01 November 2014

The concept of ‘BIM Levels’ (and ‘BIM Level 2 compliance’) has become the ‘accepted’ definition of what criteria are required to be deemed BIM-compliant, by seeing the adoption process as the next steps in a journey that has taken the industry from the drawing board to the computer and, ultimately, into the digital age.

The government has recognised that the process of moving the construction industry to ‘full’ collaborative working will be progressive, with distinct and recognisable milestones being defined within that process, in the form of ‘levels’. These have been defined within a range from 0 to 3, and, whilst there is some debate about the exact meaning of each level, the broad concept is as follows:


Level 0 BIM

In its simplest form, level 0 effectively means no collaboration. 2D CAD drafting only is utilised, mainly for Production Information (RIBA Plan of Work 2013 stage 4). Output and distribution is via paper or electronic prints, or a mixture of both. The majority of the industry is already well ahead of this now (source: NBS National BIM Report 2017).


Level 1 BIM

This typically comprises a mixture of 3D CAD for concept work, and 2D for drafting of statutory approval documentation and Production Information. CAD standards are managed to BS 1192:2007, and electronic sharing of data is carried out from a common data environment (CDE), often managed by the contractor.

To achieve Level 1 BIM, the Scottish Futures Trust states you should achieve the following:

  • Roles and responsibilities should be agreed upon
  • Naming conventions should be adopted
  • Arrangements should be put in place to create and maintain the project specific codes and project spatial co-ordination
  • A "Common Data Environment" (CDE) for example a project extranet or electronic document management system (EDMS) should be adopted, to allow information to be shared between all members of the project team
  • A suitable information hierarchy should be agreed which supports the concepts of the CDE and the document repository.


Level 2 BIM

Level 2 BIM is distinguished by collaborative working, and requires "an information exchange process which is specific to that project and coordinated between various systems and project participants" (Source: Scottish Futures Trust).

Any CAD software that each party uses must be capable of exporting to one of the common file formats such as IFC (Industry Foundation Class) or COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange). This is the method of working that has been set as a minimum target by the UK government for all work on public-sector work.

For more information on working to BIM Level 2, see the following guide developed by NBS and BSI: http://bim-level2.org/en/about/


Level 3 BIM

Level 3 has not yet been fully defined, however the vision for this is outlined in the UK Government's Level 3 Strategic Plan. Within this plan, they set out the following 'key measures' to be secured with further funding:

  • The creation of a set of new, international ‘Open Data’ standards which would pave the way for easy sharing of data across the entire market
  • The establishment of a new contractual framework for projects which have been procured with BIM to ensure consistency, avoid confusion and encourage, open, collaborative working.
  • The creation of a cultural environment which is co-operative, seeks to learn and share
  • Training the public sector client in the use of BIM techniques such as, data requirements, operational methods and contractual processes
  • Driving domestic and international growth and jobs in technology and construction.

See also: Four things Mark Bew told us about the future of BIM and digital construction

Looking further ahead, it is highly probable that collaborative working practices will ultimately filter through to the private sector …

What this means in practice

The significance of these steps, in real terms, is that UK government has adopted this definition in its Construction Strategy, by requiring that all publicly-funded construction work must be undertaken by using Building Information Modelling to Level 2, by 2016. This mandate has been set as one measure to help in fulfilling their target of reducing waste in construction by 20%. It is considered that abortive work, discrepancies and mistakes, and inefficiencies in the information supply chain are major contributors to this waste; and that collaborative working can assist in their reduction. Looking further ahead, it is highly probable that collaborative working practices will ultimately filter through to the private sector, in much the same way that CAD took over from the drawing board during the 1990s.


What to read next...

NBS National BIM Report 2017
The annual NBS National BIM Report is now recognised as one of the industry’s most comprehensive reviews into the use of BIM. Now in its seventh year, the latest report is packed with a range of insight and expertise, it gives a snapshot of the changes the industry has been going through since the BIM mandate was implemented in April 2016.

What is the CIC BIM Protocol?
Find out more about the CIC BIM Protocol - the supplementary legal agreement that can be incorporated into contractual documentation establishing obligations, liabilities and limitations on the use of building information models.

What is the Government Construction Strategy?
We explore the two most recent Government Construction Strategy documents (covering 2011-15 and 2016-20) with a passing nod to a raft of reports that have sought to offer recommendations for an industry looking to achieve productivity and cost savings to deliver better outcomes.