At this year's RICS BIM conference the elephant in the room was April 4th 2016, the deadline for all public construction projects to be BIM Level 2 compliant. This is the culmination of a five year process starting in 2011 focussed on developing a set of documents defining BIM Level 2 and providing best practices for achieving compliance.
This year's conference suggests that for many in the industry they are now wrestling with implementation issues and are reporting a shortage of BIM skills. They are finding that BIM is really about data and are realizing that data management and analytics are essential to handling and interpreting the huge volume of data that is being generated. A shortage of data scientists to help them to do this has become an acute problem.
Transforming the UK Construction Industry in Five Years
The government's focus from the beginning has been on full life cycle BIM. Back in 2010/2011, the Government's BIM roadmap was perceived to be very aggressive, mandating BIM Level 2 compliance for all national government projects after just five years. In the UK public projects comprise about 50% of the construction industry so this amounted to radically transforming the UK construction industry in half a decade. Put another way the construction industry had to move from thinking analog to thinking digital in just five years.
The utility industry has been going through a similar transition in moving to what is called a smart grid and distributed generation. Some think that this process will take 20 years. But new technology and a younger generation steeped in digital is stepping in to make this happen much sooner than that. Energy is going digital more rapidly than expected. I think it likely that something similar will happen in the construction industry because digital enables all sorts of efficiencies that we often cannot even imagine. Uber and Airbnb are classic examples. Both are the largest or second largest companies in their respective industries. Gartner has forecasted a similar type of company will emerge for managing energy flows in the electric power industry by 2020.
For 2012 the Government's strategy focussed on discovery through pilot projects, notably the Ministry of Justice Cookham Wood project, a £20 mllion project where it is estimated that BIM saved hundreds of thousands of pounds in CAPEX costs.
At the 2013 conference David Philp,Head of BIM Implementation, Cabinet Office, UK Government, announced PAS 1192-2 a key document supporting the Construction BIM Strategy to achieve Level 2 compliance. It specified requirements for achieving BIM Level 2, sets set out the framework for collaborative working on BIM enabled projects and provided specific guidance for the information management requirements associated with projects delivered using BIM. David Philp made it clear that although the initial focus is on the design/build part of the lifecycle with the goal of saving 20% of Capex and reducing the 30% waste in most construction projects, the "largest prize for BIM lies in the operational stages of the project life-cycle".
At the 2014 conference Peter Hansford, Government Chief Construction Advisor, made a link between the overwhelming interest in BIM as represented by the sold-out RICS BIM conference and the industry’s enhanced interest and appetite for BIM. He saw a shift in emphasis from asking ‘’should we do BIM?’’ to ‘’how do we do BIM?’’ This was happengin inspite of the fact that as, Rich Saxon, the UK Government's BIM Ambassador for Growth, pointed out In a panel discussion on the future of BIM that some aspects of BIM Level 2 were still incomplete.
Deborah Rowland, Head of Facilities Management, Government Property Unit, Cabinet Office in the UK Government outlined the Government's motivation and plans for a program to improve the post construction handover and operation of newly constructed buildings. She described the Government Soft Landings (GSL) program which was intended to rectify this and was designed to put in place a legal, contractual, and technical framework (based on the BSRIA Soft Landings Framework) incorporating building information modeling (BIM) to fix the problem by ensuring continuity thoughout the buiiding lifecycle from inception, though design, construction, commissioning, training and handover through to operations and maintenance for 1-3 years after handover.
At the 2015 conference seven key BIM Level 2 documents (PAS 1192:2, PAS 1192:3, BS 1192-4, CIC BIM Protocol, Classification (Uniclass), Digital Plan of Works / Levels of Detail (LoD), Government Soft Landings) which collectively represented the current repository of BIM best practices were announced. Every speaker at the conference referenced these documents.
Seven major government projects using BIM, worth about £ 10 billion, have maintained records of the savings they have seen from using BIM. The measured benefits of BIM and factors associated with BIM range between15-20 %. By 2014 the government estimated that it had achieved savings of £ 1.4 billion through BIM and related improvements in the 2013/2014 fiscal year. But with full lifecyle BIM, the government saw an upside potential of 40%+ with the biggest benefits being realized in the operations phase of the building lifecycle.
This year it was announced that Government statistics show that in 2015 Her Majesty's Government saved GBP 3 billion on these demonstration projects as a result of gains in construction productivity related to BIM.
Full Life Cycle BIM
But BIM Level 3 is where the gold is. Level 3 will enable the interconnected digital design of different elements in a built environment and will extend BIM into the operation of assets over their lifetime. It will support the accelerated delivery of smart cities, services and grids. As the AGI has pointed out in a recent Foresight Report integrated BIM and geospatial technology will be fundamental for BIM Level 3.
Is the UK construction industry ready for April 14 2016 ?
An industry survey in the UK in 2013 reported that 54% of respondents said that they were using BIM on projects. Most of those not yet using BIM said that they would be within one to two years. 70 % of the respondents reporting using BIM said that BIM has given them a competitive advantage. But this year's conference suggests that most in the industry are doing BIM although for some it is not really clear what BIM Level 2 is and how one demonstrates compliance.
Data and People
This year's RICS BIM conference was quite different from previous conferences. The focus was heavily on implementation, not on progress in completing specifications or developing and working with 3D models as in previous RICS BIM conferences.
The event was led off by a panel discussion that set the tone for the rest of the conference - the focus was on data and people rather than 3D BIM models. The industry people on the panel were patently up to their elbows in real world BIM projects including data, the analytics to make sense of it, and the shortage of the required skills (data scientists and people with BIM skills).
Alex Jones, Interserve, said that within the construction industry there is now a focus on data and how data is used downstream. He said that clients (owners) are now aware of BIM and that both private and public procurements are asking for BIM. But he qualified this - they are not so much asking for BIM (as in 3D models) as asking for data that can be used downstream. David Throssel, Skanska, added that deliverables now means data.
In the context of data, Simon Rawlinson, Arcadis UK, gave an example of utilities where smart devices and automated capture has resulted in a database of asset conditions, and which also includes geospatial data for geolocating those assets. This information allows utilities to move forward to condition-based maintenance where prioritizing maintenance and replacement depends on asset condition not the calendar. Real-time monitoring is being adopted by virtually all industries. For example, devices are being implanted in structures such as bridges to monitor distortions. He added that the leadership has not yet recognized that sensors and analytics enable a major change that will revolutionize asset maintenance.
Also the new digital economy is disintermediating certain skills. For example, digitalized construction requires fewer layers. Simon cited a KPMG study of disintermediation by technology. As an example, he mentioned data such as that collected by utilities from smart devices that allows owners/clients/utilities to do condition-based maintenance, which can lower field staff requirements significantly.
In the construction industry as a whole one of the major issues that emerged is a shortage of BIM related skills.Simon emphasized that now that we have lots of data, what we need urgently are data scientists to help make sense of it. He identified this as a major problem because in his experience data scientists are as rare as “hens teeth”.
David Hancock, UK Government Construction, said that construction industry still thinks analog. Nowadays we can all produce data, but analyzing it is the challenge. We need people who can analyze to produce actionable items. He also identified BIM skills shortage as a major problem, and repeated that data scientists people are “as rare as hens' teeth. He suggested that one solution is upskilling – training existing construction/bldg maintenance/utility folks in BIM and data science. Another may be raiding the U.S. baseball industry where teams such as the Oakland Atheletics starting using analytics several years ago. "Moneyball" analytics has been recommended as a strategy for the utility sector in the U.S.
In the question period a speaker argued that the 3D BIM model has been "massively overplayed". BIM is really about data and collaboration, not about 3D. To maximize the benefits of BIM clients (owners) have to be clear about what the model, and much more importantly the data associated with the model, are going to be used for. For example, if for facilities management (FM) then clients (owners) have to be specific about what data is required for maintaining and operating the building as part of defining deliverables.
BIM Level 2 for BIM Novices
What if you are a small company with no more experience with BIM than discovering what the acronym stands for ? At RICS BIM 2016 there was a sequence of presentations by a group of mostly quantity surveyors (people who do quantity takeoff), all BIM novices, who came together to try to understand and share openly what BIM Level 2 means practically. (As one speaker pointed out, there is no legal definition of BIM Level 2 compliance. They called their project KT4BIM, which you can find on LinkeIn. The objective is to answer the questions
how do we do BIM Level 2
how do we demonstrate compliance.
The target audience is BIM novices and for both the residential and commercial sectors. The objective is to share all the material used and developed as part of this project with the industry. More information about this very important project will be provided in my next blog post.
BIM Level 2 Documents
I've included this list just to show how comprehensive this set of BIM and BIM-related documents is.
- BS 1192:2007+A1:2015 Collaborative production of architectural, engineering and construction information
- PAS 1192-2:2013 Specification for information management for the capital/delivery phase of construction projects using Building Information Modelling
- PAS 1192-3:2014 (Corrigendum No. 1) Specification for information management for the operational phase of assets using building information modelling
- BS 1192-4:2014 Collaborative production of information Part 4: Fulfilling employer’s information exchange requirements using COBie
- PAS 1192-5:2015 Specification for security minded building information modelling, digital built environments and smart asset management
- BS 7000-4:2013 Design management systems. Part 4. Guide to managing design in construction
- BS 8536-1:2015 Briefing for design and construction. Code of practice for facilities management (Buildings infrastructure)
- Uniclass 2015 Classification embedded within the NBS Toolkit
- Digital Plan of Work Delivery plan embedded within the NBS Toolkit
- CIC/BIM Pro first edition 2013 Building Information Model (BIM) Protocol
- CIC/INF MAN/S first edition 2013 Outline Scope of Services for the Role of Information Management
- Government Soft Landings "Design for operation" to encourage better outcomes using BIM for built assets during the design and construction stages to ensure value is achieved in the operational lifecycle of an asset.
- AEC (UK) BIM Technology Protocol Version 2.1.1 June 2015 Practical implementation of BIM for the UK Architectural, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry
- BS ISO 16757-1:2015 Data structures for electronic product catalogues for building services. Concepts, architecture and model.
- BS 8541-1:2012, BS 8541-2:2011, BS 8541-3:2012, BS 8541-4:2012, BS 8541-5:2015, BS 8541-6:2015 Library objects for architecture, engineering an construction