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The realities of using BIM

Posted: 27th November 2013

Ashley Beighton MCIOB
BIM Process Leader
The Clarkson Alliance Limited

The Clarkson Alliance (as lead partner), Kier Clearbox (as software partner) and Worthing Homes (as host project partner) are currently undertaking a Technology Strategy Board co-funded research project “to establish the changes in dynamics and behaviours across the construction supply chain to unlock new, more efficient and collaborative ways of working with Building Information Modelling (BIM)”. This is the second in our series of updates about the project. Transitioning into a Level 2 BIM environment

In our last post we reported that our Meadow Road sheltered housing project had moved away from the usual single stage design and build tender to a two stage tender process. The first stage tender has now concluded, a contractor has been appointed and a full design team assembled. The team are now in the process of developing a BIM Execution Plan. Once this is complete the project will move online and into, Clearbox’s BIMXtra Level 2 BIM environment.

BIMXtra is a central ‘middleware’ platform that will allow the project team to use a range of authoring tools – Autodesk Revit, Microsoft Excel, etc – to import data into, and export data from, a single, federated BIM model. With freely available software the BIM model can also be viewed by the wider project team, facilitating engagement across the entire supply chain.

Worthing Homes will therefore be able to view the BIM model as the design develops, as will all of the main contractor’s sub-contractors and suppliers. It is important to recognise however that there is still a need for drawings in traditional 2D format and for the relevant standards and procedures to be incorporated into the BIM Execution Plan.

Adapting PAS 1192-2 for use on smaller projects

PAS 1192-2, the BSI’s publicly available BIM standard, brings some much needed consistency to BIM implementations however it’s necessarily a ‘one size fits all’ standard for projects both large and small. As such its processes have already needed some substantial tailoring in order to fit the needs of our smaller project where there are fundamentally far less people and less data involved.

The PAS also assumes a single stage tender whereas we have moved to a two stage tender process. On Meadow Road the scheme design was developed in 2D CAD and so the first stage tender was issued and returned in the traditional manner. Now that a contractor has been appointed and a full design team assembled we are developing the BIM Execution Plan and undertaking the associated capability assessments prior to developing the design and moving on to the second stage tender.

Preferably the capability assessments would have been included in the first stage tender returns, if not also a pre-contract award BIM Execution Plan responding to the Employer’s Information Requirements. That way any hardware, software or training needs could have been identified and addressed at the earliest possible stage. In addition it would have been preferable if the scheme design had been developed as a BIM model as this would certainly have helped speed up the transition online and into BIMXtra.

In conclusion

By making the BIM model freely accessible to the wider project team and adapting PAS 1192-2 to fit our needs it chips away at the notion that BIM isn’t accessible to SME’s and can’t be used on smaller projects. This is a point supported by Professor John Lorimer, Local Government BIM Liaison Officer, during a recent Collaboration Oxford seminar that we hosted (link to Collaboration Oxford post). John delivered a number of projects using BIM when he was Capital Projects Director for Manchester City Council, including the £95 million refurbishment of Manchester Central Library.

John said, “We have cracked, I think, ‘it doesn’t work for small buildings,’ ‘it doesn’t work for roads,’ ‘it doesn’t work for listed buildings.’ No, that’s wrong.”

Do you have any lessons learned from using Level 2 BIM on smaller projects like Meadow Road? If so then we’d be interested to find out more about your own experiences.

Contributor: Ashley Beighton is BIM Process Leader for The Clarkson Alliance Limited, a firm of consultant project managers and information managers based in Oxford and London. To find out more about the information management services that TCA provide see our website dedicated to BIM - BIM fusion