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Setting off on the industry’s

BIM journey to Level 3 Debate identifi es need to get public sector on board

Last month, Construction Manager and BIM+ brought together two of the key architects of the “Digital Built Britain” Level 3 BIM strategy with representatives from Balfour Beatty, Aecom and Transport for London, to discuss the strategy’s bold vision for a data-driven industry – and the distance the industry still has to travel. The discussion featured Mark Bew, chairman of the government’s BIM Task Group and David Philp, head of BIM implementation at the Task Group. The pair met Dave Glennon, a director at

Aecom’s technology and data solutions group, Neil Thompson, a principal BIM integrator at Balfour Beatty, and Sonia Zahiroddiny from the information modelling and management capability programme at Transport for London. Key points in the discussion included:

● the need to draw different skills into the industry, including data and computer scientists, and manufacturing experts who can contribute to the shift offsite ● how intuitive, real-time data interactions at Level 3 – similar to the way we use smartphones, social media and apps today – will foster a new transparency in the industry and reduce its adversarial mindset ● the developing global market for the “New Engineering” – where the industry can sell clients solutions that involve data as well as physical buildings. Bew emphasised the reasoning behind publishing a level 3 BIM strategy when most of the industry is struggling to get to grips with level 2, arguing that change in a project-based industry was naturally slow. Hence the fi ve-year horizon for 2011-16 for Level 2 BIM, followed by a 10-year plan to reach Level 3 by 2025. “People go on a project and disappear, and then they come back with all that

“We’ll create that transparent, open data world, which is what we expect with the digital world now” Mark Bew, BIM Task Group


knowledge. So that’s the pace we learn in this industry. We’re a quarter of our way through the fourth year of the programme, and we’re starting to see peple popping out the end of their fi rst project with all that learning, which they’ll take to the next one. We’re not in manufacturing, where you’ve got a short lifecycle of learning,” he said. “If we hadn’t published the

Level 3 strategy, we’d be criticised for not having a future, and not giving the software and the training industry the future pipeline of work,” he added. But Zahiroddiny questioned whether some public sector clients would be able to keep up the pace: “We need to push people forward with this, but at the same time we need more leadership and we need more people who understand the technical aspects of this. “As a client organisation, our Opex side is

struggling to understand the fundamental basic principles of COBie, so I’m not sure how easy it will be to convince them this is the future – to move from static documents to a dynamic data-driven environment.” Bew acknowledged the challenges, but called on public sector clients to adopt Level 3 aspirations: “They physically cannot deliver the rate of public service and keep pace with the rate of population growth by staying at the bottom of the curve.” Reacting to the document, Aecom’s Glennon was struck by the synergies with offsite manufacture. “It’s leaning towards a more manufacturing way of working. So there will be less requirement for people doing steel fi xing, for instance, but we ‘ll need people with different skills – such as graduates with a manufacturing background – because they’ll have a different way of looking at it.” With an eye on the forthcoming election,

Balfour Beatty’s Thompson predicted that data-enabled buildings and infrastructure will help connect people to public services: “What excites me about it is construction

Clockwise, from left: David Philp, Mark Bew, Sonia Zahiroddiny, Neil Thompson and Dave Glennon

standing up and realising its role in making the political process smarter. “The next step is for the public to be able

to have some sort of dialogue that makes things about their life easier – health, roads, travel. So maybe not the next election but the election after that, they’ll be able to extract information from sort of portal and have a conversation over the data.” But the most enticing prospect held out

by Bew was the prediction that once everyone in the project team is effortlessly connected, the need to behave territorially and defensively would fade away. “We’ll create that transparent, open data

world, which is what we expect with the digital world now. With our iPhones and Facebook we can see where the kids are – that’s transparency, it allows us to behave in a different way,” he said. “If we get to a situation where we can

have transparency through the supply chain people will be comfortable so they will tend towards more comfortable behaviours. But that isn’t going to happen tomorrow – we have lots of work to go to get to our 2025 scenario.

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