Friday, May 27, 2011

BIM - Are you ready?


Construction is on the brink of a revolution – this is not the first time you’ve read this recently… but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.  The BIM era has been making its approach and is now on the brink of infiltrating mainstream methodology here in the UK.

It can be difficult to avoid the seemingly endless discussions and debates that surround the emergence of BIM as a process, but the fact that so many people are talking about this and looking at ways to realise the benefits of BIM and VDC should be a good indicator of the way things are going.

Paul Morrell

The point to note is that BIM is coming and it’s coming FAST.  Anyone fortunate enough to have received a talk by Paul Morrell on the subject will have been given a clue about the pace of BIM, in the lightening-fast powerpoint presentation that will probably have accompanied the subject.  This may prove to be one of the biggest challenges to the historically-lethargic UK construction industry, as the trend is to sit back and “see what everyone else does first”.

The fact is, there are some who have decided that things need to change before change is forced.  Last year’s report by the Innovation and Growth Team recommended BIM be mandatory on government projects over £50m.  In order to achieve real, wide scale integration and adoption this could be made broader.

At a talk this month, Paul Morrell seemed to agree as he labelled the above recommendation as “unambitious”.  Instead, we can expect a further announcement in June that outlines a plan to roll out BIM as mandatory on virtually all government projects within five years.

Surprisingly perhaps, this may come as welcome news to some UK contractors.  There are people out there who have been working on strategies and plans to lay the foundations required to make BIM & VDC real and effective parts of everyday construction methodology.

Among those who have developed BIM strategies are Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rourke and Skanska.  Excitingly, some of these firms have also put in place their own mandates to ensure that BIM can be not only enabled, but encouraged.

A recent presentation by David Philp (see of Balfour Beatty outlined the strength and determination of their global BIM strategy to improve construction methodology across the board.  Over a significant period of time, Balfour Beatty has developed procedures to allow BIM to become embedded into their core management processes.  This is a recognition of the business value of BIM as a process and the benefits it can bring across the life of a project.


A personal childhood favourite of mine, Lego, is also operating in the BIM world.  David Philp alerted me to the existence of “Lego Digital Designer”, a tool that has legitimised my newfound return to the world of plastic bricks.  This tool allows for the “virtual design and construct”, scheduling, conflict resolution and cost planning of lego models.  It may seem like silly fun, but the principles are the same and the processes are very real.

So, BIM is coming… or BIM is here?  With mandates pushing from the top down, contractors pulling from the middle in and hoards of eager schoolboys pushing from the bottom up where do you find yourself when it comes to being prepared for BIM?

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