30 January 2017

Mark (pictured centre) with NBS CEO Richard Waterhouse (right) and NBS Director of Research and Innovation, Dr Stephen Hamil (left) joined the team at NBS for breakfast on Friday 27 January.

With additional BIM Level 2 guidance about to be published it was an ideal opportunity to catch up with Mark on the journey so far and to find out more about the road to Level 3 (including a BIM Level 3 mandate) as part of Digital Built Britain. (See also: What is Digital Built Britain?)

Here we present a summary of Mark's presentation and the key takeaways.

The presentation

Here you can access Mark's presentation slides delivered at NBS on Friday 27 January

View UK Government - Building A New World | NBS Breakfast Seminar (January 2017)
from The NBS on Slideshare

Download the presentation (.pptx, 24.3Mb)

Search #NBSbreakfast for social posts about the event.

The long-read: Mark's presentation in detail

Where did we start?

The inefficiencies of the dynamics and behaviours of the construction supply chain had long been recognised by government with more than 70 reports, dating as far back as 1934, highlighting concerns, but it took until 2011 for a solution to be proposed.

Francis Maude (then Minister for the Cabinet Office) and Chief Construction Advisor Paul Morrell were both instrumental in being able to get under the skin of the construction industry and its impact on society and, crucially, understood how to deliver a change politically (with a mindful eye on how construction costs impact the taxpayer). The result was the 2011 Government Construction Strategy which proposed that BIM and digital engineering could deliver a step change.

With over three million people engaged in the construction industry delivering change was always going to be a challenge, but with productivity continuing to decline, it was clear that something needed to happen.

BIM Level 2 and the potential to drive efficiencies

Delivering efficiencies in the design, build and operate areas of construction is what BIM Level 2 is all about. What soon becomes clear is that around 80% of the costs of any given asset are tied up in the operations / facilities management phase. In simplistic terms, if more efficient assets that are cheaper to run can be produced then the industry can deliver more assets, and productivity is improved. So far the BIM Level 2 programme has managed to deliver cost reductions in the region of 20%.

Functional performance is key to unlocking even greater efficiencies and improved social impact. An efficiently designed and built hospital can deliver more (and hopefully better) patient outcomes that in turn delivers improved social impacts in the wider community. An inefficient one has a negative effect which, again, ripples out in to the broader community.  If budgets are squeezed in the design and build stage then this will result in sub-optimal assets that can store up problems down the line and thus the 'social bill' increases. This bill is large and increasing and that's why politicians were so interested in what digital construction could offer. Consider what we spend on the NHS, and in particular mental health, and then consider what organisations like Mind and Shelter tell us is a key concern - poor quality accommodation. You can begin to see how investing more upfront and making better decisions can reap magnitudes of savings in operational and social performance and not just better buildings.

What was the BIM Level 2 programme?

Inefficient clients make those delivering on their behalf inefficient. By considering the decisions a client needs to make across the life of a project efficiencies can be made. In the early stages of a project there is no need for an extremely detailed model - you just need to be able to access key elements of information, delivering more is highly inefficient. And that was the thinking behind tools like the free-to-use NBS BIM Toolkit - allowing you to capture the data requirements at a number of operational stages, driving quality and productivity. Public sector clients have been used as a driver and the UK BIM Task Group have worked with key government agencies to help them "get better at being a client". In addition, the group has considered how you pass information between project participants which is manifested through the range of free-to-use BIM Level 2 documents. Of particular interest is PAS 1192:5 - Security. In an increasingly data-rich world it is crucial to ensure that the information is properly protected so that it doesn't fall into nefarious hands.

In an increasingly commoditised world the role of the product manufacturer is particularly important. Good quality data about products allows others to make good quality decisions. BIM Level 2 delivers a strategy or product data definition for this information. In addition, working with the Construction Products Association, the BIM Task Group has helped develop a lexicon to map data requirements between manufacturers and end users.

With BIM Level 2 now broadly defined it is down to the industry to apply and drive it home. More guidance is due in the next few months and we can also expect UKAS - the UK Accreditation Service - to start driving commonality among BIM training and services.

While big projects like Crossrail 2 and High Speed 2 are attracting attention for what they are delivering on time and on budget we should not forget the array of 'smaller' projects where BIM is making a real difference, not just here but overseas as well as we export our skills and services.

As you might expect given that c.45% of spend comes from the public sector, the NBS National BIM Survey reports that BIM Level 2 is adopted by around half of the UK market and there's evidence of use spreading into the private sector as well. All things considered, a fantastic start.

What will Level 3 mean?

The budget to deliver Level 3 was announced last March to deliver the programme. BIM Level 3 will see something of a quantum leap and there will be a soft landing between the requirements of Level 2 and Level 3. So, what is Level 3? Integrated BIM. Objects instead of files. The use of feedback. A shared BIM. An online service rather than thiefdoms of data.

Technologies in our working lifetimes have developed at a rapid pace. Log tables and drawing boards have given way to computers and data. The danger is that in thinking about Level 3, technology come delivery will be significantly in advance of what we can imagine today. Data storage, once confined to floppy disks, is now almost infinitely scalable at negligible cost. Processing power, via Moore's Law, should mean that come 2023 we can match the human brain, 2040 we can match every brain in the world. Connected devices, sensors will allow us to measure and feedback this data. Level 3, Level 4 therefore has to be designed to make the most of this kind of technology to deliver better assets.

Level 3 will, therefore, see functional improvements driven by customer demands. BIM will expand from 3D modelling to genuine collaboration; from design and construction into operations; from individual buildings to cities and their systems (an appreciation that buildings are part of a much wider social ecosystem that should work together); and onto wherever digitising the built environment may take us. It will see the construction of a feedback loop where lessons learnt on one project can be applied on the next - the introduction of a true digital brief. To get there we need to take the 1192 documents and something called HyperCat (a sensor technology), along with the relevant PAS documents and bolt them together to create a standardisation method by 2018.

What will Level 3 enable us to do?

BIM Level 3 should allow us to provide more for less, maximise availability, reduce whole life cost and carbon. It should enable significant domestic and international growth and ensure the UK remains in the international vanguard. Security concerns should be paramount.

Operational activity and performance management are already generating and sharing data. Level 3 will expand this to create a feedback loop - putting what's being measured upfront to allow better decisions to be made. New industries will spring up to make use of this data and provide new services to customers. Information from the wider world, not just our buildings but transport, water, power and people will all be available to use. Consider the growth area of health diagnostics - in a world of Fitbits and their ilk will we need hospitals that have huge areas devoted to diagnostics? What can smart meters start to tell us about the existing housing stock and what needs to be done to meet carbon targets?

One thing is clear, digital will continue to power and motivate the changes the construction industry needs to make.

Four key takeaways from Mark Bew

1. We pitched BIM Level 2 broadly right...

Working with existing technology rather than jumping too high was the right decision. By allowing the trailing edge to catch up we were able to grow capacity and realise significant savings. It stands us in good stead to begin a conversation in the UK and overseas about Level 3 and what we need.

2. The UK's BIM Level 2 programme has been incredibly successful...

You can see just how far the UK has come when you visit other countries who are just starting to have the conversations and grapple with the issues that we were talking about back in 2010/2011. We are already having a big impact on the world stage.

3. Digital Built Britain will see us deliver an end-to-end digital economy for the built environment - and a BIM Level 3 mandate is part of that...

The March 2016 budget kickstarted the Level 3 BIM programme under the banner of Digital Built Britain. The vision document that came out 18 months ago still stands but there's lots of detail needed to work out what future technologies will allow us to achieve and what we need to deliver, particularly on security, for the market today and in the years to come. As to a mandate for BIM Level 3? You can expect one though the timing is yet to be confirmed.

4. The future is ours to shape...

We are proving that we have fantastic skills in digital and across the construction sector - and there's certainly a need for what we're doing. We need to seize the opportunity we've been given to reinvent construction in the digital age.

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