Building Information Modelling is a key element of the UK government’s construction strategy. Mark Bew, chair of the UK Government BIM Group, talks to Impact editor Gavin Pearson ahead of ACE's annual conference
The government strategy was published in July 2011. As the summer approaches, how is this progressing?
The really positive thing is that it forms part of the government’s construction strategy rather than being separated off as a technology strategy. It was given a high profile launch on 19 July last year by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude and chief construction advisor Paul Morrell, which helped to make that clear.
Keeping it as part of a construction strategy was a big step forward compared to past experience. Too often new ways of working were separated off and looked at purely from a distinct technology angle, which didn’t get the best results.
How do you finding working with industry and government across the wide range of implications of developing BIM?
We are finding a very positive attitude to BIM across the UK. There has been a very pragmatic approach to pushing the advantages of this new area of technology and we thought very carefully about how we put our message to people and how we positioned the project.
It is important to stress that the strategy focuses on leaving complexity to the supply chain. In that sense it is a procurement strategy rather than a means of telling the supply chain what to do. It is about how we procure data from the supply chain rather than how we tell the supply chain how best to do its job.
That is very fundamental to how we see it. There is strong competition in the market and that’s where the innovation will be led from. That is what drives growth across the economy, not just in construction. Growth isn’t about the government saying ‘do this or do that’, but by creating a fertile environment.
Of course Government can be very specific about what it wants as a client, so if we can be very consistent about how we procure and in particular how we procure data, that can prove massively helpful as we focus on what departments need to deliver effective low carbon best value estate services. This will enable the market to get good at delivering what government needs, so it is about developing a consistent approach.
So how does your work break down the many varied implications of BIM?
We have an industry delivery team with BIS and Treasury up and running now. This group is doing some important work to deliver the strategy, looking at issues such as contract forms, looking at the plan of works and so on. It is vital to consider how those areas of work can be aligned so that they are more relevant for industry in general.
We also have a team being managed by the BSI looking at standards and system documentation. This process will go to public consultation in March that will publish its report in June that lays out the processes and controls around using BIM and the BIM tools available to the industry.
Then there is a team looking at commercial issues, including: insurance, PI, copyright, contract clauses, contract protocols and that sort of thing. This brings together lawyers and other experts to help try to minimise the extent to which we impact existing agreements and practices. It will seek to accommodate changes with small tweaks rather than big revisions.
We are also focusing as well on de-carbonisation. This work should enable us to continue to improve our carbon performance and our costs as this technology is embedded as part of the wider strategy for construction. There should be real benefits in terms of energy use and efficiency to seeing information better shared and greater collaborative working from this.
So how are you finding the development of projects that demonstrate the benefits of BIM?
The engagement of government departments in this has been excellent and is leading to really interesting work taking place. There’s a fantastic bunch of people involved and every department including Ministry of Justice, the Highways Agency and Transport for London opens more doors for enabling the digital environment through the use of BIM.
Meanwhile the other key area for this is training. For that we need to reach out to local organisations and SME’s and build on the involvement of large bodies and the government.
The whole strategy builds towards growth and will help to ensure UK PLC is at the forefront of this change across the globe. So we need to get the training and all the other aspects right. That is why we are looking at key early adopter projects at the moment and at local BIM hubs across the country.
The Ministry of Justice has gone furthest so far and has a very developed view of how this works and how it can benefit their work. They have the first project set to go on site in June, so there are real projects being delivered and providing a very positive set of case studies which will enable everyone to see BIM in action. We are keen to get more projects underway. We have identified some highways projects to work with and we are keen to see networks and utilities projects demonstrate how this can benefit the project, the supply chain and the client.