The Howard Russell Construction Story

Thinking about BIM?
Not sure where to start?
Just do it!

Cutting through the noise on BIM reaps rewards

Cut through the noise about BIM and just get on and do it. That’s the message from Craig Muldoon, pre-construction manager at Howard Russell Construction.

Howard Russell are a national design and build contractor operating across various sectors, right across the UK, from their headquarters just north of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

Howard Russell Construction Ltd

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Plan for your BIM journey

"Four years on from us dipping our toes in the water, getting to grips with software and process and just generally experimenting, we’re now at the stage where we’ve got a suite of documents that does the job and meets our needs perfectly and can easily be tailored,” says Craig.

“In terms of our transition we went through a process of getting the right people into position, and educating ourselves over about a year or so, and were then able to evangelise the benefits to get buy-in from colleagues also on the senior management team. When it comes to putting our ideas into practice, although we have a lot of young and talented people, we also found that colleagues with more experience were not as hostile or reluctant as some might imagine.

“Engagement really is key - it’s too easy to get bogged down in acronyms. You learn to swim by swimming and there’s an argument that says just get on and do it,” enthuses Craig.

 

BIM benefits clear to see

Craig cites the Phase 2 development of Queen’s Court at Team Valley in Gateshead as a pivotal moment in the company’s approach. The project saw the construction of a small industrial unit with service yard and car parking on behalf of UK Land Estates.

“On the project we used BIM on what was effectively an 11,000 square foot shed - not fitted-out - with just one door, four walls and a roof. A simple place to start.

“The client didn’t come with Employer's Infomation Requirements (EIR), but we sat with them and worked one out, effectively educating the client on the possibilities and opportunities our requirements would deliver as part of the process. This in turn allowed us to respond with a meaningful BIM Execution Plan (BEP),” says Craig.

Even on a comparatively small project the benefits of BIM have been easy to measure – typically by using a BIM process the firm estimate they can deliver projects four to six weeks quicker.

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Bringing it all together

From initial acorns, mighty oaks have grown. Work on Queen's Court Phase 2 landed the team at Howard Russell the BIM Project of the Year nod at the BIM4SME awards for the second year running.

Back in 2015 the team were recognised for their work on a 53,000 square foot warehouse based on the Park Royal Business Estate. Though this project was far smaller than usual it served as a great opportunity to hone a BIM process.

"This was a project that really brought everything together – our systems, process and technology and was certainly a learning curve,” enthuses Craig.

For the team at Howard Russell, digital construction is clearly making a real difference in delivering better buildings.

“Sitting down with clients to help them understand what they are getting a lot sooner really helps. Although it adds time upfront across the project the decision making period is reduced and the chance of surprises only surfacing on site are curtailed. We’ve also really benefitted from investing in our in-house design capability – particularly around planning work (4D). Even if a job isn’t a designated BIM project or model we’re still taking a model-approach and that has often helped us pick up design issues at a very early stage,” says Craig.

A new approach

Such are the benefits that Craig reckons that the firm now negotiates more than they tender and increasingly put the case for projects to become “BIM jobs” given their input into the early stages of a project.

“We find a key part of our role is educating clients who are not aware or don’t know enough of the potential and benefits of digital construction.

“The practical realities of doing BIM will always uncover changes that need to be made when it comes to your documents. In this respect we have evolved massively and we’ve managed to bring clients and those we work with along with us,” says Craig.

 “We work closely with our supply chain to help realise the benefits of the move from 2D to 3D,” says Craig. "We're already starting to see the benefits and as everyone gets involved, in five years' time, with fuller integrations, we'll be getting the very best from a BIM approach".

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Become BIM pioneers

Advice for others considering their BIM journey?

“When it comes to getting inspiration help and advice, the answers aren’t yet all in one place. There is a lot of trial and error so you need a trailblazing spirit to ensure that when you hit a wall you can look to your professional network.

“We’ve had some success and feel more confident but we are not complacent. BIM isn't something considered in isolation - today it's just part of 'business as usual', helping us deliver exceptional results for our clients old and new,” says Craig.

With a growing portfolio of clients, and the average size of projects growing, digital construction is delivering better buildings, leading to repeat business and opening up new opportunities for the team at Howard Russell.