BIM Or BUST – Part II.

 “2013 BIM or BUST? – The new normal and a digital construction industry in the UK…Or – BIM as a focus and catalyst for industrial and societal evolution”

(Note to the gentle reader – this is an expanded version of a previous post – J) 


BIM or Building Information Modelling has become a hot topic over the last eighteen months.

(1 – Let’s remember that BIM is about much more than just buildings, it could be any constructed asset, for example a road, bridge, oil rig, tunnel, rail line, airport, nuclear power station etc.

2 – BIM is about data management, collaboration, and communication.

3 – BIM is about data management over the whole lifecycle of any asset, connecting, integrating, and structuring all the data that we produce at every stage. Perfect data – the single source of truth for the project.)

BIM is a sure fire success if used in the tagline for a conference, leading to packed audiences, and yet as a subject is still widely misunderstood by most of the built environment industry, particularly SME’s and supply chain in any sector or discipline. Businesses, organisations and individuals that really “get” BIM are still mainly in the minority, although the balance is rapidly changing.

In the retail sector the demise of the likes of Jessops, HMV, Blockbuster and the success of companies like Amazon show how the influence of digital consumerism is changing our shopping patterns and as a result businesses have had to change in response to the digital onslaught if they are to survive. This is truly a Darwinian moment.

“It is not the strongest of species that survive nor the most intelligent but the ones most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

Against the backdrop of much broader global and national perspectives, these developments are just a small part of the changing world in which we now live.

Paradigms that we thought would remain stable for all of our lives are now shifting beneath our feet, just as the geological tectonic plates have shifted over millennia rearranging the earth’s geography.

Change, evolution, is a given and a constant now, and the sooner we adjust and acclimatise the better it will be for us and for our future generations.

What does this mean for the built environment industry? Included in this discussion are any form of infrastructure and built asset. Let’s consider some background issues before looking at how BIM can help us respond, adapt and move forward in transforming our industry. Remember BIM is not new technology, other industries such as aerospace, petrochem and automotive adopted this way of working decades ago

“Five years from now”

“Assume that:

  • Hard drive space is free
  • Wifi-like connections are everywhere
  • Connection speeds are 10 to 100 time faster
  • Everyone has a digital camera
  • Everyone carries a device that is sort of like a laptop, but cheap and tiny
  • The number of new products introduced everyday is five times greater than now
  • Walmart’s sales are three times as big as they are now
  • Any manufactured product that’s more than five years old in design sells at commodity pricing
  • The retirement age will be five years higher than it is now
  • Your current profession/job will either be gone or totally different.

– What then?”

– Seth Godin, (written 2004!)

Taken from “This Might Work, This Might Not Work, Collected Work 2006-2012, Do You Zoom, Inc, 2012

Business in the 2020s, industry in the 2040s, the paradigm shifts*

*Paradigm shift- ”a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.”

For us Baby boomers and Gen X we’ve seen it all happen in our lifetime, the explosion of technology and connectivity that has changed and is continuing to change our world. For the GenY’s, the Millennials, (born post 1982) this is the new normal, and when can I have the next new thing – I want it now!

Perhaps normal just doesn’t exist anymore. The paradigms that we grew up with no longer hold true and the geological plates that have been stable for many years making up our lives are now shifting on an unparalleled scale beneath our feet.

  • One job for life
  • Married and two children by 30
  • Get on the property ladder
  • Married (at all)
  • Only one job at a time
  • Leave your parents as soon as possible
  • Education is free
  • The state will care for you

And the technology… if you need to know anything at all about anybody or anything, just Google it.

Information on anything, available 24/7, all the things, subjects, people you can think of. You can see hear/see anything, talk to anyone. There is more information immediately available at our fingertips than anyone could hope to absorb even in several lifetimes.

Our lives have gone digital, and it is now taken for granted. Our village is now the globe, social networks abound. Everyday we all trade data and information, it is the currency of life.

But what does this mean? Change is increasing on an unprecedented scale. And it isn’t just about technology

This is just one strand of many factors that are affecting our daily lives.

Drivers of change

There is a project by Arup and their Foresight Team called “Drivers of Change” ( ).

They have produced a toolkit that looks at these factors under the following headings:

Energy, Waste, Climate change, Water, Demographics, Urbanisation and Poverty.

In addition these are cross-related to “STEEP” categories, (Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, and Political). The website and toolkit provide resources to make us think about these factors and can be used in a variety of settings, to provoke discussion, and action. The challenge for us is that so much of this is interconnected now and crosses boundaries between influences, subjects and sectors.

As we have seen recently climate change is becoming a reality. Tell that to the people who’ve just been flooded for the third time last year.

Shortages of natural resources, water, energy, oil, gas, difficulties in extraction, leading to rising costs. Increasing population growth, fragmentation of society, reduced opportunities for the young, people living longer, becoming a burden to the state and a shrinking workforce. Economic stringency. Pressure is building on all sides and from a variety of directions.

These all filter down into the construction industry and influence the kind of outcomes and projects that we can deliver and how we work.

Project practises become more sustainable, optimised for lifecycle performance, achieving faster build times using off site techniques, and real time post occupancy evaluation and operational management.

BIM can offer a platform to assist delivery of all of this and more, providing benefits to all stakeholders at all stages of the process.

UK BIM Strategy

At a time of great economic stringency the UK Government push on BIM has kept it on the agenda, when perhaps ordinarily most businesses would have put it in the too difficult box. BIM Level 2 in 2016 is still a confusing and misunderstood target for some, but the Ministry of Justice are clear on the benefits and have brought their deadline forward to end of this year to have at least Level 2 BIM on all their projects. (A substantial 6 figure saving on one of their pilot BIM projects helped!)

The strategy is driven by two main objectives: to reduce capital project costs and reduce carbon emissions. The “One Year On” report outlines savings already made in the first 12 months, partly attributable to BIM and other initiatives. BIM provides access to efficiencies and economies, saving time, effort and waste through the use of consistent, structured data.

The UK strategy and implementation continues to grow, develop and gather momentum. The website, , contains information and downloads on all aspects including latest news, pilot projects, working parties, standards and more.

In the first quarter of this year key documents will be released which will put in place some frameworks for BIM in the UK.(At time of writing “the BIg Launch” is now set for 28th Feb.Check out the taskgroup website…)

These include:

PAS1192 Part 2:2013 Building Information Management – Information requirements for the capital delivery phase of construction projects. This develops the work of BS1192 (2007) and sets guidelines for using BIM, in a Common Data Environment on projects.

PAS 91;2013 Construction related procurement. Prequalification questionnaires. This sets the format for public sector prequalification documents and is mandated by the Government Construction Strategy. Included in this update are PQQ questions on BIM, which will be used by public sector clients in the supply chain selection process. The BIM questions cover subjects such as protocols, processes, documentation and training.

BIM Protocols. This document will set out the contractual frameworks for using BIM On projects. Alongside this will be the Digital Plan of Work, bringing together work from the last 12 months, integrating various industry wide plans of work into a unified framework and Level of Detail/Development plans illustrating model development and data requirements at each stage.

Already on the BIM Task Group website can be found the COBie UK 2012 document, which sets out COBie requirements and templates. (COBie stands for Construction Operations Building information exchange. It is essentially a spreadsheet, and is a way of exchanging data outputs from BIM models. The data outputs are defined at various stages and are being aligned across Government departments for consistency.)

2013 and BIM goes bananas

Over the coming 12 months BIM will continue to grow and develop across the UK.

These are some headlines to look out for:

Demand – BIM reaching critical mass in the market for demand by clients and other stakeholders. The Government strategy will motor on this year, percolating down into more UK Gov departments, local authorities and public sector organisations and clients. PQQs and tenders will include more BIM requirements, leading to more cries for help from bemused contractors and supply chain businesses.

“The Gap” – will widen. Leading BIM exponents, early adopters, including designers, leading contractors and suppliers, will turn BIM into real competitive advantage. Winning more work, providing services and project certainty that non-BIM companies will not be able to match. A two-speed industry could be a reality this year.

Natural selection – Sadly there will be more business failures. The recession is taking its toll, but the evolutionary changes and demands that our industry is facing will start to bite with a vengeance this year. Embrace change to survive. Darwin could have written his “On the Origin of Species” for such a time as this.

New competition – “Left field” players enter our industry. Free of the traditional construction industry baggage, players from other industries will use BIM to enter the construction industry and really compete. This is a big threat to the leading traditional players. Offsite manufacture, Design for Manufacture, Computer Aided FM are prime targets…its only a matter of time. Imagine Apple designing and making buildings- it comes on lorry, exquisitely designed and packaged, constructs like a dream and just works. Or consider buying your building from Amazon, click, visualise, select and check out, constructed a few weeks later! Why not?!

SME’s – BIg action here this year. Whilst the early adopters and big players get their BIM ducks in a row, the delivery will only be as good as the supply chain capability, and their engagement with BIM environments. Somehow Supply Chain and others need to be supported to step up their capability. Many organisations will be working on this to provide support, training and guidance.

Changing working culture – The penny will drop on cultural change – many have become fixated on 3D and technology, thinking BIM is only software, just reboot, reload, and off you go! BIM requires more collaboration, integrated teams, new workflows and ways of working. This means that implementing BIM is much more than 3D, requiring business and cultural change on a grand scale. This will take at least 12 months? 18months? 2-3 years for a large organisation?

BIM business as usual – will become a reality for some, and already is for the leading players. Level 2 is only the first stop on the journey, and again some of the early adopters are going to be pushing the boundaries and beyond.


According to the latest Autodesk survey, the UK is second only to Finland in the world for BIM implementation. In the space of two years, we have come from nowhere to be a global BIM Player. UK PLC sees BIM as a unique offering and the Government objective is now to lead the world in this field.

This year our industry will continue the journey towards a transformation that is equivalent to the first Industrial Revolution in terms of scale and impact. Whilst there are many challenges, I now feel that the impetus is both irresistible and inevitable. It is only a matter of time for the industry to embrace these changes and the impact of the digital age.

In the long term digital data managed in this way will enable smart projects, built by super efficient lean integrated teams, and eventually delivering smart cities, connected and digitally enabled on many levels, being energy efficient, optimised and totally sustainable.

This is the vision and future for our industry, and in 2013 the journey will accelerate. The only question that remains is where are we? – On the platform, or on the train?

Whistle blows, off stage left


Huge BIM train disappears off stage right, leaving massive cloud of carbon free emissions and  gazillions of megabytes of information for clients and their teams to use to design, construct and operate their assets!





One thought on “BIM Or BUST – Part II.

  1. This is the type of blog that all architectural students and anyone for that matter involved with AEC should be looking at and taking on board as there are far too many still with their heads buried in the sand!!


Leave a Reply to Aódh McGuinness Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.