alterations to the layout of the property and planning consent
Remove this wall, erect an extension here, convert the loft (does the staircase fit and will we lose a bedroom on the first floor as a result?). What is beneath the laminate floor? All this becomes a desktop exercise, where normally a further survey (most often intrusive) would have been instructed by an architect or structural engineer.

3. Energy efficiency
Window ratio of the property, route of sunlight across the property, effective installation of solar panels. All these benefit from geospatial information being available about the property's location, orientation and general make-up.

4. Health and Safety
Efficient placement of smoke detectors and escape route planning. Where is the boiler's manual and when was it last serviced?

5. Demolition for redevelopment
A topic becoming more and more relevant. With housing needs increasing rapidly, we are seeing old and tired housing estates being flattened to make way for new ones. Being able to quantify the material present will allow for more effective recycling of materials and estimating of waste making the redevelopment process a more environmentally friendly one.

So who invests in this?
In this particular example, it is the property owner. The initial investment will return multiple times over the occupancy span.

But what after that? Sell the data to the Estate Agent? Why not - certainly a more comprehensive dataset than they would produce to market the property.
And after that? Sell it to the new buyer? Why not - they will benefit from having this information to hand.

There is certainly mileage in producing comprehensive 3D information on small scale properties and projects. Over the lifespan of such properties, there are multiple shareholders who will have an interest in and benefit from this data. As BIM continues to spread through the construction industry, even local authorities, Estate Agents and window fitters will begin to see the value in having this information readily available.

For now however, the process is driven by visionary individuals and I suspect the days where the buyer is handed a set of keys, the title deed and a memory stick with all information relating to the property, are still a long way off.

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