The Digital Revolution Comes To The Construction Industry

The Digital Revolution Comes To The Construction Industry

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is changing the UK construction industry. Implemented in 2011 this system is being rolled out progressively and by 2016, which is just a year away, it is mandated for the use of Level 2 BIM all public buildings. BIM has already made a contribution to the construction industry, contributing to an estimated at a savings of £804m in 2013/14. In a specific case the Ministry of Justice says that a saving of £800,000 for the Cookham Wood Young Offenders Institution development was achieved because of BIM. As seems to be evident the BIM will, through the integrated use of digital information, change the way the construction industry operates in the United Kingdom and lay the groundwork for the intelligent building. This is the new Britain, the Digitally Built Britain (DBB).

The BIM uses a system that has been in operation for many years in other industries, such as the Oil and Gas industry which has used Graphic Information Systems (GIS) to record, map, identify and store knowledge about infrastructure, facilities, equipment and systems related to their platforms and plants. This system is now being incorporated into all new build construction programmes. Like GIS, the BIM is a 3D computer model containing, at the first level information about the building’s design and structure, but including information about materials, maintenance and operation. Though the internet and various sensors in a building a company will be able to monitor the buildings functionality, plan maintenance and monitor the overall condition of the assets.

On the larger scale, all digital information about the building will be available to architects and engineers and through advanced analytics they will be able to plan new infrastructure more efficiently, test the designs of new buildings and analyse the impacts of them on the city environment. It will also allow them to programme builds more cost effectively, reducing waste and streamlining the supply chain. But this system is not restricted only to the industry. Through the internet the general public will have access to relevant information about the cityscape through which they are moving enabling them to make better use of the city environment.

A new round of investment in these technologies and the skills that support them is planned to further extend the work started in 2011 and continued till now. This new investment will be aimed at;

  • The creation of a set of new, international ‘Open Data’ standards which would pave the way for easy sharing of data across the entire market.
  • The establishment of a new contractual framework for projects which have been procured with BIM to ensure consistency, avoid confusion and encourage, open, collaborative working.
  • The creation of a cultural environment which is co-operative, seeks to learn and share .
  • Training the public sector client in the use of BIM techniques such as, data requirements, operational methods and contractual processes.
  • Driving domestic and international growth and jobs in technology and construction.

For Facilities Management companies this means a whole new approach to the management of facilities, in many respects simplifying the job of managing the facilities but also in some ways increasing the demands on FM companies. There will an abundance of information, both static and dynamic for the FM company to handle. Static information in terms of structure and layout and build data and dynamic information in terms of how the building is performing, what it’s environment is like, what efficiency levels are being achieved. With greater capabilities on monitoring come greater responsibility to achieve the desires of the building occupants. Breakdowns or interruptions in building environment systems for example will be less well tolerated when the FM company has at its mouse pointer all the relevant information and analytics to predict problems and rectify them before they occur.

The BIM is something that all FM companies should be embracing and they should now be learning all they can about these systems if they haven’t been doing so already. Some allocation of the new funding round is for training and development in the systems and skills necessary to manage BIM and companies should take advantage of this if they can.

For more information refer to the Digital Built Britain website, or the U.K. Government policy paper U.K. Construction Industry: Digital Technology.

(Image courtesy of Buildipedia)

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