The UK government has mandated that all centrally-funded work is to be undertaken using BIM by 2016. This is now less than 12 months away, and for those organizations that haven't yet done so, this series of articles explains how to implement BIM in your organization.

The process of implementing BIM is about change management, first and foremost. To do this successfully, the process needs to be carried out methodically. The best way is to make a 'BIM implementation plan', and the steps for this are outlined through the course of this series. This month looks at the changes that will be needed within your business.

Changes required to existing business – part one


Some aspects of your business structure are likely to need to adjust to the rigours of collaborative working. Project teams can't work on separate 'drawings' for the same project, therefore management and coordination of work on the shared model will become critical. For this reason, design organisations will need BIM coordinators in-house (to contribute to information management – establishing model standards and execution plans; undertaking design coordination and clash detection); while projects will need an information manager, to take responsibility for the Common Data Environment on a project-by-project basis (no design responsibility). BIM coordinators can be sub-consultants to the information manager if the two responsibilities are shared by the same organization. Looking outside your own company, wider project team structures may have to vary, too. Traditionally, stakeholders tend to prefer repeat business within established working relationships where there is a degree of trust; but as the industry is embarking on a gradual transition to new and unfamiliar collaborative working practices, then BIM experience may come to be favoured over prior participation – at least for the foreseeable future.


There is a common misconception that BIM = 3D software. While this is not technically true (BIM is a method of working), it is nevertheless an important tool for BIM compliance. It is also perceived as being the largest financial outlay (although other factors can be equally demanding, such as training, hardware and downtime). As such, the selection of software is an important decision that requires careful consideration. There are numerous products available, and, apart from price differences, each will offer slightly differing features to one another; as well as possibly being better suited to one discipline or another. Features to assess include:

  • Visualisation capabilities (rendering, movies, walkthroughs)
  • Reporting (choice of output formats, depending on need and audience)
  • Scheduling (e.g. windows, doors, etc.)
  • Compliance checking (for statutory regulation consents)
  • Clash detection (between, for example, structure and services)
  • Environmental analysis (heat loss, sun path or shadow analysis, solar gain, heating and cooling loads, and running costs)
  • Surveying (e.g. point cloud laser surveying compatibility)
  • Compatibility with others in a project team of differing disciplines and expertise
  • Specification (NBS Create; NBS plug-ins; National BIM Library; BIM Object Standard)
  • Facilities Management capabilities (for costs-in-use, or planned maintenance regimes)

However, the fundamental requirement for Level 2 compliance is the ability to import and export information in a 'common file format'; that is, one that can be understood by any other stakeholder's software. This is because, at Level 2, each stakeholder will be working on their own model, but needing to integrate another's model into their own, as well as supplying their model to others for the same purpose. For example, architectural, structural or services models will need to be combined, to assess for consistency. For the purposes of 3D information exchange, the requisite file format is IFC (in compliance with BS ISO 16739), which includes both the 3D graphical information, and also the embedded data (such as specification information, performance criteria, service life or product references). (Remember that exchange of this '2D' data alone would constitute a COBie 'data drop' and could take the form of a spreadsheet; this is the minimum file exchange capability required by the UK government for Level 2 BIM maturity.)


Perhaps the second-biggest barrier to successful BIM implementation is the fear of the financial outlay to upgrade computing equipment. Where businesses will have delayed investment during the recession, ongoing technological advances have continued and this can widen the gap between software requirements and existing hardware capability. Among the leading names in BIM software, typical system requirements now include a recommendation of 64-bit multi-core processing, up to 16GB of RAM and DirectX or OpenGL compatible graphics cards. Add to this the typical building model file size of up to 200MB, and server storage space also becomes an issue (although cloud storage is another option, particularly in view of the BIM Level 2 requirement for shared data).

As mentioned in part two of this series, most existing office networks are built around Cat5 data cabling, which is capable of a data transfer rate of 10/100Mbps at 100 MHz bandwidth. But the current standard is Cat6, achieving 10Gbps at 250MHz. When considering the file sizes to be moved and exchanged, the higher transfer rate capabilities of more modern cabling can easily be seen to be of benefit.

Finally, data exchange protocols need to be reviewed and upgraded where necessary. Data security is as vital as ever, and data theft technologies are becoming ever more sophisticated. Not only is data ownership an issue, but safe storage and transfer are equally important. Cloud storage only compounds the issue, and any solutions adopted need to be rigorously secured.

Next month concludes the look at the changes that will be needed within your business.

Previous: Are you BIM ready? What your business needs to do before 2016 (Part Four)
Next month: Are you BIM ready? What your business needs to do before 2016 (Part Six)

Useful links and references