David Philp, Head of BIM Implementation at the Cabinet Office and BIM Programme Director at Balfour Beatty, takes a look at the UK Government Construction Strategy and what 2012 has in store for BIM...

2011, with its cornucopia of Building Information Modelling (BIM) seminars, workshops and related articles, helped trigger a 'light bulb moment' for many in the UK construction industry. The BIM value proposition became even more tangible than before (backed up by great case studies of BIM implementation in the UK); it helped win work (foremost on most people's minds) and, amongst a panoply of acronyms, communicated the message that this digital toolset could actually enable projects to be built several times virtually, rehearsing and determining the optimal design, construct, and most importantly operate solution, shaking out the waste every time the model is analysed and refined – or is it still heresy to say that construction is endemic with waste?

The foregoing was complemented by the Government's Construction Strategy and its mandate for 'fully collaborative 3D BIM as a minimum by 2016', and the need for efficiency and industry reform to realise a 'cost reduction of 20% during the term of the current parliament'.

Since publication of the strategy, the term BIM has become universally commonplace (though often misused) in our construction vocabulary; so what do we (the Cabinet Office BIM Task Group) mean by BIM? Well, expectedly, the clue is in the title: constructing a managed digital information 3D model of an asset, be it a building or an infrastructure project (both new-build or retained estate) that is infused with data. This information model can be used to inform the decision-making process and answer questions throughout the entire project lifecycle. One BIM input can give us many valuable outputs. In order for this process to be effectively implemented, however, it needs to be undertaken in a truly collaborative environment (with iterative feedback loops), and here lies the real challenge. Manifesting BIM beyond the technology and process to a cultural paradigm shift (never easy) is where the real challenge lies. BIM is very much more a verb than a noun.

Obviously BIM is not a silver bullet: codifying and bringing harmony (perhaps even a new cooperative bias to our traditionally 'siloed' industry) requires other pieces of the jigsaw to be secured around BIM The intelligent Client, early contractor involvement and soft landings all combine to create the Goldilocks porridge that is 'just right' for BIM Indeed, all these aspects play equal part in realising the Government Construction Strategy.

A large part of BIM success and a potential industry shift will be down to education and training, ensuring that new entrants to the construction arena have the apposite blend of knowledge and skills: a BIM literacy to fit their function. During 2012, our BIM Training and Education Work Group will be painting a rich picture of the UK BIM scholastic capability 'as is' and putting recommendations together to ensure we are ready for the 2016 digital BIM switchover – and hopefully in a position where we can export our 'integrator' services beyond the UK. Of equal significance is the need to 'unlearn' much of the existing workforce approach and unravel the tightly knitted web of such comments as: 'BIM? How much will it cost me?', 'Well, we've always done it that way' and 'If there was a better way of doing it, we would have found it by now'.

Although much has been written about BIM, few have truly considered it from the perspective of the Client. While better enabling the design and build process (especially helping tell the story and enable better user understanding), the real big value proposition lies in the bandwidth consequent to practical completion where the data (in our case COBie) and model outcomes can be used to ensure optimal asset performance. Our captured data will allow us to start measuring what really happens in the asset usage, how the systems are actually operated ('Is it easier and more productive for a nurse, teacher or FM staff to use that asset?'). Modelling for better user outcomes and being able to feed this data back to inform future projects is where the real Client value proposition sits.

Traditionally, losing rich data between handover and operation has been a real problem, negatively impacting upon building operations post-occupancy and during the initial after-care periods. A key part of the GCS programme will be to try and ensure a smooth glide path of data between construction and operation, using BIM as the catalyst. Key to the foregoing will be the earlier intervention of the FM teams in the briefing, design and construction stages.

2012 has begun quickly with nineteen work packages in the pipeline creating our protocols and guidance, and our five working groups creating the 'push' and Departmental on-boarding workshops. We will also be signposting our journey via an about-to-be-launched Twitter feed (@BIMgcs externallink) and BIM microsite.

We are also cognisant of both scalability and localism, and we intend to ensure that our programme is well understood and can be adopted by all (irrespective of company size) without barriers. Key to this will be our creation of Regional BIM hubs in 2012 to help disseminate our programme and get valuable feedback from around the neighbourhoods.

So why is BIM of so much of interest, and how has it kept our attention for so long? Okay, the technology is patently quite 'nifty', but I think it's possibly because we all share a passion for our industry and we know that BIM is a 'unifier' and will conceivably prod the industry in the right direction. The Government mandate will help drive adoption; however, this 'pull' is being equally met by an industry 'push'. We have the perfect storm for BIM in the UK and I am confident that we will not miss this opportunity for reform and to reset our construction default.