Side view of corridor and docks.

Building Information Modelling

25 January 2012. Published by Jonathan Hutt, Partner

This is the first of three blogs about Building Information Models, or BIM. This blog will explain what a BIM is and why it is significant. We will then look at the risks associated with BIM; finally, we will provide some practical advice on how these risks can be tackled.

So, what is a BIM?

In simple terms, a Building Information Model, or BIM, is the digital representation of physical and functional buildings.  A BIM is not a design tool; rather it contains a wide range of information about the design, construction and operation of a building which can be used throughout the life cycle of a construction project.

Far from being a single, prescriptive tool, the level of sophistication of BIM models varies.  In its simplest form, at what is called BIM Level 0, BIM may involve two dimensional drawings, in hard copy format, created using a CAD system.  At its most complex, at BIM Level 3, data is held on an integrated computer system that can be accessed by all members of a construction team.  A BIM Level 3 system will include costs, programming and life cycle facility management information.

One of the main benefits resulting from the use of BIM on construction projects is, by virtue of an integrated design, the resolution of potential clashes at the design stage of a project, as opposed to further down the line once construction has commenced.  Avoiding such clashes will result in related benefits of cost and time savings.  In addition, better programming will allow for the more efficient delivery of materials and equipment to the construction site, more accurate costing of changes to works and an overall better understanding of the works required and this should reduce the risk attached to the pricing of works packages.

The benefits of BIM are also envisaged to last beyond the construction phase of a building: BIM can act as a tool for the management and operation of a building (including lifecycle costs).

Why is BIM significant?

The Government Construction Strategy, published by the Cabinet office on 31 May 2011, announced the Government's intention to require collaborative BIM Level 2 (which is a managed 3D environment held in separate discipline BIM tools (i.e. there is not one single database for all information and commercial data is held separately; although, it may be accessed using appropriate software)) on all central Government department projects by 2016. This has led to an increased focus on BIM and its implications for the construction industry.

The projected growth of BIM over the next few years is likely to affect a wide variety of professionals within the industry, including architects, designers, contractors and project managers.