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27 May 2015
A recent contractor survey (paywall) in Construction News has revealed a lack of understanding from subcontractors is the main factor holding back the development of BIM Level 2. There is no doubt that getting a whole industry to change the way it delivers its projects was never going to be easy. And when you consider this involves a different way of thinking, with a shift away from a dependency on documents and drawings, towards a data-centric approach enabled by digital technologies, it’s clear that it will be tough.
Building information modelling (BIM) utilises information-rich models through collaborative working processes in order to improve the quality of information provided at the design and construction phases to save costs by eliminating waste. In 2008 a diagram was developed based on the different maturity levels of BIM. This was then used to establish what standards and practices needed to be developed / updated to allow each maturity level to be adopted. The current focus of the industry is to adopt maturity level 2. By 2016 all Government procured assets will have to achieve BIM Level 2. (Source: www.bre.co.uk)
But that’s not an excuse to shy away from it. Especially when the digital economy is rapidly impacting every part of our lives, indicated by our dependency on our smart phones, and our increased expectation of how we are treated personally as customers, with better information, and a more responsive, integrated service. It cannot escape our attention that we have to transform how we deliver and then manage infrastructure to enable this to happen.
We are lucky that, in the UK, the Government has been brave enough to undertake a comprehensive programme to upskill its central government departments to become intelligent procurers of digital information – making the digital asset as important as the physical asset. And aiming for this digital asset to be consistent across the UK estate so that all departments can share – and trust – each other’s data. Just think of the consequences of that. For the moment, because of this central pull, we are the envy of the world, and other countries, including Germany, Scandinavia, France, Singapore and Australia, are keen to emulate the programme. Strategic planning, integration and running of the UK infrastructure could actually become an achievable aspiration.
But, the industry as a whole has to lean into the challenge. Can you imagine if Ordnance Survey was able to host near-real time data of our surroundings, which we could all view on our smart phones, in the same way that we take Google Maps for granted today. Just imagine if our underground buried assets could all be viewed – accurately and reliably – in three dimensions from a mobile device, within a gaming environment familiar and engaging to those brought up on Xbox, PlayStation – but shifting already to embrace the virtual reality of Oculus Rift and the holograms of Microsoft HoloLens… who says that the construction industry cannot attract the younger generations to help create a better world?
One of the things that bothers me about the results of this survey is the apparent continuation of the “blame” culture – the reason for the slow progress being pushed on sub-contractors and clients. What is so important is that the UK initiative is very much about endeavouring to encourage and enable the client and each tier in the supply chain to take responsibility and help the level below upskill – not least by being very specific about what they are asking for, and working out together, how and who should deliver this. It is so important that we each take responsibility for embracing and enabling the change – supporting each other as individuals, across teams, and across organisations. It is no accident that BIM Level 2 is described as a collaborative approach. When the responses to industry surveys reflect this, we will know we are well on the way. But this is a journey for a whole industry… and changing measures of success to how much an organisation is helping others on the journey, doesn’t necessarily come easily to an industry built on competitive advantage.
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