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Civil Engineer blog

BIM in infrastructure - Not just a fad

25 January 2017

There has been significant promotion, enthusiasm and debate around BIM in the UK in the past few years, stimulated primarily by the public sector BIM Mandate first announced in 2011 and that came into force in 2016.

BIM in infrastructure - Not just a fad

This central government requirement was for projects to adopt a BIM Level 21 approach in order to improve project performance, advance asset management and ultimately gain more value from public investments.

Despite the many reported successes and significant BIM adoption across industry organisations, some still see BIM as a fad or short term trend that will pass. However, BIM is here to stay as those who have taken the journey to adopt never go back. Moreover, the Government BIM programme is part of a larger change strategy in the UK construction industry that includes smarter procurement, fairer payment, improving digital skills, reducing carbon emissions, and increasing client capability2.

The evidence of success is well reported by HM Treasury3 and in numerous industry case studies4. Construction Global5 highlighted that an effective BIM approach sees effort shifted back into the detailed design phase when the ability to impact project performance is high and the cost of making design changes is low, and on an illustrative £100m scheme reducing design spend by 35% could save £2.6m, but investing in design in order to enhance efficiency and reduce waste in construction by 15% saves nearly £14m.

At the Management, Procurement and Law ICE Lecture6 on 17th January 2017, the use of digital technologies to improve project delivery was presented by Andy Jinks and Barry O’Driscoll from the Highways England Smart Motorways Programme.

Image courtesy of Highways England

They highlighted how implementing BIM and associated technologies had delivered benefits in:

  • customer engagement
  • design decision making
  • team collaboration
  • information management
  • addressing safety
  • construction planning and
  • improved data handover into operations.

The speakers stated that significant effort is sometimes required to change behaviours and encourage people to adopt the new technologies, correctly use a common data environment and implement unfamiliar work processes. However, that investment was more than compensated for by the obtained benefits.

The ultimate message was that for Highways England this will be the new normal, and future projects and work programmes will continue to adopt and leverage BIM.

So perhaps for those who have yet to commence BIM adoption, or who have resisted due to fear, or believe that this is a fad that will go away, there is a growing imperative to embrace the change and make a start. How projects and organisations implement BIM will vary on a case by case basis, but there are many good practices and techniques that should be applied for consistent and low risk adoption; British Standards provide the core BIM Level 2 guidance for customers and industry to understand how it applies to them.

A simple way to view BIM Level 2 is as just a means to improving current processes and leveraging new technologies to be more productive and effective. There is no reason to fear getting involved.

Technical BIM implementation for projects does necessitate an understanding of project requirements in order to determine the most suitable tools and information sharing methods between disciplines. But again there are good techniques and repeatable processes that can be applied, with technology suppliers such as Autodesk aligning to BIM Level 2 requirements within their products and recommended workflows7. Specific infrastructure procedures have also been developed to help projects address obligations such as modelling aligned to client asset hierarchies with methods to store structured data including classification and customer specific parameters.

To help you on your BIM journey and unlock its full potential, procedures and techniques for

  • modelling
  • assigning object attributes
  • extracting structured data in industry standard formats and
  • exchanging information

according to BIM Level 2 requirements for infrastructure will be shared in the ICE Webinar on February 2nd.

Would you like to learn more?

Join ICE and Autodesk in a webinar on ‘The Why, What and How of BIM for Infrastructure’, on 2nd February at 12.30. Register now to be part of the webinar.

  2. The Government Construction Strategy (GCS) 2016-20, Infrastructure and Projects Authority, March 2016