By 2016, all Government construction projects will have to conform to Building Information Modelling (BIM) principles at every stage of the process. It is likely that other clients will also be looking for construction companies working with BIM to deliver their projects, so adoption of this new way of working is becoming increasingly important for construction companies.
What is BIM?
BIM uses software to generate digital representations of the physical and functional elements of the planned build. It covers not only the design which has previously be shown using CAD design, but also the properties of every component in the project, construction processes and on-going maintenance.
These files are shared with relevant people involved at all stages in the process and changes can be made in response to concerns and issues which might be raised. These could include the availability of specific materials, ideas on improving the available space or light and long term considerations such as energy and water efficiency.
This collaborative approach aims to transform how the process works. In organisations where BIM has yet to be introduced, every individual works in relative isolation on their part of the project. The architect passes their design to the construction company, the site manager orders supplies and trades are hired to work on specific elements.
Issues can arise when one stage of the process doesn’t work with another. The architect’s designs might not be completely achievable using the desired materials or there could be delays in sourcing the necessary supplies. The idea of BIM is that everyone involved works in a more collaborative way. They work together on the initial design to ensure it is viable and achievable before work commences.
Whilst the BIM approach may require a greater degree of planning and be more time consuming at the early stages, the shared information and collaborative approach should reduce time during the build. It should allow for a more effective construction process in relation to ordering, cost efficiencies, time scales and staffing. The majority of problems should be ironed out before the construction phase begins.
The Introduction of BIM
BIM isn’t a new principle. The concept was first introduced back in the 1970s and implemented in the late 1980s, but modern technology is making it a viable option as we look to the future. It is also not just a UK initiative; companies around the globe are increasingly working with BIM, so this approach is going to be increasingly important on international construction projects.
In the UK 13% of construction companies were implementing BIM in 2011 and this had risen to 54% in 2014. There is a Government task force to support the implementation of BIM across the industry, along with a wealth of resources, forums and advice from those companies that were early adopters.
Introducing BIM into an organisation isn’t a straight forward process, because it’s a completely new approach to construction. Change management has to be led from the top with investment in new technology, internal training and support with implementation. Experts may need to be brought in to support this process, to ensure that it is effectively adopted at all levels of the organisation. It is also important to extend BIM practices out to external partners, suppliers and contractors.
Whilst BIM has the potential to improve many aspects of the construction process, it can’t eliminate the risks associated with working on site. The role of a site manager should be made easier by the collaborative approach, but they still need to ensure that things run smoothly and that safety standards are maintained.
For any site manager, completion of the Site Manager’s Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) is essential for a comprehensive understanding of site safety and related issues. As building sites remain one of the most hazardous workplaces, this training could reduce the very real risk of severe or fatal injury. For details of SMSTS courses in London visit: https://heffronsafety.com/smsts/