Bluffers Guide to BIM

I was recently asked the question, so what is BIM and do I need to know about it?

I hope to answer both parts of the question in the overview below.

BIM stands for Building Information Modelling and can provide, in an intelligently linked digital format, all the information required to manage, design, build, operate and then demolish a built asset. Unlike a traditional approach of presenting drawings as a series of lines in 2D (originally on a drawing board and then via CAD), which more recently evolved into a 3D representation, the 3D digital BIM incorporates information as objects with associated information (such as size, the grade of steel, the U value of insulation, manufacturers plant component, unit costs).  This information is brought together collaboratively by input from the design and construction team members as the project progresses allowing the volume of information to grow from inception, through design and onto construction.  Then on project completion the data file is handed on to the owner/commissioner and his management team as the major part of the O&M file, to be updated as changes occur during the working life of the Asset and eventually providing a record for the demolition or remodelling at the end of its life.  Put in the least sophisticated terms the BIM process has the potential to creates an electronic filing cabinet of all information regarding the asset, which is updated when necessary, but also allows for easy interrogation of the information at any stage of the project, from the predicted energy use, through actual energy efficiency, to the volume of waste generated during construction, to the whole life cost of the asset.

The Government commissioned the report “A report for the Government Construction Client Group Building Information Modelling (BIM) Working Party Strategy Paper” in 2010 which was published in 2011.  The full 107 pages can be downloaded at:

This report introduces the concept of BIM maturity levels to reflect the expected development of BIM procurement, training and the technology to support it.  The Levels range from Level 0 (Unmanaged paper or electronic paper, i.e. pdf files) to Level 3 (Fully open process and data integration enabled by “web services” compliant with the emerging IFC / IFD standards).  The report recommends that within five years (2016) central government should be procuring 100% of its construction at or above Level 2 (Managed 3D environment held in separate discipline “BIM” tools with attached data, i.e. each participating party has its own 3D model which integrates with software and is commercially managed by an Enterprise Resource Programme ERP, a large commercial database).

Introduction of BIM is moving fast.  An interesting summary from building magazine identifies a fifth of public sector clients (18.9%) have used BIM, whereas almost a third of private sector clients  (31.5%) have done so.  The large multi-disciplinary consultant Capita Symonds is mandating the use of BIM across all its design services divisions from 1 July.   The Crossrail project is a standout project using BIM.  However, QSs are among the slowest professions at adopting BIM.

The BIM Strategy paper also reviews the legal, contractual and insurance implications of BIM and generally concludes that to Level 2 the implications are manageable with minor changes to the current documents and arrangements, but does concede that moving to level 3 will require more consideration.

At the recent Government Construction Summit the Government were keen to extol the Construction industry to adopt BIM as part of its strategy to reduce construction cost by 20%.  The speech by Francis Maude can be found at and the Government’s progess report at:  A few very selective extracts:

  • The commitment to embrace Building Information Modelling (BIM) in Government projects over a 5-year time frame is positioning the UK to become a world leader in the take-up of BIM
  • BIM pilots are also expected to demonstrate big gains in process efficiency within the design and construction process
  • The legal, commercial and insurance protocols for BIM are nearing completion
  • There are complementary programmes for developing private and public-private sector collaborations in the form of BIM for Retail, BIM for Rail and BIM for Developers
  • BIM is a process change not a software purchase

So knowledge of BIM is important if you have any association with the Construction industry; it might currently be essential for only part of the industry, but soon it will be essential to nearly all.  I urge you to book-mark the site to keep up to date.

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