Why you need to know about Building Information Modelling (BIM)

25 Jan 16

In the face of tighter budgets and pressure to reduce the environmental impact of our public buildings, local government organisations need to start waking up to the potential of Building Information Modelling (BIM) when procuring construction services

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is probably not a term, or in fact an approach, that many local government executives have engaged with. However, in the current climate of tighter budgets and greater environmental responsibility, BIM is going to become a must-have technology on all local government tenders when it comes to the procurement of construction projects.

Since BIM emerged in the UK back in 2011, I’ve headed up RICS’ drive to encourage industry members to develop the necessary standards and requirements. Five years on, adoption of BIM is mandated for public sector contracts this year, due to its effectiveness and efficiency.

There are many benefits of BIM adoption. It has essentially transformed the way the construction industry works – particularly for those in charge of delivering projects. The technology ensures that every last inch of a building, road or railway track, for example, can be three-dimensionally measured. This gives those designing, managing and constructing the structure a chance to optimise a build – before the construction itself even takes place.

With the public sector’s responsibility to create buildings and structures that not only last a long time, but are environmentally friendly, energy efficient and of a high value for less cost, BIM has the potential to become an important asset to public sector procurement.

As such, it’s especially important local government organisations, and the executives within them, take notice of BIM. With that in mind, there is a real need for greater education among local government executives about BIM, its application, and the role it plays in the procurement of construction services in order to drive significant improvements in cost, value and carbon performance.

There needs to be a two-pronged approach to BIM education – particularly when it comes to educating those local government executives who will be setting the parameters and criteria for construction service recruitment. By gaining more information about BIM and immersing themselves in the process and the innovative approaches it enables between suppliers, local government executives will be able to ensure they not only pick the right people for the job, but become more integrated in the development and life cycle of the projects they procure.

The Manchester Central Library and town hall refurbishment project is a great example of a groundbreaking project that adopted BIM and reaped a number of short- and long-term benefits. The project team behind it, at Manchester City Council, was headed up by Alan Garbutt FRICS and faced a challenge to deliver on time and within budget when they were commissioned to restore the complex back in 2009.

Alan and his team understood that sustainability was at the heart of the city’s future and the restoration of the library and town hall needed to fit with this green agenda. The procurement process for design teams, advisers and eventually contractors was developed to select organisations and people who could commit to this shared vision and it was through this, that guidance to construct with BIM was formed.

After deciding to implement BIM for the project, the procurement team brought in firms with a proven track record in successfully using the technology. They commissioned a 3D survey and, combined with the eventual BIM itself, were able to source localised and detailed analysis of existing building geometry and intrusive surveys as the project scope and requirements progressed. The data was valuable not only in helping the procurement team keep the project running to correct timing and budget schedules, helping them to make better informed decisions, but proved useful in external communication with local communities too.

Collectively, the team was able to keep the wider community, including local businesses, neighbours and planning colleagues abreast of the project’s progress. This clarity managed to reduce the number of queries and concerns that would normally be generated on a project of this size. BIM also helped the team to enhance site safety and logistics.

This successful multi-award winning restoration was completed in 2014 on time and£250,000 under budget, demonstrating the achievements of external contractors and the procurement team and validating the decision to adopt BIM technology.

Local government executives that get on board and deepen their knowledge and understanding of BIM will find that it works to their advantage, vastly contributing to their end goal – to keep budgets controlled, projects delivered on time, and to escape the wider scrutiny that ensures public money is being spent as wisely as possible.

For more information on BIM, and the 2016 mandate, visit www.rics.org/bim. To sign up for RICS' BIM conference on 25 February, visit http://www.rics.org/uk/training-events/conferences-seminars/rics-bim-conference/london/

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