The road to Level 2 BIM
BuildingSMART International founder and chair Patrick MacLeamy says a culture change will improve collaboration and calls on other countries to follow the UK government’s lead
Report from – Damien Carr
As the one year mark approaches for the government’s March 2016 deadline for Level 2 BIM compliance on all public construction projects, many designers and contractors will be preparing for what has been widely billed as a watershed moment for the industry.
An overstatement perhaps, but the 2016 deadline is certainly a major milestone in the UK’s most recent drive towards a more efficient construction industry, begun in 1998 with the publication of Rethinking Construction or the Egan Report, as it is more widely known.
Itself a response to the 1994 Latham Report that investigated ingrained problems in the industry, Rethinking Construction underlined some of the fundamental principles of BIM (Building Information Modelling) in the UK by calling for a greater client focus, integrated project processes and teams and for leading public sector bodies to become best practice clients. BIM today is now a key plank of the government’s construction efficiency targets for 2025, which calls for a 30% reduction in construction costs by 2025; and collaboration is at the heart of BIM.
The government’s BIM strategy, therefore hinges on the use of open data standards that enable information about a building asset to be shared between the different software platforms that may be used by different teams.
Level 2 BIM represents the first step towards this interoperable nirvana and will be delivered through the use of COBie, which is being developed and tested by buildingSMART UK. Although COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange) is essentially a data-exchange format that holds non-graphical information based on spread sheets, teams are nevertheless able to build up and share standardised data about building assets as the project progresses, with ‘data drops’ timed at key project milestones.
BuildingSMART UK is one of 16 national chapters of buildingSMART International, which leads on the development the set of free, neutral openBIM data standards that sit within the Industry Foundation Class (IFC) family that includes COBie as well data formats for geometric data. IFCs are becoming the de facto standard data formats by which information about an asset can be exchanged across different software platforms; it is this interoperability that will enable the different links within the construction chain – as well as the building users – to share information, and will ultimately facilitate the greater collaboration that the construction industry seeks.
“No other organization exists to do the vital work of creating openBIM standards for information exchange, vital for collaboration in the building and infrastructure industries,” Patrick Macleamy told Building4Change this week. MacLeamy, who is founder and chair of buildingSMART International, is also chief executive of architect and engineers HOK.
But as things stand today, how ready is the industry for 2016? In a recent panel debate organised by CIOB’s Construction Manager Magazine, participants representing companies from across industry were cautiously optimistic but pointed to an overarching issue around clients’ understanding of BIM and also of collaboration.
So what is the major barrier is to greater collaboration? MacLeamy is clear. “Ironically, openBIM encourages or mandates collaboration while the traditional building industry continues to resist. The greatest barrier to collaboration is cultural: the natural resistance by individuals to change,” he told Building4Chnage.
But perhaps it is the UK government acting as what Sir John Egan called a ‘best practice client’ who will best help mitigate some of the concerns voiced about 2016 readiness. Indeed MacLeamy believes the government’s BIM initiative is “without question” the most important step any government has taken to reform the building and infrastructure industries. With David Philp, head of implementation at the government’sBIM Task Force, revealing that that there is £9.76bn of live public sector projects, there is certainly a big enough prize to be had.
“Because the government is the largest UK client, it has the clout to drive change in the way UK buildings and infrastructure are designed, built and operated,” he said, adding that the government had made a “wise” decision in accepting that the best standards are open and international.
“I encourage every government to follow the UK government lead and reap the cost savings and quality benefits of collaborative openBIM for buildings and infrastructure,” he said.
Patrick MacLeamy and David Philp will both be speaking at BIM Prospects on 22-23 March, which Which will examine open data standards for Level 2 and 3 BIM.
Patrick MacLeamy on the disconnect between architect and builder
IFCs explained (buildingSMART Norway)