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 organisations that haven’t yet done so, this series of articles explains how to implement BIM in your organisation.

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 continues with the first step, which is to undertake an audit of your existing business.

Business audit – part 2

1. Existing hardware capability

Look at the existing electronic hardware in your office. If you don’t already keep an audited list of equipment (such as for insurance purposes), then compile a spreadsheet of all the equipment, including:

  • Purchase date
  • Purchase cost
  • Life expectancy/ anticipated replacement date
  • Technical specifications, appropriate to the device (such as storage capacity, speed, memory, etc.).

Equipment to assess will include:

  • Servers
  • Workstations (including processor speed, graphics card, RAM)
  • Backup/ archival equipment
  • Storage devices (disk drives, etc.)
  • Broadband/ internet connection/ routers/ switches
  • Internal cabling/ wireless distribution network
  • External/ outsourced infrastructure.

File management structure and storage capacity are particularly important, both during and after a project. The typical file size of a BIM model (consisting of many BIM objects) can be of the order of 200MB, compared with a 2D CAD file of 1 or 2MB. Post-completion, archival becomes an issue for future data retrieval – ensuring that file formats remain compatible or at least accessible in years to come.

2. Existing software capacity

This is commonly interpreted as the most fundamental aspect of BIM implementation – and the costliest. However, BIM isn’t about which software you use – it’s about how you manage your work. That said, 3D modelling software is a tool that is necessary to achieve BIM collaboration. Whereas the ability to modify a 3D model is more likely a prerequisite for designers, the ability to carry out inspection, interrogation and analysis of that information will be needed by other stakeholders such as end users. Bear in mind, also, that data isn’t just the 3D form, but also technical and specification information, ranging from material properties to equipment serial numbers and installation dates. Software should therefore be chosen according to the purpose required.

The second key aspect of software is that of interoperability, i.e. the ease with which information can be exchanged with others. File formats will need to be commonly accepted between different software products, or else ‘open’ common formats will need to be used, such as IFC. This issue extends beyond the lifespan of the project itself, as legacy file formats for old archived projects will need to remain accessible in future.

3. Existing network infrastructure capacity

It might be easy to overlook existing office network cabling, but even this can become outdated as computing power increases. Cable performance also develops, and your intranet speed can have a significant impact on accessing BIM model data, particularly when it is shared with other organisations on, for example, a cloud sharing website.

To put this in context, the design of data cable has progressed as follows:

  • Cat 5 – 10/100Mbps data transfer rate @ 100 MHz bandwidth
  • Cat 5e – 1000 Mbps (1 gigabit or Gbps) @ 100 MHz bandwidth (and ‘enhanced’ for reduced crosstalk, i.e. interference)
  • Cat 6 – 10 Gbps @ 250 MHz bandwidth.

Bandwidth is a measure of how many users can share the same line simultaneously, without suffering a noticeable decline in access speeds.

Broadband internet connections are now the norm, but the use of the existing copper wire-based infrastructure (ADSL) is being replaced with fibre optic lines, which will increase speeds from the order of 10 Mbps to potentially 1 Gbps (FTTP ‘fibre to the premises’; or 78Mbps FTTC ‘fibre to the cabinet’). And cable users should note that, whilst connection speed is not affected by distance (in contrast to ADSL), it is typically shared among neighbours, resulting in reduced security.

4. Existing data security policies and procedures

How secure is your data? Data management and storage require high levels of security, especially where that data can be accessed by other stakeholders. Not only should internal security (firewalls, antivirus and malware) be maintained to the highest possible levels, but the increasing popularity of cloud storage demands impeccable levels of encryption. In addition, data ownership will be of concern from the points of view of both intellectual property rights, and also originator liability.

5. Existing working practices

How does your organisation perform its service? Do you work consistently to established office standards, or are projects carried out on a less formal, ad hoc basis? One of the fundamentals of BIM is that, to enable parties to collaborate, they all need to work to consistent standards with one another. To support this, a number of important documents have been published in recent times, to set out foundations for the establishment of standardised working practices:

  • PAS 1192-2 Specification for information management for the capital/delivery phase of construction projects using Building Information Modelling. The purpose is to specify an information management process to support BIM working during the capital/delivery phase of a project.
  • PAS 1192-3 Specification for information management for the operational phase of assets using building information modelling is a companion document to PAS1192-2, in that it covers the operational phase.
  • BS 1192-4 Collaborative production of information Part 4: Fulfilling employers information exchange requirements using COBie – Code of practice defines a methodology for the provision of structured asset information from designers/contractors to end users, relating to facilities, whether these be buildings or infrastructure alike.

In addition to these, the forthcoming PAS1192-5 Specification for security-minded building information management, digital built environments and smart asset management will, according to the BIM Task Group, outline security threats to the use of information during asset conception, procurement, design, construction, operation, and disposal.

6. Existing QA policies

Hand in hand with data and project management, does your business hold (and maintain) ISO 9001 (quality management) or 14001 (environmental management) compliance? Having (and adhering to) an established and up-to-date office QA manual will make the transition to collaborative working easier, as the discipline of working to pre-agreed methods means that the business as a whole should experience less of an upheaval. BIM working methods should be a natural extension of the QA manual procedures.

Previously : Are you BIM ready? Part one
Next: Are you BIM ready? Part three

Further reading